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By Isobel Hush

'Cheap' vs 'Expensive' Fragrances, Is There A Big Difference?

Buying perfume - either for ourselves or for loved ones - always feels like a treat. Spritzing on that zesty, or floral, or sophisticated, musky smell every morning can easily leave you feel just that little bit more polished.

Spraying on fragrance helps to give us pride in our appearance – and certainly makes for a more pleasant experience when meeting and greeting people in the outside world. And, along with scented candles, it makes for a brilliant present too – something a little bit special that your dad, girlfriend, friend or colleague can use every single day.

But one thing we’ve always wondered about our favourite scents is, is there really a difference between cheap and expensive perfume? And if so, what are the differences, and do they really matter?


What is the difference between cheap and expensive perfume?

It turns out, there are some small differences other than price point between expensive perfumes, and ones that won’t break the bank.


1) More expensive perfumes have ‘levels’ of fragrance – and so tend to last much longer

Tatiana Estevez, ex-aromatherapist and perfume maker, has explained that more expensive scents tend to have several layers of fragrance, while cheaper options have fewer.
Pricier perfumes are made up of top notes, mid notes and base notes, with each ‘note’ corresponding to the time in which you’ll be able to smell them. Tatiana said, “The top notes you smell immediately and last about half an hour, the mid notes develop after half an hour for 2-4 hours after that. Then come the base notes which is what is left on your skin at the end of the day.”


Credit: Getty Images

However, with cheaper perfumes, you may only get the top notes – and in rare instances, the mid notes. This means that your scent could fade quicker, lasting less time than a more expensive option. As well as that, the perfume may not smell as it did originally at the end of the day, or may actually end up smelling bad.
Base notes can be amongst some of the most expensive in the perfume industry – so it makes sense that a cheaper perfume may not have them.

But, that doesn’t mean perfumes with only top notes are not worth buying, nor that all expensive perfumes have all three levels of notes. In fact, the legendary Chanel No.5 only features top notes, and is one of the most popular perfumes of all time.

2) Cheaper perfumes tend to be sweeter

Sometimes, cheaper perfumes are sweeter because sweeter-smelling ingredients are cheaper to include in scents. However this is not always the case. Often, less expensive scents are sweeter because they are marketed towards a younger audience, who may not have as much to spend.

But of course, this doesn’t mean that they are bad. In fact, quite the opposite. If sweeter, cheaper perfumes are the kind you prefer, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy them.

3) Essentially though, scent preference is subjective

Pricier perfumes may be made up of layers that ensure the scent lasts longer, but it really is down to which perfume you like best. And, aside from the points mentioned above, there is no reason a cheaper perfume isn’t just as a good as a more expensive one. Plus, there are some great cheaper dupes of more expensive perfumes.


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In fact, a team of researchers from Imperial College London found in a study of 1,000 people that more expensive doesn’t always mean better.

After all, your nose prefers whatever scent it prefers, regardless of cost, quality of ingredients, or the composition of the perfume.


4) If it seems too good to be true, maybe it is

Feel free to get testers or samples of fragrances before purchasing. If the fragrance is super expensive you don't want to break the bank and then end up not liking the scent, but even if the fragrance is on the cheaper side that still doesn't mean you're happy to waste your money on a fragrance you will hate. Explore different fragrances in the brand, experiment with smaller bottles such as 10mls before moving on to bigger 30ml or 100ml bottles. With cheaper perfumes you could find that is smells like nothing after an hour but it could also last until the next day. Don't be afraid to try products out before comitting to them!


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