Throughout history, perfume has always been expensive. The wise men brought gifts of frankincense and myrrh (perfumery ingredients) simply because they were the equivalent of gold. They still are. But if you visit the perfume counter of the local department store or visit fragrance websites online, you may notice that there are lots of different fragrance products for the very same scent and sometimes they have very different price tags. It can be tempting to buy the cheapest product in the line-up, but is that really the best deal?
Compounding the problem is the fact that lots of companies are inventing new types of fragrance products. Just the other day, I bought a product called a soufflé. It was something that a few years ago might have been called a body butter. Actually, it is a fragrant cream.
As far as I know, there has never been a law that sets forth exactly how much scent is required for a product to call itself perfume.
Now that you know it's a jungle out there, there are some easy ways to sort through some of the confusion.
Of the liquid products that you apply to your body, perfume is the strongest stuff on the market. It is sometimes called by its French name parfum (par-fahm). It has the highest percentage of scent to carrier (the liquid stuff that stabilizes the perfume).
Pure scent does not work well because the old saying is true. You really can have too much of a good thing. Besides, pure scent would irritate most skin types.
Thus, fragrance must mix scent to a vehicle which also acts to stabilize the scent (keep it from degrading) and to make it easy and pleasant to apply.
Perfume has the most scent. It's strong. Bottles are typically small and have the highest price tags.
The next step down the ladder is called eau-de-parfum (oh-duh-par-fahm) and it's always written in French although the hyphens appear to be optional. It is not as expensive, or as powerful, as a true perfume, but it may very well be right for you. Most of the fragrance products on the shelves of true perfume divas tend to be eau-de-parfum selections.
Next down the line is the unfortunately named eau-de-toilette or even more unfortunately named toilet water. This has much less scent to carrier, so the scent is lighter. You'll end up having to touch up your scent more frequently but for those who prefer a lighter touch (and a lighter price tag), it is a good choice. Many fragrance houses do not make this product entry, but if you find it, know that it's lighter but still no lightweight.
The weakest link in the strength continuum is cologne. It has the least scent in the product and you'll also notice that it does not cost anywhere near what perfume costs. Cologne does not last like the stronger products, but it does convey the same scent. If you like to re-apply a lot or don't ever want to wear too much perfume, check out the cologne section.
Fragrant lotions and creams are sold under all sorts of names. You mind find them called sachets, soufflés, butters, and so on. There are no guidelines that say that a body butter has more scent than a lotion. However, fragrance always lingers longer when it's in an oily or emollient base, so you'll get good traction with these scents.
There are also solid perfumes, which is another way of producing an emollient base and infusing it with scent. Solid perfumes tend to be more concentrated in that you just dab on a bit, while the creams and lotions are meant to be smeared all over you.
Shower gels are replacing bath products (bubble bath, bath oils, and scented soap) and combine the fragrance with a traditional shower gel. You won't be getting a power-packed wallop of scent with such a product, but if you like only a whisper of fragrance, these are great. Most perfume fanatics use them as a layer and apply scented lotions and then perfume on top.
You can also sometimes find scented bath powders, bath soaks, and even scented deodorants. These are not true fragrance products, but they do contain the scent. They can work as part of the layering process or just because you like the smell. But don't think that a puff or two of scented powder is going to give you the same fragrance impact as a squirt or two of eau-de-parfum.
Perfume almost never goes on sale. However, manufacturers do take advantage of peak perfume purchasing seasons by packaging gift sets. One of these prepackaged gift sets usually combines some fragrance products like an eau-de-parfum or cologne with a matching shower gel, lotion, or other product and possibly with a little tote bag or other give-away item. Sometimes you get a zippy little carrying case or other geegaw besides.
Are these good deals? Very often I buy gift sets because I find that a packaged set often costs right around the same price as the fragrance product if you bought it a la carte. So if I can get lotion, shower gel, plus Burberry Brit eau-de-parfum for the same price as the eau-de-parfum by itself, why not?
Assuming you know the fragrance you want, what is the best deal? If you like the auxiliary products (creams, lotions, shower products) and there is a package deal, that's a good bet and probably better than buying the fragrance alone.
If there are not any cute package deals, think about what you most like to use. If you're busy and hate to re-apply fragrance but like to feel your perfume doesn't conk out by midday, look at the eau-de-parfum and the perfume. Compare prices. The eau-de-parfum will not last as long, so you'll do some re-application plus if you use more, it's not as cost effective as it might appear. Your best choice is likely going to be the perfume.
On the other hand, if you are an on-the-go person who works out in the middle of day, frequently plays tennis or goes swimming, and generally takes more than one shower a day, it's probably a better deal for you to go with a cologne since you'll be sweating or washing your fragrance off over the course of the day. If you have to re-apply your fragrance frequently, perfume is impractical. Not only is it costly, but it's probably too strong for you.
If you're in between, and probably most of us are, an eau-de-parfum is generally the most cost efficient product, which probably explains their popularity. They're strong enough that they don't fade too fast and require frequent touch-ups but they're not overly powerful. Expect prices here to be lower than for the matching perfume. If they're not or if the difference appears to you inconsequential, opt for the perfume.
If you think your impression is more than just how you look but extends to your voice, your mannerisms, your personality, and yes, your fragrance, then you need to invest in some fragrance products.
Joanna McLaughlin is a fragrance and lifestyle writer who contributes regularly to the website http://www.thePerfume-Reporter.com .