There is a lot of secrecy in the fragrance industry. This results in many false assumptions about the products and process of perfumery. This post aims to clear up at least a few of the most common misconceptions about fragrance.
1. Cologne is for men, perfume is for women.
If you read the Wikipedia entry for "Eau de Cologne", the first sentence will immediately explain why this is historically incorrect."Eau de Cologne (French: [o d(ə) kɔlɔɲ]; German: Kölnisch Wasser [ˈkœlnɪʃ ˈvasɐ]; meaning "Water from Cologne"), or simply cologne, is a perfume originating from Cologne, Germany." This is the original Eau de Cologne, created by an Italian perfumer named Giovanni Maria Farina.
While his citrus and floral based fragrance reminded him of spring mornings in Italy, he chose to name it after his new home of Cologne, Germany. As often happens with language, the word "cologne" eventually took on the meaning that we associate with it today - a fragrance for men.
2. Fragrance Notes = Ingredients
Leather. Fig. Plum. Lily of the Valley. What do these have in common? They are all examples of fragrance "notes" that are impossible to extract from their natural sources, and must either be recreated synthetically or approximated by blending natural materials, or some combination of the two. The impression of leather, for example, is often created by a blending of birch tar, styrax, and/or synthetic molecules. Plumb and other dark fruit notes can be detected in natural materials that are completely unrelated such as natural oud (agarwood) or the rum CO2 extraction we use in Lodge. When shopping for a fragrance, keep in mind that the list of notes are primarily marketing language intended to describe what the perfume smells like rather than list the ingredients.
3. Expensive Perfumes are higher quality
This is a statement that I think should be regarded as a half-truth rather than complete myth. Quality is difficult to quantify in the realm of fragrance. What exactly constitutes a quality fragrance? Its overall pleasantness? Appreciation of fragrance is highly subjective. Its longevity? This can vary from person to person. Its projection? Some love a "nuclear" 80s powerhouse, while others prefer a more subtle scent. The use of natural ingredients? Not all naturals are created equally. And what about the packaging? Are the unboxing experience and the design of the bottle important. These are all variables by which a fragrance can be judged, but they don't necessarily contribute to the cost.
Most natural ingredients are more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but do not project as strongly. Synthetics often perform better and are quite inexpensive. Naturals, however, can create a more complex composition with a fewer number of raw materials. Then there is the choice between Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and so on, which is discussed in the next section. Of course packaging is a major factor in the cost of a perfume. Many perfume buyers enjoy displaying their collection on a shelf or dresser and therefore place a high value on a beautifully designed bottle, while others care only about the fragrance inside.Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it really comes down to your personal preference as to what constitutes a quality fragrance and how much it is worth.
4. Eau de Cologne,Eau de Parfum, etc. refer to fragrance concentration.
This is an oversimplification that you'll find almost everywhere the topic is discussed. The typical breakdown of natural or synthetic perfume oil concentration levels are as follows:
- Eau de Cologne: 2-4%
- Eau de Toilette: 5-15%
- Eau de Parfum: 15-20%
- Parfum - 15-30%
However, the detail that is usually left out of the discussion is the variation of the formula between each concentration. For example, Eau de Toilettes and Eau de Colognes will often have a higher concentration of top notes and a lower concentration of base notes in order to give them a lighter, fresher character. Conversely, Eau de Parfum and Parfum compositions are likely to emphasize middle and base notes, which are the heavier and longest lasting elements of a fragrance. This is important to note because the EdC and EdP versions of the same fragrance may smell different from each other, not just weaker or stronger.
5. Synthetics are toxic, Naturals are healthy.
To be painfully honest, we started on our fragrance creation journey believing this one. Now our choice to use nature-based raw materials is more a matter of providing our customers with a unique and immersive experience with fragrance. The truth is - the safety of a particular raw material is determined entirely by its own individual chemistry rather than simple classification as natural or synthetic.
It is important to first understand that naturals such as essential oils contain many different molecules in varying quantities. For example, among the dozens of molecules present in a typical bergamot oil are limonene, linalool, pinene, sabinene, and bergaptene. Bergaptene can cause skin photosensitivity, resulting in discoloration and irritation. However, the oil becomes perfectly safe if it is processed to remove the bergaptene (which is why we only use bergaptene-free bergamot oil).
Linalyl acetate might sound like a scary chemical to some, but it is a safe component of many essential oils that can also be produced synthetically. Probably its most famous relative is lavender oil which gets much of its fresh, herbal, and slightly sweet floral scent from linalyl acetate. This is just one example where a synthetic raw material is chemically identical to its natural counterpart, but there are many others. The bottom line is that the issue of fragrance safety is much more complex than simply choosing natural over synthetic, and is one that we take into careful consideration with each of our formulas.
- Cologne/Eau de Cologne was originally named by its creator after his home of Cologne, Germany
- Fragrance notes are intended to describe what the fragrance smells like, rather than being an actual ingredients list
- "Quality" is a highly subjective term in the context of fragrance, and is determined by your own personal preference
- Use of the terms Eau de Cologne, Perfume, etc. only to describe fragrance concentration is an oversimplification
- There are safe and unsafe natural and synthetic fragrance materials. Each must be evaluated individually