Different Perfume Types

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This article discusses the differences between grades of perfume, and whether a more expensive variety is inherently better than an inexpensive variety.

Delilah used it to tempt Samson. Esther used it to induce King Xerxes to spare the life of her people. Josephine used it to seduce Napoleon. What weapon did all these women have in common? Perfume. The blend of scents from fruit, flowers and musk glands has been popular ever since Eve crushed the first rose petals in the Garden of Eden. Perfume comes in a dizzying array of varieties and prices, from the large $5 bottle at the drugstore, to designer fragrances costing $500 or more per ounce. What’s the difference between a $10 bottle and a $500 bottle of perfume?

First, what is perfume, anyway? It is a combination of oils of botanicals and yes, animal musk glands, all mixed together to produce a pleasing scent. Perfume companies have fragrance designers with ultra-trained noses who do nothing all day but mix smells together, in the hope of coming up with a winner. When the right fragrance has been mixed, the recipe is written down and it is sent to the factory, where the oils end up in the stores in lovely bottles, ripe for the smelling.

Perfume companies have various grades of perfume they sell, and the grade of perfume depends on how much perfume oil is balanced with water, alcohol and other stabilizers. Cologne is the lowest grade, containing 3-8 percent perfume oil. Eau de toilette is next, with 8-15 percent oil; eau de parfum has 20 percent perfume oil, and perfume contains 20-30 percent oil. Naturally, the higher the perfume oil concentration, the higher the price.

Perfume, cologne, whatever one wants to call it, is a highly subjective product. What smells like heaven to one woman is last week’s garbage to another. Thus, descriptions of fragrances include words such as: musky, spicy, floral, fruity, citrus, fresh, clean, etc., so a woman can choose what she thinks she will like. Women usually consistently choose fragrances in the same “family.” If a woman likes a spicy perfume, she will tend to continue to choose those perfumes with a great deal of spice. Women do change their tastes in perfume as they mature, but they will tend to stay in a particular family of fragrances.

So is there a difference between a $10 bottle of cologne and a $500 bottle of perfume? Yes and no. The expensive perfume will, obviously, have a much higher concentration of perfume oil. These oils will be of a higher quality and will come from more expensive and/or rare sources. These perfumes may also not be widely available. A $500 bottle of perfume will probably retain its original scent long after a cheaper bottle has “turned.” So, a more expensive bottle of perfume will last longer and be of a much higher quality.

The $10 cologne will be readily available anywhere. If a woman buys the cologne and doesn’t like it, she can give it away or throw it away, and not have lost much. If she buys a $500 bottle of perfume, she’s more or less stuck with it, unless spending $500 is a daily occurrence. Some people say that allergies occur more often with cheaper perfumes, since the ingredients are not as pure. This, again, is as subjective as any controversy can be. Some people are allergic to the essential oils, and therefore, are more sensitive to the expensive varieties.

Do more expensive perfumes actually smell better? Again, a highly subjective point. Some do, obviously. Some do not. It all depends on the wearer, and her individual body chemistry. Some perfumes “turn” on some women. That is, something in the perfume recipe reacts badly to her body chemistry and makes the perfume smell strange or not as it was intended to. This can happen with any perfume on the market, from the least to the most expensive. Some women wear perfumes by one designer most of the time. This is because she has found these fragrances work best with her body chemistry, and appeal to her as good-smelling fragrances.

Nothing smells worse than cheap perfume. “Cheap” in this sense refers to the heavy, overly floral or musky scents that rarely smell good on any woman. Expensive perfume can smell just as cheap as the cheap stuff. Women should choose their fragrances carefully, and remember that they may grow accustomed to the smell, but should not wear more if they can’t smell it any longer. Everyone else can. Also, a woman should be cautious about wearing perfume anyway. Many people are sensitive to it and a woman can use a body splash or something more subtle that she can smell, but that won’t trigger a sneezing fit or headache in someone else.

So... is there a real difference in the price a woman pays for perfume? This is a question that ultimately, must be decided by the woman buying the fragrance. A $500 bottle of perfume is worthless if the woman never wears it. A $10 bottle is worth much more if a woman wears it and enjoys it.

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