How to Apply, Wear, and Choose Cologne: The Complete Fragrance Guide
Fragrance is often a topic of discussion not only here at Beardbrand, but also among men everywhere. That’s no surprise considering that many men’s grooming products have a unique scent that sets them apart from other brands, whether the product is aftershave, beard oil, beard balm, deodorant, or something else.
Cologne is among the most common types of fragrance that men utilize in their grooming routine, and one that’s been around for centuries. How to wear cologne properly, however, deserves plenty of attention because many men don’t use it – and other fragrances – while putting a lot of thought into it.
Colognes and perfumes can trigger a variety of sensations, memories, and emotions by releasing certain chemicals in our brain. And, for many men, cologne – when worn correctly and in the right amount – can attract potential romantic partners. But there’s more to the art of wearing and choosing cologne than you may think, and we want to help break it all down for you to aid your learning curve.
We take our fragrances very seriously and they’re one of the things that sets our products apart, because of the time and care we take to make those fragrances truly unique. We pride ourselves on putting plenty of thought and creativity into creating our one-of-a-kind scents.
A quick note before we dive in: We’ll often refer to cologne, perfume, and fragrance in this piece and, in some ways, these terms are interchangeable. When many people think of perfume, they think of it as a product suitable only for women. In reality, all fragrances are pretty much from the same perfume family – what matters is the concentration of oil and alcohol that’s mixed with water.
Perfume, as we’ll discuss later, has the highest concentration of aromatic oils while cologne is on the lighter scale. The oil concentration of a particular fragrance determines how long the scent lasts.
So, fellas, if you see a cologne that’s referred to as, say, Eau de Parfum, don’t immediately move on to the next brand. The name simply comes down to a product’s oil concentration.
How to Apply Your Cologne Like a Man, Not an Animal
How hard can it be? Splash some cologne onto the palms of your hands, rub your hands together vigorously, and then slap the stuff on your face. Or, grab a spray bottle of cologne and aim a couple of spritzes at your body before heading out the door.
But that’s not how it’s done, at least not correctly.
Properly applying cologne involves much more finesse than the ol’ slap-on method. There’s also a lot to think about, from how much to apply to locating the areas of your skin where you’ll get the most out of its fragrance.
Most of us know what it’s like when a man walks into a room, say at a party, after having applied his favorite fragrance haphazardly before venturing out into the evening. For one, his cologne probably enters the room before he does because he’s used too much of it. Meanwhile, the would-be romantic interest feeding frenzy he envisioned after applying his cologne remains just a fantasy.
Keeping a few techniques in mind and following the rules of the road for how to apply cologne correctly may help his – and your – fantasy come true. They’re certainly worth a closer look.
The $1 million question: How much is too much when applying cologne?
Let’s start with how much cologne you should use to maximize its fragrance and effects. Cologne is another weapon in your grooming arsenal that can help you look and feel your best, but there’s no need to turn a subtle weapon like cologne into a cannon. That said, there’s no definitive answer to what represents the “correct” amount, although it’s important to train yourself to know when too much is just that – too much.
If your favorite fragrance is a constant presence in your nostrils, it’s usually not a good sign. In that case, you’ve probably applied too much. Not that being able to smell your fragrance is a bad thing, but feeling trapped in a cologne cloud is. If it smells that strongly to you, those around you probably feel an assault on their senses.
Never use cologne as a substitute for soap. You need soap to maintain good hygiene, among many reasons. Pick soap that does its intended job and smells good to you, or choose an unscented brand that doesn’t clash with your cologne’s fragrance.
The right amount of cologne is probably less than you think. Two spritzes, applied to the proper areas of your body (which we’ll get into in a bit) should be enough. Others prefer three sprays, If you’re among that group, the best strategy is to spray once behind each ear and once on the neck.
Ask for help if you’re unsure how much you should apply. Apply a small amount of cologne while a friend stands an arms length away. You’ve applied enough if they can smell you from that distance. Only add another spritz if they can’t smell the fragrance.
Another method you can use if you’re paranoid about overdoing it (although some experts suggest it’s not the best way) is to spray one spritz in the air, and then walk through the mist to evenly distribute the fragrance.
Keep in mind that cologne has a lighter concentration of aromatic oils than most other types of fragrances, but it still can have heavier, longer-lasting scents.
Give yourself some time to experience the scent and its strength truly. It can take a good 15 minutes for cologne to sink into your skin and react with your body chemistry.
