Since you’re reading this, you’re wondering whether men’s fragrances seem to last longer than women’s ones do. The long answer short is, “it depends,” and it has to do with the way that fragrances are made.
A perfume’s longevity depends to a large extent on its concentration, notes, ingredients, and formula. For a number of reasons related to these, masculine fragrances are often believed to last longer.
Our readers frequently say that they perceive masculine scents as heavier hitters and slower to fade compared to feminine fragrances—and we’ve received numerous questions over the years as to exactly why that is.
So, today, we will do a deep dive on the topic.
Most fragrances consist of 80-90% denatured alcohol, 1-20% perfume oil, approximately 10% distilled water, as well as a number of solvents, stabilizers, preservatives, and UV-absorbers.
The perfume oils give the juice its scent. The denatured alcohol and the distilled water dilute it. The remaining ingredients give it a longer shelf life by protecting it from oxidation (from coming into contact with the air) and decay (from exposure to light).
As you can probably imagine, a fragrance’s concentration is one of the factors that affect its strength and its longevity. A fragrance with 1% oil would have a pale, diluted scent that fades away quickly; one with 20% oil would be intense, saturated, and longer-lasting.
Generally, there are five fragrance concentrations to know of:
|Eau Fraîche||1-3%||1-2 hours||Lowest|
|Eau de Cologne (EDC)||3-5%||2-3 hours||Low|
|Eau de Toilette (EDT)||5-15%||3-6 hours||Medium|
|Eau de Parfum (EDP)||15-20%||6-9 hours||High|
|Pure perfume||More than 20%||12-24 hours||Highest|
Eau Fraîche, commonly called body mist or fragrance mist, is a concentration normally found in fragrances aimed at female teens, as well as summer scents from designer houses.
Most masculine fragrances are Eau de Cologne (EDC), so they contain roughly 3% to 5% perfume oil. That’s also why they are referred to as “cologne” by many.
Most designer women’s scents are Eau de Toilette (EDT), with niche scents having higher concentrations such as Eau de Parfum (EDP) or pure perfume.
Obviously, if concentration was the only factor affecting a fragrance’s longevity, women’s perfume would last longer than men’s cologne—and not vice versa.
Most of us would think it ends there, but we’d be wrong. It turns out it’s not just the concentration of a fragrance that affects its longevity but also its notes and, consequently, its ingredients.
To show you why, we will take you back—for just a minute or two, I promise—to high-school chemistry class. At least this time, the lesson’s material is something you actually want to learn.
A scent’s top and middle notes consist of fragrant molecules with simpler, shorter chemical formulas than its base notes. That makes them faster to react to the oxygen atoms in the air, and therefore quicker to oxidize and fade away.
Citrusy and floral notes are usually at the top; fruit, herbs, and spices are mostly in the middle; their animalistic, balsamic, and woody counterparts are at the bottom.
To put it simply, scents weighted towards the lighter, simpler top and middle notes typically last less than those weighted towards the heavier, more complex base notes.
More often than not, masculine fragrances are darker and more potent than those with feminine traits.
Notes are merely descriptors, words used to describe a unique and recognizable scent (such as thyme, peach, pink pepper, or cinnamon), and every note comprises one or more ingredients.
Those notes can come from natural ingredients derived from plant sources and, more rarely nowadays, animal secretions and/or synthetic ingredients, meaning molecules concocted by perfumers and ingredients scientists in a lab.
It’s uncommon that a fragrance has 100% natural or 100% synthetic ingredients, and the majority of fragrances—men’s, women’s, or unisex—tend to contain both. Though low-cost fragrances are mostly artificial, and higher-end fragrances tend to be more natural, price is not necessarily a reliable indicator of a scent’s composition.
Last but not least is the formula.
Two fragrances with similar scents can have very different formulas. For example, there’s more than one way to add a lemony scent to a product, and the ingredients that make the bleach you wipe your floors with smell like lemon are not the same as those in your signature scent.
These ingredients can yield longer-lasting or shorter-lasting notes depending on their amount, how they are melded together, and the additives in the formula intended to preserve and stabilize them.
The Bottom Line
No two fragrances are alike, and whether a fragrance is feminine or masculine isn’t the only factor that affects its longevity.
With that said, men’s colognes are more animalistic and woodier than the typical women’s perfumes—especially the lighter, summery scents—so it’s no surprise that many perceive them as longer-lasting.