The English word perfume is used for a fragrance designed for women, but I often hear non-native English speakers say things like, “My husband is wearing a new perfume.” Be warned! If a native English speaker hears that, she or he will probably start laughing. For men, we say they are wearing cologne or after-shave.
So in regular conversational English, it’s pretty simple: perfume is for women; cologne or after-shave is for men. But what about the technical terms for fragrances? According to this excellent article from Quora, the different names for each fragrance denote the differing strengths, with perfume the strongest and Eau de Cologne the weakest. Typically, 15-40% of the liquid in perfume comes from the extracted scent, whereas in cologne it is 2-5%.
You may notice that after-shave is missing from the list. Traditionally, after-shave was an alcohol-based liquid that was very lightly scented, but these days it’s more commonly found in cream form. Technically speaking, most fragrances worn by men these days are Eau de Colognes or Eau de Toilettes, but language takes time to change, and many people still use the term after-shave when in reality they mean cologne. Please note that it’s rare to hear the full technical terms for fragrances. I’ve never heard a native speaker say, “Do you like my new Eau de Toilette?”
Whatever scent you like to wear, if you’re a man who says, “I’m wearing perfume,” be prepared to get some funny looks!