Why are perfumes so expensive? (And 6 that are worth the price)

A signature scent can be just as important as a favorite piece of jewelry or a pair of shoes that goes with anything. That being said, there are many perfumes on the market that, in addition to their sweet scent, come at an investment price. So why are some perfumes so expensive? As a fragrance enthusiast, I was also curious, which led me to connect with perfumer and co-founder of Fragrance With Benefits, Olivia Jan.

According to Jan, who studied at the prestigious ISIPCA perfume school in Versailles, to begin to understand why some perfumes are more expensive than others, you have to think of perfume as a recipe: Some ingredients will cost more than others.

“The role of the ingredients in a perfume is the same as in a recipe,” explains Jan. “For example, if you’re using fresh truffles or portobello mushrooms, your raw material cost will be different.”

While unexpected, this product comparison makes a lot of sense: Truffles typically start at $250 a pound, while Portobello mushrooms typically max out at around $6. Perfume ingredients also vary in cost.

And although synthetic ingredients do not always just as cheap in the case of perfume, in many cases the natural ingredients will be more expensive. For example, Jan notes that using a natural rose essential oil will be more expensive than a synthetic imitation. It all depends on how much time and labor it takes to get the specific ingredient.

“If we take the example of jasmine, the harvest is delicate”, explains Jan. “The flowers must be hand-picked, flower by flower, before sunrise to retain the freshness of the fragrance. This very laborious part makes this very valuable and expensive.”

Iris butter, a natural essential oil with a “purple, powdery” aroma, is also a time-consuming ingredient to produce. “It takes about three years for the roots to grow [and] they have to dry for three more years,” notes Jan.

“After this long process, the root is extracted with a low yield. All of this makes this ingredient more expensive than gold.”

The amount of oil in a perfume also matters (a lot). As Jan explains, the price of a perfume is directly related to the concentration of perfume oils. “The more you focus on something, the more it will cost,” she shares.

For example, a cologne is the least concentrated perfume with a concentration of around five to eight percent. Then there are the eau de toilette which, according to Jan, usually have a concentration of 10-14%. Finally, we have the coveted eau de parfum, which Jan says is “the most precious extract” with a concentration of 18-22%.

6 perfumes that are worth their price

In summary, a perfume’s ingredients, the time and labor spent in production, and its concentration are all factors that contribute to its overall cost. Looking at the concentration of a perfume (is it cologne or eau de parfum?) as well as the list of ingredients can tell you if a bottle is worth its price.

Below, see six scents that are so it’s worth it, thanks to their premium ingredients and formulation.

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Sarah C. Figueiredo