The primary difference between perfume and aftershave is function. Perfume, which is typically associated with women, does not really serve any purpose besides adding scent, but aftershave, which is typically associated with men, helps heal skin and prevent irritation after shaving. Furthermore, the two differ in method of application: perfume is usually spritzed lightly over the skin and evaporates, and aftershave is applied as liquid directly onto the skin. Consequently, perfumes are usually more concentrated than aftershaves.
Perfume and aftershave are both significantly gendered products. Usually, perfume is associated with women, while aftershave is overwhelmingly associated with men. One exception is a variant of perfume called eau de cologne, or cologne, which is generally less floral in aroma than many perfumes and is usually marketed toward men. Aftershave, however, is almost exclusively associated with men and the practice of shaving their facial hair.
Colognes and perfumes consist of scented oils diluted with water and alcohol. Aftershave traditionally also contains scented oils, alcohol, and water. Despite this apparent similarity, perfume and aftershave usually have different concentrations of scented oil because of how they are used. Perfumes are available in a wide range of scent concentrations from the strongest parfum to the most diluted eau de cologne, but all of these concentrations are generally stronger than aftershaves. The reason for this variation is that perfume is applied in a light spray that is designed to evaporate on the skin, while aftershave is applied more liberally in the form of a liquid that is patted onto the skin.
Perfume and aftershave are most notably different in the purposes they serve. There is really no other use for perfume besides lending a pleasant smell to the skin, hair, or clothing of the wearer. Aftershave, however, is meant to help heal skin after shaving. Since aftershave takes longer to evaporate, the alcohol has time to act as an antiseptic for cuts or irritation the skin might have sustained during shaving. Additionally, the alcohol cleanses and dries up any blemishes that might have been exposed and helps close pores and keep skin clear.
Another difference between perfume and cologne is the new forms they are taking as they evolve. Whereas perfume and aftershave were once only available in their traditional blend of alcohol, scented oil, and water, new variations of both products have evolved over time. Perfume can be found in solid form, in a shape reminiscent of a tin of balm or a tube of lipstick. These solid perfumes serve the same singular purpose of imparting pleasant scents, but are more portable and generally less expensive than the traditional formula. Aftershave is also available in several variations on the original formula: many brands contain moisturizers and resemble light lotions, and some blends have eliminated the alcohol in favor of other antiseptics that do not sting as much.