Is there a difference between Perfume and Fragrance?
The words ‘perfume’ and ‘fragrance’ are sometimes used interchangeably in the world of beauty and cosmetics. It is not uncommon to see phrases such as ‘fragrances for men’ and ‘perfumes for men’ referring to the same thing. But are they really the same? Can one use the term ‘perfume’ in place of ‘fragrance’ and vice versa?
What is Fragrance?
The United States Food & Drug Administration defines fragrance as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne, including those used in other products, its distinct scent1. Some cosmetic products list ‘fragrance’ as one of their ingredients, and by this, they refer to the combination of chemicals used. This formula is mostly intellectual property and thus it will vary from one product to the other. In this regard, fragrance is a term used by the FDA to describe that which gives a cosmetic product its unique scent.
The FDA’s definition of fragrance makes reference to ‘perfume’, suggesting that this chemical composition is actually what gives a perfume its ‘signature’ and differentiates it from another. Fragrances can be used in other products2, such as shower gels, bathing foam, deodorant sprays, body lotions, hand washing creams, hair shampoo and shaving creams among others.
What is Perfume?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term ‘perfume’ refers to a substance that emits a pleasant odor, especially a fluid preparation of natural essences (as from plants or animals), or synthetics and a fixative used for scenting.
A difference between fragrance and perfume is apparent in this definition, which includes a reference to a ‘fluid preparation’, thus associating the term ‘perfume’ with products such as oils, sprays and roll-on gels.
The term ‘perfume’ was reportedly first used around 1593 and is a combination of the Latin term ‘per’, which means ‘totally’ or ‘thoroughly’ and the term ‘fumar’ which means to smoke3. If we are to refer to the FDA’s definition of ‘fragrance’, we can safely suggest that fragrance is what makes up the DNA of perfume.
However, from our previous blog, which referred to classifications of fragrances, we see that the term ‘perfume’ refers to the level of concentration of the fragrance in the preparation. Five different classifications of perfume were discussed, according to the level of concentration of fragrance, namely eau fraiche, eau de cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum and finally, parfum (perfume). These are all fluid preparations with varying levels of concentration of fragrance.
So where is the confusion?