Perfumes and scents are two of the most popular beauty products today, and are often synonymous with each other. So it’s not surprising that these two words are often used interchangeably as they have several things in common. For example, both scents and perfumes are used for their ability to enhance our body scent. They can even work in tandem to create a fragrance that is unique and long-lasting. But they also have some important differences.
So, what is the difference between perfume and scent?
Essentially, it's all about the ingredients and how they are used because perfumes and scents have different compositions and serve different purposes. In this article, we’ll explain how perfumes and scents differ so you can recognise and use them correctly for yourself and your home.
Concentration and composition
When it comes to fragrances, many people tend to lump perfume and scents together. However, the biggest difference between the two is their composition. Perfume is a concentrated mixture of essential oils, mostly derived from flowers, herbs and other plants, but it can be synthetic. These fragrances are usually mixed with alcohol and other solvents such as esters, aldehydes, resin, beeswax, etc. to create different combinations of fragrances and complex notes that are potent and long-lasting.
Scents are basically fancy versions of natural scented oils that are extracted from plants. Some of the most popular scents include rose, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus. They have a pleasant yet distinct aroma, such as fruity, fresh, sweet, spicy, and so on. Scents are typically more subtle than perfumes, and they can also be easily produced at home, if you know how, for use in candles, purifiers and more.
Potency and its effects
Perfumes are designed to last longer and be more potent than scents, so that you don’t have to reapply them as often. They are more sophisticated than scents, and they typically contain a greater concentration, or even different combinations, of essential oils mixed with other solvents. This helps to create a variety of different smells over time—also referred to as top, middle and base notes. For example, the iconic Giorgio Armani Si (Eau de Parfum) is a delicate blend of floral and woodsy notes that starts with cassis and progresses to a heart of rose and freesia.
Scents, on the other hand, produce a distinct type of aroma depending on the plant they were extracted from. They are created specifically to elicit different emotions or change your mood. Lavender, for example, can produce calm and relaxing effects, which help to reduce mental stress and ease nerves and tension. Scented oils are also noticeable immediately after spraying, but they normally only last for a few minutes before dissipating.
Perfumes typically contain between 1% and 15% fragrance/essential oils, whereas scents can have up to 70% essential oils. As a result of the high concentration of essential oils in perfumes, they are more expensive than scented oils. For example, a bottle of perfume can cost more than £50, but scented oil only costs around £10, or even less, for the same amount. The price of perfumes can even go higher, especially if you want to buy a limited-edition fragrance, a designer perfume, or if they are made with rare ingredients such as Oud oil.
Hence, perfumes are often more expensive than the majority of scented oil products, which makes sense given the materials used to create them. Besides, there are other factors that can also affect its pricing, including bottle and packaging, brand reputation and popularity.
When it comes to fragrances, the differences between perfumes and scents are often overshadowed by their similarities. However, they differ in a few ways, from composition and concentration to price and potency; from sophisticated and complex to simple and all-natural; from long-lasting and noticeable to brief and subtle.