Your skin type helps to determine how much cologne you should use. A cologne’s fragrance tends to cling better to oily skin, while men with dry skin can often get away with applying a bit more cologne than usual.
Finally, be aware that an overpowering dose of cologne is often hell for people prone to migraines and asthma attacks. As your mom always taught you: be considerate of others.
In general, less is more when determining how much cologne you should apply. It’s a good thing if it smells great to you and others, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
The subtle art of applying cologne so that it doesn’t assault the senses
Knowing how much cologne to apply and not to apply, is just one element in the entire application process. Again, applying a fragrance that’s going to be with you throughout the day, and may even influence how people think of you, is a matter of finesse, not brute force. The following suggestions can help you as you figure out how to wear cologne correctly.
The majority of men’s grooming experts recommend applying your cologne after you’ve taken a hot shower. The steam and heat open up your skin’s pores to help them better absorb your cologne’s fragrance. It also makes the most of your fragrance without excess wastage. Applying cologne over sweaty, dirty skin, meanwhile, is a rookie mistake.
You’ll hear and read a lot about pulse points when researching cologne or any other type of fragrance. Pulse points are areas of the body where blood vessels are nearest the upper layer of skin and give off the most heat. They’re areas ideally suited to maximizing your cologne’s fragrance and include your wrist, neck, inner elbows, and shoulders. Your armpits also give off plenty of heat, as does your lower back, but the fragrance may fade faster in those high-sweat regions. Some experts argue that spraying your wrists is a waste of time because you want the spray higher up on your body so that others notice it better.
Why are pulse points so important? Because the blood flowing to the skin creates a warmth that makes the fragrance more aromatic and more noticeable to others.
Feel free to experiment and spray cologne on other areas of the body, although your pulse points represent prime real estate. Just make sure you aren’t applying it to parts of the body where the scent remains hidden. While the chest isn’t a pulse point, it isn’t a no-no to spray some cologne there. Men with chest hair may find that the scent lasts longer because the hair traps some of the fragrance oil. Go easy, however, because the scent will waft up from your chest (or shirt) and may become annoying.
There are a couple of schools of thought regarding whether it’s OK to apply cologne to your clothes. Some say it’s perfectly acceptable to apply cologne to strategic areas such as your collar or another area near the top of your shirt or jacket. Just remember that some colognes may stain your clothes, so spritz with caution.
Speaking of stained clothes, avoid applying oil fragrances to your garments – the oilier fragrances appear to have more thickness when you tilt the bottle – dark yellow and brown fragrances will cause stains if sprayed at a close distance.
Spray your cologne onto your skin (or clothes) from a distance of about 3 to 6 inches. Make sure that the bottle’s spray nozzle works properly; you don’t want it to have the same spraying power as, say, a super soaker squirt gun. Also, spray it onto dry skin, preferably after you’ve showered and toweled off.
If your bottle doesn’t have a spray nozzle, use the tip of your finger to dab the cologne onto your skin. The tried-and-true method is to place your finger over the opening at the top and then tip the bottle to get a small amount of liquid. Dab the cologne onto your skin; usually one dab per area is enough. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the cologne so the fragrance doesn’t also get on everything else you touch.
Whether you use a spray bottle or the finger-dab method, there’s no need to rub the cologne into your skin. Let your cologne rest on the top of the skin; rubbing it in will make your skin absorb it faster – which depletes the fragrance’s staying power – and it may cause the scent to change. Cologne isn’t like lotion, which you want the skin to absorb.
The ‘how-to’ of applying cologne includes using the appropriate fragrance for each season. A lighter scent is best for summer use, for instance, because you don’t want to wear a heavy fragrance in the heat. The heavier, heartier scents work best in winter.
Most men can apply cologne once during the day, usually in the a.m., and not need to worry about reapplying it later. But there’s nothing wrong with spritzing an additional bit on later in the day, particularly if you have evening social plans.
Mixing your cologne with other scents – such as with scented deodorants, aftershaves, beard oils, etc. – is often a bad idea because certain fragrances don’t go well together. “Layering” scents works best if you use the same brand name of cologne as you do with your aftershave and other fragrances, or another product that complements your cologne’s scent. Besides, you can complicate an already complicated process by trying to figure out which fragrances complement each other.
