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What Is the Difference Between Perfume and Cologne?

A bottle of cologne.
While many perfumes are marketed towards women, there are also some gender neutral scents.
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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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The main difference between perfume and cologne is related to scent strength. Perfumes are generally much stronger than colognes and usually contain a very high concentration of essential oils mixed into bases of alcohol. Colognes also contain essential oils and alcohol, but in much smaller amounts. For this reason, perfumes tend to last longer than colognes because not as much is needed to maintain the scent throughout the day. People often apply colognes in larger amounts because the smell generally does not linger for more than a few hours.

People often believe that the main difference between perfume and cologne is gender related. Many people are under the impression that cologne is designed for men, while perfume is intended for women to use. There are actually perfumes and colognes made for both men and women, but it does seem that fragrances for men are typically in the form of colognes. Men often prefer more subtle scents, and this may be why colognes are a popular choice for them. Women tend to enjoy using fragrances with more pronounced scents that linger for most of the day, which may explain why they often prefer to use perfumes.

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Another difference between perfume and cologne is cost. In general, perfumes are much more expensive than colognes, and this is probably because there are more essential oils used in them. Essential oils are typically not considered inexpensive, and the more of these a fragrance contains, the more costly it is likely to be. In spite of the higher cost, perfume may actually be a better value than cologne because it usually takes longer to go through. A small bottle of highly concentrated scent might last twice as long as a bottle of cologne that is twice as big because not as much of it is needed.

Perfume and cologne are generally not used in the same manner. Most perfumes are made to be sprayed onto the skin from a distance, while colognes are usually rubbed into the skin or splashed on. Perfumes aren't intended to be used in large amounts because of the strength of the scents, and too much can occasionally cause physical symptoms such as headaches, sneezing, and even nausea. The symptoms of using too much perfume are also something a person should keep in mind when she is around others because some people are extremely sensitive to fragrances. Cologne may be used much more liberally than perfume because it isn't as strong, but it's still important to avoid using too much.

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candyquilt
Post 3

The best way to remember the difference between perfume, eau de toilette and cologne is to order them according to how much essential oils they have. It goes cologne, eau de toilette and perfume.

turquoise
Post 2

@feruze-- Women can use cologne but I'm sure that it's women's cologne or unisex cologne. There is definitely a big difference between men's cologne and women's perfume. The types of essential oils used to create the scent are different, not just the amount of alcohol.

Women perfumes tend to have more floral and sweet scents with flower and citrus essential oils. Men's cologne tend to have more masculine scents with oils such as sandalwood or herbs.

In terms of potency, cologne is definitely less potent. There are very potent men's perfumes so I know that not all men like light scents. But cologne is much preferred for daily use and I have guy friends who use cologne as an aftershave.

bear78
Post 1

I also thought that the difference between perfume and cologne is that perfume is for women and cologne for men.

My mom actually likes using cologne and I have made fun of her about this saying that she likes men's cologne. I feel very bad about it now. I didn't realize that both men and women can use cologne.

She always says that cologne smells much better than perfume; perfume gives her a headache. She was right!

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