Unraveling the Differences Between Aftershave, Cologne, and Eau de Toilette

Navigating the world of men’s fragrances can be confusing, with terms like aftershave, eau de toilette, and cologne being thrown around.

But not all is lost!

This article will clarify the differences between these products, fragrance concentrations, scent terminology, and their various purposes.

By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the fascinating world of fragrances and be more equipped to choose the right spray for your needs.

The Takeaway:

  • Aftershave is intended to soothe and protect the skin after shaving, while cologne and eau de toilette are fragrances intended to provide a pleasant scent. Aftershaves generally have a lighter fragrance concentration than colognes and eau de toilettes.
  • Fragrance concentrations vary by type: pure perfume has the highest concentration of perfume oil, followed by eau de parfum, eau de toilette, cologne, and aftershave.
  • Understanding fragrance terminologies, like notes, drydown, and sillage, can help you better appreciate the art of scent and choose the right fragrance for your needs.
  • The longevity of a fragrance depends on factors such as fragrance concentration and individual skin chemistry. Generally, higher concentrations of perfume oil result in longer-lasting scents.
  • While some people choose to use aftershave as a light daytime scent in place of cologne, keep in mind that aftershaves are primarily designed to soothe and protect the skin after shaving, and their fragrance might not last as long as cologne or eau de toilette.

Key Differences Between Aftershave, Cologne, and Eau de Toilette

ProductPrimary PurposeFragrance ConcentrationLongevitySuitable For
AftershaveSoothe & protect skin after shavingLow (lower than cologne)ShortestPost-shaving
Cologne (EDC)Light, daytime scent2% – 5%ShortDaytime, casual wear
Eau de Toilette (EDT)Versatile scent for day or night5% – 15%ModerateDaytime, night, casual outings

Understanding the Main Differences Between Aftershave, Cologne, and Eau de Toilette

To start, let’s define what makes each of these products unique:

  • Aftershave is a liquid, lotion, or balm that’s applied to the face after shaving to soothe and disinfect the skin. It often contains astringent and antiseptic ingredients. This can be either alcohol, witch hazel, or aloe vera, which helps to prevent irritation, razor burn, and infection from nicks and cuts. They usually have a light fragrance concentration as they are intended primarily for skin repair and are designed to provide a pleasant but not overpowering scent. Some common aftershave ingredients include menthol for a cooling effect, herb extracts for their soothing properties, and moisturizing agents for sensitive skin.
  • Cologne (also known as Eau de Cologne or EDC) is a type of fragrance that has a lower concentration of perfume oil than other fragrances, making it less intense and longer-lasting than eau de parfums or eau de toilettes. It’s often applied to the pulse points, such as the neck and wrists, and is generally considered more appropriate for daytime wear. Colognes usually have a higher concentration of alcohol and come in bigger bottles compared to other fragrances. Colognes contain varying notes including citrus, cedarwood, jasmine, musk, and sandalwood.
  • Eau de toilette (EDT) is a type of fragrance that falls between cologne and eau de parfum in terms of fragrance concentration. It’s a versatile option that can be worn during the day or at night and is available in a wide range of scents. Eau de toilette typically contains less alcohol than cologne, and the term eau de toilette has evolved from the French term “faire sa toilette,” meaning to groom or care for oneself.

Interested in picking up a cologne? Here a few we think you’ll love.

Exploring Fragrance Concentrations

To understand the differences between various types of fragrances, it’s essential to look at the concentration of perfume oil in each product, as they can vary significantly. The higher the concentration of perfume oil, the more intense and long-lasting the fragrance. Here’s a breakdown of the different fragrance types and their concentrations:

  • Pure Perfume (Extrait de Parfum): Perfume, also known as extrait de parfum, is the most concentrated and long-lasting of all the fragrance types, containing anywhere from 20% to 40% perfume oil. They typically have a higher price tag and are sold in smaller bottles than other scents.
  • Eau de Toilette (EDT): Eau de toilette, also known as toilet water, is a lighter fragrance, with a perfume oil concentration of around 5% to 15%. It’s one of the most popular types of fragrance and is suitable for daywear or casual outings, as it’s not too overpowering.
  • Eau de Parfum (EDP): Eau de parfum has a higher concentration of perfume oil than EDT, usually ranging between 15% and 20%. This makes it a more intense and longer-lasting fragrance, often favored for nightwear or special occasions.
  • Cologne (Eau de Cologne or EDC): Cologne has the lowest concentration of perfume oil, at around 2% to 5%. The lighter concentration lends itself to a more versatile fragrance.
  • Aftershave: Typically aftershave will only contain trace amounts of perfume oil, typically around the 1% to 3% range. This is enough to provide some fragrance for a few hours after application.
  • Eau Fraiche: Eau fraiche is a type of fragrance similar to cologne, but with a concentration similar to aftershave (usually 1% to 3%). This can be a good option for men who are typically sensitive to fragrances.

Furthermore, here is a video from Kev TV that does a terrific job that explaining the differences between aftershave, cologne, and eau de toilette:

Brushing Up on Fragrance Terms

Understanding the nuances of fragrance terms can be helpful in appreciating the art of scent and choosing the right fragrance for your needs. Here are some of the most common fragrance terms you should know:

Scent Profile

The scent profile, also known as the fragrance pyramid, is the overall structure of a fragrance, made up of three layers: top notes, middle notes (also called heart notes), and base notes. Each layer contributes to the final scent of the fragrance.


Notes are the individual scents that make up a fragrance, divided into top, middle, and base notes.

  • Top notes: are the first scents you smell when applying a fragrance and evaporate quickly.
  • Middle notes: are more long-lasting and play a crucial role in defining the overall scent.
  • Base notes: are the longest-lasting and provide the foundation for the fragrance.

Common top notes include citrus, mint, and lavender, while middle notes include jasmine, rose, and sandalwood and base notes include musk, vanilla, and amber.


As the fragrance settles on your skin, this process is known as the drydown. Lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, the drydown is the phase during which a fragrance reveals its true scent.


Sillage refers to the trail of scent that a fragrance leaves behind as you move. A strong sillage means your fragrance can be easily detected by others, while a weak sillage indicates a more subtle scent.

Estimating the Longevity of Fragrances

The longevity of a fragrance depends on factors such as fragrance concentration, quality, and individual skin chemistry. In general, the higher the concentration of perfume oil, the longer-lasting the scent. Perfumes tend to last the longest, followed by EDP, EDT, cologne, and aftershave.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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