Using cologne correctly also includes being aware of each bottle’s shelf life. The average bottle of cologne may retain its potency for three years or more, but pay close attention to its expiration date. Old cologne starts to smell like alcohol after it’s reached its shelf life. And, let’s face it, if you haven’t used a full bottle of the stuff in three years, then maybe you didn’t like it all that much, anyway.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: Many of your lifestyle choices can affect a cologne’s fragrance. For example, eating too much spicy food causes you to sweat more and perspiration can alter your cologne’s scent. Meanwhile, smoking not only affects your overall health – c’mon, we all know that by now – but it also affects the quality of your fragrance.
What You Need to Know About The Mind-Body Connection of Fragrance
There’s no denying that fragrances affect us both emotionally and physically as years of research have proven. Researchers continue to examine how fragrances make us feel the way we do. The right perfume on the right person can be, well, more than a little intoxicating.
From a physiological sense, a fragrance affects the part of our brain that stores emotional memories and where taste is analyzed. Our sense of smell is the only one of the five senses that links directly to the emotional control center of the brain, i.e., the same place where fear, anxiety, joy, and anger resonate.
Research also tells us that men and women respond to different fragrances in different ways. So, while you may wear cologne to attract a potential romantic partner, keep in mind that the fragrance won’t necessarily attract everyone within a whiff of you. But if it connects with a person who responds favorably to it, emotionally and physically, well … your odds of attraction just improved.
Another way to look at the mind-body connection inherent in fragrance is that it usually affects us in the same way as music. While neither fragrance nor music may change a person’s hormone levels, most of us can relate when we’re in the mood for a certain type of song – sometimes we crave something loud and head-banging, other times a quiet ballad fits the bill.
A song can also spark a good memory of a person in your past and present life, or it can appeal to your personality or remind you of cultural trends. The same are true of fragrance.
Studies also suggest that a fragrance doesn’t have personal significance unless it’s connected to something in a person’s life that has meaning. When a person first notices the fragrance of your cologne, they form nerve connections (because fragrance affects our nervous system) that connect the scent with emotions.
More specifically, smell and emotion are rooted in the brain’s limbic system, while our sense of smell also interacts with the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain where memories form. Smell is indeed powerful; scientists say that smelling a reminder of a person, such as a piece of clothing or their cologne or perfume, evokes a stronger memory of them than a photograph. Studies even show that associating certain smells with information you need to know for an exam will help you remember it better.
How fragrance affects you and others come down to a few factors, as studies show: 1) Cultural factors in which different cultures have different meanings attached to specific fragrances, 2) Hedonic characteristics, i.e., whether the smell is pleasant to you or not, 3) Past experience, 4) Sex, and 5) Certain personality traits that may increase a person’s sensitivity to smells.
Evidence also suggests that the effects of fragrances on a person’s emotional state happen rapidly. While your fragrance can affect you or another person almost immediately, chemicals such as caffeine often don’t kick in for almost 20 minutes, although anyone who drinks particularly strong coffee in the morning may disagree.
Getting back to an earlier point, one that we’ll allude to often in this article, is that people often react to the same scent in different ways. Fragrances connect with our experiences, learning, memories, beliefs, expectations, and more. A person may react to a dog’s scent positively if it reminds them of a beloved childhood pet, or negatively if they have a fear of dogs or have been attacked by one.
What’s also interesting is that certain scents may have a similar chemical composition but smell differently because of slight variations. The different scents affect us in different ways physiologically, which means that the scent – and not the actual molecule – makes the difference in how we react to something that’s nearly identical chemically.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t ignore the mind-body connection when choosing a fragrance that fits you, your personality, and the image that you’re trying to convey. While a mossy, woody fragrance can suggest earthiness, a musky scent may suggest sexiness. Meanwhile, choosing a scent that isn’t as familiar to your circle of friends and potential social contacts is a good way to be remembered.
There’s More to Wearing Cologne The Right Way Than You Think
The same principle for choosing the right cologne applies to properly wearing one, i.e., there isn’t a one-size-fits-all mentality. It can get a bit complicated when the discussion includes wearing a different cologne in the evening from the one worn in the morning, but don’t let all the rules intimidate you. Embrace the many options, because wearing cologne correctly not only cements your status as a dignified gentleman, but won’t hurt your chances of impressing that certain someone.
Decide what effect you want from your cologne
Your cologne says a lot about you, or at least has the potential to do so. It can help make you seem professional, masculine, and confident that you know what you want and aren’t afraid to get it. Or, you may use your cologne as a mood-setter for a romantic encounter. The right fragrance can even put people at ease and make you seem more approachable.
In short, deciding what you want your cologne to say about you is an important step in wearing one effectively.
