Understanding Perfume

Understanding Perfume

Just like my mum, I have a complete weakness for perfume. I don’t know whether its the scent itself or the stunning bottles, but everything about perfume interests me. Like most areas of beauty, there are so many choices, and choosing a new fragrance can be a bit of daunting thing, especially if you don’t actually smell it first. Reading the descriptions of perfume online can be like translating a different language. To help out all you online fragrance shoppers and fellow fragrance obsessives, I’ve put together a little guide to make understanding perfume a little easier.

Understanding Perfume Categories

Let’s start right at the beginning. The fragrance comes in categories or concentrations. The categories relate to the longevity of the fragrance and the ingredients and qualities:

Aftershave – Usually has antiseptic properties to soothe skin after shaving.

Eau Fraiche – contains 1-3% perfume oils.

Eau de Cologne – contains 2-5% perfume oils.

Eau de Toilette – contains around 5-20% perfume oils.

Eau de Parfum – contains around 10-30% perfume oils

Extrait/ Extract – contains around 20-40% concentration. Most expensive.

Whatever the strength, do not rub your wrists together! It will bruise the scent and waste your money.

Understanding Perfume Notes

Just like musical notes make up a song, fragrance notes make up a perfume. Essentially, notes are ingredients.

Confusingly, people can mean one of two things when referring to notes. A note can mean actual ingredients or, alternatively, a note is sometimes mistakenly used instead of an accord. An accord is a collection of several perfumes notes that blend together to form a unique and recognizable scent.

Still with me?

Back to notes we go.

Notes can be split into three groups:

Top notes – The most prominent notes in the scent when first smelt and the lightest notes in the formula.

Middle/Heart notes –  Between Top notes and base notes in respect of longevity. These dictate what category (family) the fragrance falls into.

Base notes – These linger the longest and are the heaviest in the formula. These notes help enhance the other notes and make them last longer.

Understanding Perfume Families

Lastly, perfume can be grouped into 5 main categories, helping us to describe them:

Citrus/ Fruity/ Fresh
Fragrances that are reminiscent of lemons, oranges etc. Often accented with herbal notes, these fragrances are refreshing and vibrant and perfect for spring or summer.

One of the most popular types of perfume, this fragrance is light and romantic. Can either be of one individual flower or a blend of multiple flowers. Common notes include rose, violet, lily, and jasmine.

Often stated as evening or winter appropriate, these fragrances use warm, ambery notes like vanilla and benzoin, in addition to the likes of frankincense. Exotic and wild, they are the most sensual and have a distinctive depth.

Favored by men, Woody fragrances are those that smell like freshly cut, dry wood and include significant quantities of sandalwood or vetiver. Women often prefer muskier, woody fragrances for evenings.


I hope this has helped you understand perfumes and choose a fragrance you love! Let me know your favourite fragrance, I love discovering new ones.