Wednesday 6 January 2010

Beauty: Parfum or Toilette?

Have you ever wondered what do the words "Eau de Parfum", "Eau de Toilette" or "Eau de Cologne" on your perfume bottles mean? Why are the prices of these perfumes so different? What language are they in? How do we pronounce these words?

Let's study my findings.

Quoting from Wikipedia, "the word perfume used today derives from the Latin "per fumum", meaning through smoke. Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and was further refined by the Romans and Persians."[1]

Today, France is "the centre of the European perfume design and trade."[1]

Eau, in words such as "Eau de Parfum", "Eau de Toilette" or "Eau de Cologne" (or "Eau de vie", a colourless fruit brandy), refers to "water"[2] and it is a commonly used permutation of vowels in French words which yields a sound similar to the letter "O" in some languages[2], while de means "of", thus Eau de means "water of"[3], the IPA of it is /ˌəʊ.də./[4]

General classification of perfumes follows the concentration by percent/volume of perfume oil[5]:

Perfume extract (Extrait):
  • 15-40% (IFRA: typical 20%) aromatic compounds
Eau de Parfum /ˌəʊ.də.paʁˈfœ̃m/ (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT):
  • 10-20% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds. Sometimes listed as "eau de perfume" or "millésime".
Eau de Toilette /ˌəʊ.də.twaˈlet/ (EdT):
  • 5-15% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds
Eau de Cologne /ˌəʊ.də.kəˈləʊn/ (EdC):
  • Chypre citrus type perfumes with 3-8% (typical ~5%) aromatic compounds
Splash and After shave:
  • 1-3% aromatic compounds
Click here to see the IPA symbols which you haven't learnt and here for French Phonology.

Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of 'notes', making the harmonious scent accord.[5]

Top notes: The scents that are perceived immediately on application of a perfume.Also called the "head notes".

Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that emerges just prior to when the top notes dissipate. They are also called the "heart notes".

Base notes: The scent of a perfume that appears close to the departure of the middle notes.


harmonious -- (adj.) having a pleasant tune or harmony
accord -- (n.) (a formal) agreement
dissipate -- (vb.) to (cause to) gradually disappear


Wish you all a very fragrant 2010!!!

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