Day or Night? Certain fragrances are better for certain times of the day
One of the rules of the road regarding how to wear cologne is that you should choose your fragrance according to the time of day. Lighter fragrances often are better suited for daytime wear and should focus on the middle and top notes that emerge throughout the day and help you feel invigorated.
Fragrances that focus on heavy, woodier smells are ideal for nighttime activities because the base notes tend to be more sophisticated and longer lasting. You don’t want your fragrance to fade while you’re trying to impress a potential romantic partner.
The wrong time(s) to wear cologne
Knowing when not to wear cologne is an important element in knowing when and how to wear it. There are a time and place for everything, including cologne, and choosing the best time often comes with several benefits. But choosing the wrong time can have a negative effect on those around you and create potentially awkward situations.
Don’t wear cologne to a job interview
The majority of HR professionals and others advise never to wear cologne to a job interview. Why? For one, you don’t know how the person interviewing you (the same person who has a big say in whether you get hired or not) will react to your fragrance. The worst case scenario is that they have a physical reaction to it, such as a headache or coughing fit.
Or, your fragrance may evoke negative, or otherwise strong, emotions in the interviewer. Remember, the sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses and people react to the same fragrance in different ways – ways in which you cannot possibly predict.
Don’t wear cologne to mask another smell
Take a shower or bath if you have B.O., but don’t cover it up with cologne, aftershave, or another fragrance variation. The combination of scents can create a less-than-pleasant aroma.
Don’t wear cologne on a long flight
No one wants to get stuck next to someone who’s wearing a heavy dose of cologne on a multi-hour flight, especially if it’s a cologne they – and your row mates – find offensive. The same is true of long road trips; people often become a tad irritated when stuck in a car together for several hours, and the incessant presence of an overpowering cologne won’t improve anyone’s mood.
Don’t wear cologne to the gym
This rule may be a hard rule to follow if you go directly to the gym from work but the key is moderation. A faint hint of fragrance is one thing, but no one wants the guy spotting for you on the bench press to smell like he bathed in his favorite cologne.
Don’t wear cologne to a funeral
Your clothing, your demeanor, and scent should be subdued when attending a funeral, for obvious reasons.
Don’t wear cologne on a first date
Wait a second, isn’t one of the reasons men wear cologne to attract someone else? It is, but you’re taking a risk by wearing your favorite cologne on a first date, especially if it’s someone who hasn’t smelled your go-to fragrance before. While certain fragrances may increase a person’s attraction to you, there are no guarantees that they’ll like it and it could kill a potential relationship before it reaches the starting line.
By all means, you should smell fresh and clean for your first date – which is simply a matter of good hygiene. Make sure that you wear cologne very conservatively if you insist on wearing it at all.
The art of layering your cologne and other fragrances
So, what’s the deal with layering scents? You’ll probably read several articles during your research that say layering scents is better left to the experts and will complicate the bottom-line process of finding a fragrance that best suits you. Don’t let that dissuade you, however.
The fact is, many men – and women – use a combination of scents and it’s probably more common today than ever. Layering scents correctly takes a bit of strategy, however, and you don’t want to mix and match fragrances that don’t complement each other. Here are some rules to follow:
The chances are that you have complex or multifaceted fragrances in your bathroom cabinet, ones that have a combination of ingredients that combine to create an overall scent. Layering works best when using single-note fragrances, however, and you should construct your scent accordingly.
Layering begins with the foundation, and your fragrance’s base notes need to be the longest-lasting and strongest of all the ingredients you’ll use. One or two sprays of a typical base note fragrance – such as cedarwood, sandalwood, leather, etc. – will last you throughout the day. Spraying the heavier scents first also ensures that you don’t overpower the lighter fragrances to come.
Next up are the middle notes, which come into play when the lighter top notes lose their potency, but before the heavy-hitting base notes kick in. The middle notes are when your personality begins to become evident via your fragrance.
The top note represents you and your fragrance’s first impression. But a top note won’t stick around long – maybe 10 minutes – and should be bright and light, like citrus notes of lime, grapefruit, apple, basil, and so on.
Don’t layer more than three scents at a time until you’ve learned everything you can about layering.
You can, and should, adjust your layers according to the season, and even your mood.
Layer fragrances that are in, or close to, the same scent family. You can break scents down into broader categories such as woody, floral, oriental, citrus, and fresh to keep things simple.
Any scented product may be part of the layering process, including shower gel, body lotion, hand cream, and deodorant. Make sure that those products complement the fragrance of your cologne.
