Men's cologne / Perfume Care / Women's perfume

The Beginner’s Guide to Buying Perfume

It’s an understatement to say that most fragrance departments have a lot of options. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of beautiful bottles and French labels. To help make your decision easier, we’ve put together a quick and easy guide to help with your next fragrance purchase.

Lucky for you, it’s only two steps.

  • Step 1: Choosing a Fragrance

We know, choosing a fragrance is easier said than done. But picking a perfume or cologne really just comes down to what kind of smells you prefer.

The types of smells in each fragrance are called “notes.” In short, notes are the equivalent of ingredients in the perfume world.

There are woody notes, fruity notes, fresh notes, herbal notes, floral notes – just about everything under the sun (that smells good at least).

Keep in mind that you won’t smell every note at once. The notes are layered separately within essential oils, so you can only smell a few at a given time.

The top notes will shine through first – within 15 minutes of application. The middle notes come next, appearing after two to three hours. Lastly, the base notes develop after five hours of wear[1].

Take a look at the pyramid below for more examples of top, middle and base notes.

perfume note pyramid


  • Step 2: Choosing a Formula

After you’ve finally decided on a scent, whether it’s Mont Blanc Emblem or Chloe Love Story, you have to choose a formula: eau de parfum? Eau de toilette?

Isn’t it all the same? Yes and no.

There are many different chemical variations of perfume and cologne. What they have in common is a variety of essential oils and alcohol. The key factor is the ratio of essential oil to alcohol.

There are five types of fragrances: perfume extract, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne and aftershave splash. The ratio of oil to alcohol determines the type of fragrance. For example, perfume extract has the highest concentration of essential oils at 15-40%[2]. Moreover, eau de parfum and eau de toilette are the most common types for women, with eau de parfum containing about 15-30% essential oil and eau de toilette with 10-15% essential oil.

One thing to note (pun intended!), is that the eau de parfum and eau de toilette fragrances may not have an identical scent. Since eau de toilette sprays have fewer essential oils, the formula may be pared down from the notes included in the original eau de parfum version.

Men’s fragrances traditionally come in two types – eau de cologne which contains 3-8% essential oil and aftershave which contains less than 3%.

The type of formula changes not only the scent, but the price as well. The more concentrated fragrances have a higher price – much like 10k versus 14k gold.

Choosing a fragrance influences your everyday routine and even your personal confidence. Be sure to keep this information in mind the next time you’re browsing the beauty aisles or the Nandansons Bestsellers page.

Still confused? Let the stars align for you and pick your next scent based on your zodiac sign. Or, continue the learning process and check out our blog about caring for your fragrances.