Fragrance Oils Vs. Alcohol-Based Fragrances

A smorgasbord of possibilities.

Oil vs Alcohol: the Sophie’s choice of fragrance shopping. On paper, a fragrance oil and an alcohol-based fragrance are more or less the same at conception. It’s in the distillation that things get get interesting.

When comparing an oil fragrance next to its alcohol-based brother (we’ve all got one) the core of both will be exactly the same. The modus the perfumer employees to get said fragrance into your hands (oil or alcohol) is what dramatically affects the final result. Alcohol based fragrances tend to be more verbose and dramatic, whereas fragrance oils are closest to the purest form of the fragrance, with a much hazier complexion and shyer demeanour.  

If you are on the hunt for a new fragrance and tossing up between oil or alcohol, these are a few things to keep in mind regarding both. I’ll preface this by saying there is no right or wrong way to enjoy a fragrance. The key takeaway from this is it is entirely up to you and how you want to present yourself to the world.

ALCOHOL FRAGRANCES

Alcohol based fragrances are the garden variety, lining the shelves of department stores in flowery, almost over the top glass bottles. There’s a lot to like in an alcohol-based fragrance, and the good ones will treat the wearer to sublime experience.

It’s generally a spritz and go situation here making for a more streamline application however it can be easy to overdo it. The phrase one and done should sit in the back of your mind at all times.

Alcohol acts to sharpen certain elements of the fragrance, bringing forward each note individually allowing a story to brew. Alcohol based fragrances also tend to be sharper and announce themselves with more gusto, if that’s your thing. They can be a little more volatile though, so practice caution and avoid rubbing at them or mixing as this can completely destroy the fragrance.

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OIL-BASED FRAGRANCES

For a number of reasons, oil-based fragrances are often touted as a superior choice, especially for those looking to make a humbler investment upfront. An oil-based fragrance, as its name would suggest, uses an oil base to interact with the dermis, making for a much more pleasurable experience for those with sensitive or dry skin. Without the projection alcohol provides, oil fragrances hug the skin a little tighter making the scent subtler and sweeter for those lucky enough to be welcomed into your embrace. Like a well-kept secret. Because of this, oil-based fragrances are less ‘offensive’ in close quarter situations.

With an oil-based fragrance, you won’t be getting quite the same flair though, with all notes working in harmony on the wearer instead of patiently waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

There is a depth and subtlety to the fragrance craft that goes beyond notes of persimmon and citrus and belies a smorgasbord of possibilities. At the end of the day, your fragrance choice will be determined by how you want to be presented to the world. If you want to announce your presence and turn heads for all the right reasons, opt for an alcohol-based fragrance. If subtlety is more your speed, an oil-based fragrance will service your needs quite nicely.

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