Layering fragrances on pulse points is a tried-and-true approach that always works, but you can layer scents on different parts of your body to make an even bolder statement.
Don’t experiment with layers unless you plan to shower or bathe immediately afterward. It’s a better idea to use paper strips on which you apply your different layers. True, a fragrance may react differently on the skin because of your body chemistry, but you’ll get a general sense of the overall fragrance when you layer on paper first.
Taking things to the next level by wearing different scents for different seasons
Wearing cologne the right way also includes adjusting your fragrance for each season. The same scent you wear in summer isn’t suited for the winter, and vice-versa. There are a lot of reasons why that’s true, including that each season evokes different feelings, emotions, symbolism, and so forth. Even our attitude and stress levels can change from one season to the next.
Changing your cologne each season helps keep you from getting in a fragrance rut, while mixing things up also shows no shortage of grooming sophistication.
Ah, spring. The time of new beginnings, the time when a man’s heart may turn romantic, a time of joy. You get the picture. Choose a fragrance that represents this time of rebirth – fragrances that have floral hints, or those that remind you of greens and grass. Your spring fragrance should be crisp and fresh, not overpowering.
Summer not only means warmer weather but also represents a more casual, relaxed style and feel. Many people plan their vacations around the summer months and spend more time outdoors. Your cologne should be like your summer wardrobe in that it’s not too heavy or overly formal for the time of year.
Our sense of smell is heightened in the summer, as well, which is another reason why the heavier, more formal winter fragrances can be overpowering when worn at the wrong time of the year. Choose cool citrus or floral scents instead, as well as those that have a hint of sea air, orange blossoms, jasmine, and so on.
Autumn is the favorite season of many people as they segue from the hotter summer months to the time of year where sitting around an evening bonfire and walking through freshly-fallen leaves seems like heaven. Your cologne should have a comforting fragrance with woody and musky aromas that pair well with those sips from a flask as you enjoy the changing colors of leaves.
Among the ideal autumn aromas are sandalwood, amber, patchouli, and oakmoss.
There isn’t much middle ground regarding how people feel about winter. Some folks love it and can’t wait to get out into the snow and cold once autumn is in the rearview. Others grumble their way through the months of bitter cold, icy roads, and cars that don’t heat up until they’ve reached their workplace parking lot. For most people, however, winter has its up and downs.
Your best bet for winter colognes are those that have rich and spicy aromas – fragrances that are robust and seem to warm the air around you. Cold weather colognes should take longer to evaporate as their scent lingers.
Some ideal winter aromas to consider are cinnamon, vanilla, amber, incense, and anything with a spicier scent.
The significance of knowing what fragrances fit different occasions
Choosing the right time to wear certain fragrances includes knowing when to wear them during each segment of your life, whether it’s work, leisure, relationships, or whatever else goes on in your life regularly. Let’s break it down a bit:
Cologne in the workplace
The workplace is among the most common places in which men and women wear their favorite fragrances. It’s a great place to display your go-to scent, especially if you work indoors where the wind and other scents won’t interfere with your cologne’s projection.
The general rule for wearing cologne in the workplace is the same as wearing it anywhere else. That is, don’t overdo it and spray on too much; after all, you’ll spend eight hours – or more – per day with workmates who can quickly tire of an overpowering scent.
Respecting your colleagues’ workspace is an important part of getting along with them. Don’t hesitate to sport your favorite cologne at work, but make sure that it’s barely discernible to the person at the next desk or in the nearest cubicle.
Cologne in the great outdoors
Whether it’s the beach or your favorite hiking spot – or even doing some shopping – there’s no reason your cologne shouldn’t travel well. But keep in mind that environmental factors such as the wind, pollution, and other people may mess with your fragrance’s projection sphere. On the other hand, you may spend time indoors during your day out, including while traveling to and from your destination, so moderation is (again) important.
The back of the neck is a good area to spray your cologne if you're going to be outside most of the day. Doing so allows you to leave a faint scent trail when you’re on the move, but provides nice projection when you’re stationary. Or, if you prefer, you can spray a couple of spritzes behind each ear.
Wearing cologne for a night on the town
The work week is over and freedom beckons. For many men, that means a night out with friends – whether that entails visiting a favorited nightclub, a party, or another social event. It’s also a good opportunity to meet potential romantic partners, if that’s your aim. In any case, choosing the right cologne takes on added importance.
So, how to choose? You’ll probably spend time in a heavily-crowded environment of some kind in which your cologne competes with many other fragrances, where the temperature is higher than normal, and you may also spend some time strolling in the cooler night air as you travel to each destination.
