The Definitive Guide to FragranceNosey your way around our scent 101.

Scroll Down

Perfume isn’t a topic to take lightly; but while it can be expensive and potentially addictive, there’s nothing like that joyous feeling you get when you’re spritzing a fresh new bottle. From how to make your perfume last longer to the five different perfume types, the answers you seek await in the Harvey Nichols definitive guide to fragrance.

What's perfume made of?

Perfume is made from a deceptively simple blend of scented oils, alcohol and water. The concentration of the oils depends on the type of scent you’re buying – pure parfum has a much higher concentration than an eau de toilette, for example.

The alcohol used in perfume is different to drinking spirits. Also known as perfumer’s or denatured alcohol, it is odourless and cannot be consumed. Alcohol helps the perfume’s ingredients to blend together rather than separating, as well as preserving the scent for greater longevity. It also has a pleasant, cooling sensation on the skin.

What are the different types of perfume?

There are five main types of perfume.

Parfum – also known as pure perfume or extrait de parfum – is the mostly highly concentrated form of perfume. Due to its concentration of between 15 to 40% fragrance oil that ensures long-lasting wear, parfum also commands the highest price tag. It’s recommended for those with sensitive skin, due to the lower amounts of alcohol.

Eau de Parfum (EDP)
One of the most popular fragrance varieties, eau de parfum has a concentration of between 10 to 20% fragrance oil. On the skin it'll last between four to five hours; many recommend that it's best worn in the evening or during winter.

Eau de Toilette (EDT)
An execellent choice for summer due to its light composition, eau de toilette is best described as ‘grooming water’. Eau de toilettes contain between 5 to 15% aromatic compounds and achieve greatest longevity when worn on the clothes.

Eau de Cologne
Don’t get your colognes mixed up! While the term ‘cologne’ is popularly used in reference to men’s fragrance, eau de cologne is a perfume concentration that contains between 2 to 6% oils. Originating from Cologne, Germany, the very first cologne – 4711 – is still produced and worn today... A true classic.

Eau Fraiche
Translating to ‘fresh water’, eau fraiche lives up to its name as the lightest perfume available – containing just 1 to 3% essential oils. Perhaps most famous in this category is Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess.

How to make perfume last longer

1. Spray it directly onto your clothes. Skin absorbs perfume, whereas manmade fibres do not – you'll be able to smell a lingering scent for days.

2. Moisturise before you spritz. Your skin is less likely to absorb the perfume if it's not dry, so get your moisturising done the night before.

3. Layer up with different perfume types. Eau de parfums are best worn against the skin, while eau de toilettes will improve sillage* when worn on the clothes.

4. Spritz perfume onto your hair brush before brushing your hair. Don't do this too often, though – alcohol can leave your hair dry and frizzy. We advise purchasing a hair mist for daily use.

*Sillage refers to the degree in which a perfume hangs in the air when worn.

Does perfume expire?

Yes! It's all dependent on the chemical composition, but most perfumes have a shelf life of around three to five years once opened.

4 facts you didn't know about perfume

1. The word perfume derives from the Latin phrase 'per fumus', meaning 'through smoke'. The first record of perfume-making comes from a chemist called Tapputi, who was referenced in a 2nd millennium BC tablet from Mesopotamia; she would distil blends of flowers, oil and calamus to create her own aromatic concoctions.

2. Nowadays, there are reportedly more astronauts in the world than perfumers, due in part to the strikingly long training time – basic training lasts three years, but a perfumer is rarely considered skilled until at least 10 years’ experience in the craft.

3. The world’s bestselling perfume is the legendary Chanel No. 5, created by the perfumer Ernest Beaux in 1921. At Harvey Nichols however, it’s Escentric Molecules’ Molecule 01 – with an average of 300 bottles sold per week.

4. When testing perfumes, it’s not uncommon to experience olfactory fatigue – that is, when you’ve smelled so many scents that your nose becomes essentially blind to anymore. To combat the problem, department stores will usually have a little bowl of coffee beans on hand which act as a palate cleanser to the nose. If no beans are available, sniffing your skin works just as well.