Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: The fragrance industry is barely regulated by the FDA. Crazy, right? You can hardly buy a cup of coffee these days without learning the name of the farmer who grew the beans. So you’d think people would demand a little more transparency from something they spray right on their skin (considering it’s our largest organ).
Perhaps you’ve noticed that most fragrances prominently list their notes somewhere. On the packaging, on their website, on the materials included with the perfume… somewhere. Maybe even all of those places.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that we do not.
You might have observed that we don’t go out of our way to advertise which of our fragrances is considered an eau de cologne, an eau de toilette or an eau de parfum. The reason for that is simple, and perhaps best explained by Victoria Brolova (of Bois de Jasmin fame) in a recent article for the Financial Times:
“Perfume concentrations are a marketing tool and often do not mean anything exact. The proportion of oil doesn’t play as great a role as the ingredients in the composition. As such, different concentrations denote neither how long a perfume will last nor how many ‘rare and precious’ materials it contains.”
In other words, how a fragrance is classified shouldn’t be your first reference point on whether you’ll like it. (Or as we always say: all that matters is what you like.)
That said, if you’re as fascinated by scent as we are, you’ll appreciate a basic understanding of what’s what. Here’s what you need to know: