Commonly used perfume terminology

Posted On: 2/15/2022

Today, we will talk about a vital topic in the perfume world. We will unveil some of the most commonly used terms from the fragrance industry that seem confusing to most people but are very simple and easy to understand at their core.

After reading this post, you will be able to benefit fully from our platform or any other platform about perfumes on the internet. You will be able to understand when perfume aficionados are discussing some perfume and start throwing some fancy words around that would usually make you uncomfortable.

One might say that this blog post is something like a fragrance-related glossary. Sounds like fun? That's exactly what we were going for!

The best place to start is to describe some common properties that describe every perfume you will ever stumble upon.

Here is a list of those terms, along with explanations for them:

  1. Sillage - is one of those terms that tends to scare people new in the perfume world. The word itself comes from the French language. So what sillage actually is then? The word's meaning is "perfume trail that is left in the air when someone walks past you". This property is one of the two main things that make us say whether our perfume is performing well or not, besides the scent itself and its longevity. If the sillage of your perfume is not very strong, people will not be able to smell the fragrance when you walk past them or when they walk behind you.

    Story time...

    One great analogy we read in one of the blogs from our fellow perfume enthusiasts blogs is that sillage is what hounds would be searching for when they are trying to find someone. These dogs are looking for the scent trail left lingering in the air when a person walks by.

    Ideas to enhance the sillage of your perfumes

    If you wish to improve the sillage of your perfume, you can easily do that by following one of the ideas we are about to share. Spray some clothing item you are wearing with your perfume, not your skin directly. Notice that it will stay with you for quite a while.

    Understand your chemistry

    If you really want to maintain a scent trail, you'll need something that blends in with your skin chemistry but not totally. Notes that tend to be perfect at doing this are patchouli, vanilla, and mellons. These note examples aren't completely compatible with our skin's chemistry and hence aren't "eaten" by it, resulting in a much higher sillage. That is why you can notice that vanilla-based perfumes usually last very long.
  2. Projection - the second term that creates a lot of confusion is certainly the projection of a perfume. What happens very often is that people tend to mix sillage and projection. It is widespread that people even think it is all the same thing. And that can't be further from the truth. We already covered sillage, so now we are going to do the same for perfume projection, and after we do that, we are going to reference the difference between these two terms.

    What is projection?

    Projection of a perfume is its capability to spread across the room while you are sitting down. So the projection is basically the maximum distance at which you can smell the perfume while the person wearing it is not moving. Of course, by the nature of this perfume property, it is just so logical that the projection of any perfume drops as time goes by. So the projection is the highest right after you apply the perfume and drops with every passing minute.

    Let us compare sillage and projection

    So the sillage can be explained as a scent trail that you leave as you walk, and the projection is how far away from you people can smell the perfume while you are stationary. Not that complicated. Right?
  3. Designer perfumes - this term we explained in-depth in a separate blog post dedicated to this topic alone. It is called "What are designer perfumes?". But of course, we will not make you go to that post if you do not wish to do it. If you are looking for a brief explanation, you will get it here. Designer perfumes are perfumes created by famous fashion brands like Channel, Armani, Dior, Versace, and many others.
    These brands hire some of the world's best perfumers and ensure that each perfume creation they release is worthy of their brand name. That is probably why designer perfumes are the most widely spread and well known to people nowadays. Another common trait of designer perfumes is the intention of making everyone like them. The goal of these big brands is to make a product that is not going to lower their status, which is why these perfumes are real people pleasers.
  4. Niche perfumes - this is another topic covered in one of our blog posts. Niche perfumes are a very scary topic to people just getting started with their perfume journeys, which is why we decided to make a comprehensive post about the issue at hand and explain everything related to it. If you are interested in reading everything about niche perfumes, you can do that in our post called "What are niche perfumes?". If you prefer a concise definition, we will give you just that. Niche perfumes are perfumes created by perfumers in smaller quantities, with a much more artistic approach than designer perfumes usually follow. This means that people can sometimes classify niche perfumes as not very likable, and that is completely fine with perfumeries creating those perfumes. Art is not likable by everyone, which is why most people will not fall in love with a niche perfume that you feel is a true extension of your character and makes you feel superhuman.

Great, now we know what properties describe each perfume. We can describe another essential property that is essential. The property we are thinking of is perfume concentration. Perfumes come in a few different concentration options. A single parameter defines each perfume concentration, and that is the percentage of oils present in the perfume.

The presence of oils is what defines the longevity, projection, and sillage of your perfume. Of course, it is not that simple. The quality of the oil and its natural potency also play a huge role, but the only measurable property is concentration. So the higher the percentage of oils you have in a perfume, the stronger the perfume will perform in most cases.

We have the following concentration options:

  1. Perfume extract - if your perfume is described with one of the following descriptors, you are holding the most concentrated perfume: "solid perfume", "perfume extrait", "pure perfume", "perfume". These descriptors tell us that the percentage of oils in the perfume is over 20%. This fact makes the perfume extremely potent and strong. Usually, only the most exceptional perfumes have this concentrated formulation.
  2. Eau de Parfum (EDP) - is the next best thing after perfume extract. The concentration of oils is somewhere between 15% and 20%, which is still a lot. Most perfumes with amazing performance are in this section, so you can expect your perfume to last you an entire day with ease in most cases.
  3. Eau de Toilete (EDT) - is the most common perfume concentration within designer perfumes. These perfumes contain between 7% and 15% of oils. Do not be exclusive about these perfumes. There are quite a few perfume creations that can last you an entire day and are in EDT concentration. But here, you need to pay attention to the natural properties of oils if you wish to get great performers in EDT concentration because it is easy to get a perfume that will last only for a couple of hours if its ingredients are not very potent. Usually, perfumes are easier to last very long when they contain some woody or sweet notes that are very potent. For example, floral notes do not last very long in most cases.
  4. Eau de Cologne (EDC) - perfumes of this concentration are rarely very good performers. You can expect these perfumes to last you up to a few hours tops, and you will not be able to get a single trail of their existence. They contain 3% to 7% of oils in the mixture, which is a very small percentage. That is why you can't rely on them to last for extensive amounts of time.
  5. Eau Fraiche (EF) - is the weakest formulation you can find. It is usually used in aftershaves or hair mists. We are talking about 1% to 3% of oils in the bottle, which will be present for a very short period. We are talking about scent lasting only for a few minutes.

You are learning so much from this post. Right?

Why stop the fun now?

We will share a few more interesting words that are being pushed around all the time and seem to be confusing.

Here is another list of words that are very common:

  1. Dry-down - is a stage in the lifecycle of every perfume application. When you apply any perfume on your skin, the first thing you will smell is its top notes, mixed with some hints of mid notes. This scent does not last very long. Usually, top notes tend to dissipate within the first 5 to 20 minutes of the application.
    After that stage has passed, mid notes tend to dominate the scene, and you can smell only hints of the perfume's base notes. If you wish to learn everything about perfume notes, we have a perfect post for you, "Complete guide for perfume notes". In it, you will be able to learn every single thing about perfume notes and how perfumes are made.

    But now, back to our topic.

    After the second stage has passed, we enter the final stage, which is the dry-down stage of the perfume. You can expect perfume to last for 30 minutes to a couple of hours before falling into this stage. Of course, some weak perfumes can get to this stage quicker than 30 minutes. This stage is what makes perfumes truly amazing. In the dry-down stage, base notes of the perfume start to linger in the air. The projection is much weaker than before, but true magic starts to happen. In this stage, the perfume's base notes start to interact with our skin chemistry. This process is what makes the same perfume smell different on the skin of different people.


    You have experienced this for sure before. You smell some perfume on your friend, and you fall in love with it and go right ahead and buy it. When you apply, it smells as you expected it to, but as time goes on, the scent starts smelling less and less to what you expected it to. That is the dry-down phase. In it, each perfume smells differently on the skin of people. That is because the skin chemistry on our skin is not the same. Everyone has a unique scent, and that scent is what gets mixed with perfume oils of the musky and smokey nature. This is the phase when a single perfume can smell amazing on one person and smell horrific on another. Dry-down is amazing!
  2. Signature scent - this one is not that complex to explain. Every perfume enthusiast has a signature scent. It is a scent that we love the most and wear the most. It is one scent that people tend to remember us by. So when you smell some perfume, you think of this person from your life that wears it very often.
  3. Flanker - this is another fun word to decipher.

    We are going to kick things off with a story...

    Perfume brands are constantly working on creating great perfumes. And just so often, they succeed at doing that. They create this successful perfume, and everyone likes it. You can smell it everywhere you go. People go crazy over it with hopes and dreams to lay their hands on it as soon as possible, no matter the price. And when the hype stops being so strong, people tend to feel like the perfume is not that special because everyone smells like it, which is when the sales of that perfume start dropping. But perfume brands are smart, and they wish to continue profiting from their success. That is where flanker perfumes come to play. Flankers are perfumes created based on this perfume that was a huge success. They usually share some segments with the original scent and have something unique in their DNA. And when people hear that their favorite perfume becomes available in a new, unique dressing, they must lay their hands on it. And the flankers are born!

Whoah, that was a lot of talking. We covered so much in this post. If you managed to stay awake to this point, you are probably one of the most dedicated people that has ever walked the face of this Earth.

Now, every single term covered in this post was covered to teach people about perfumes and what makes them amazing pieces of art. We hope you enjoyed the ride!

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