All that said, your evening-out cologne should have a wide enough projection sphere to stand out in a crowd, but not one that overpowers every other fragrance in the place. If someone wants to lay claim to the most powerful cologne or perfume in the room, don’t stand in their way. It’s important that your cologne is noticeable but also not so overly intense that you’ll overwhelm anyone who gets close to you.
A couple of sprays behind each ear or on your neck are usually enough before heading out for an evening of revelry.
Wearing fragrance on a date
Yes, many fragrance experts advise against wearing cologne on a first date because you’ll risk driving the person away if they don’t like your fragrance or have a negative physical reaction to it (giving someone a headache or triggering an asthma attack is a sure deal-breaker). However, many men love taking risks and if you insist on wearing cologne on a first date, proceed with caution.
For starters, make sure you limit your fragrance’s sphere of projection. While it’s OK to offer subtle hints of your cologne as you’re sitting across a restaurant table from your date, don’t overdo it. If that distance shrinks – which could be a good sign that things are going well – your fragrance becomes more noticeable. You want your fragrance to attract and seduce the person rather than inspire them to invent reasons why they suddenly have to leave.
So, be subtle with your first date fragrance, gents. A quick spray of your cologne on the neck should suffice and, hopefully, entice.
Everything You Need to Know About Making Cologne/Perfume
We’re not sure if Adam or Eve wore fragrances, but they may have. After all, the history of perfume and scented oils has roots in the ancient world and fragrances had multiple uses, including for religious rituals.
History also tells us that the first cologne originated in the early 18th century in Cologne, Germany (makes sense) thanks to the efforts of one Gian Paolo Feminis, who named his first product Aqua Admirabilis. Colognes and perfumes have come a long way since, while the desire to wear them has rarely waned. What follows is a look at the process of making perfume and cologne:
Making cologne and perfume begins with the raw materials
Natural is almost always better when it comes to ingredients, and the raw materials used to make cologne and perfume typically come from natural sources. The list of ingredients that form the foundation of the process includes flowers, grasses, fruit, wood, spices, leaves and gums - to name a few.
The need for synthetic materials in the perfume manufacturing process stems, in part, from a relative lack of essential oils found in flowering plant species. We use the word “relative” because there are over 2,000 flowering plants that produce essential oils needed to make perfume, but that’s 2,000 out of some 250,000 known species.
Animal products also are used in the perfume/cologne making process, including substances that enable perfume to evaporate slowly while maintaining its scent to last longer. Other additives may include coal tar, resins, alcohol and, as mentioned, synthetic chemicals. Alcohol and water sometimes serve to dilute perfume ingredients.
We derive our Beardbrand fragrances through a combination of essential oils and carrier oils. Essential oils give plants their distinctive aroma while also protecting them and aiding in their pollination.
Essential oils are volatile because their molecular compounds may change instantly from a solid or liquid gas state. Their fragrance changes when it comes into contact with different elements and may be manipulated to provide a specific scent.
Carrier oils don’t evaporate or have a strong aroma but work perfectly for diluting the more volatile essential oils. While carrier oils reduce the concentration of essential oil, they don’t diminish their therapeutic qualities.
But, first, the raw materials must be extracted
The oils from flowers and other plant material used to make perfume and other fragrances go through an extraction process to separate them from the plant’s parts. One means of extraction involves squeezing the plants until the oil releases, while other methods use grease or warmed fats to extract them.
Steam distillation is another popular extraction process, while other manufacturers use benzene – a solvent – that’s exposed to ethyl alcohol and burned off until only the perfume’s oil remains.
Fun fact: If you ever wonder why some perfumes and colognes are expensive, simply consider that a 15-ml bottle of French perfume requires oil from over 600 roses. Clearly, a lot goes a little way.
Fun fact #2: Did you know that the most expensive cologne – Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty Perfume For Men – costs around $430,000 per 16.9-ounce bottle? Of course, the bottle is Baccarat crystal, has a gold ring around its neck, and even boasts a diamond on the bottle, but we digress.
The how-to of creating a scent: It’s all in the blend
The next step in the process is blending the oils. It’s a time-consuming, often arduous step that can take plenty of experimenting, testing, and mixing to create the desired formula. In some cases, it may take several hundred ingredients and years of testing to create a unique scent.
Once the desired scent is created, it’s mixed with alcohol to dilute the ingredients. Full perfumes usually contain 10-20% perfume oil that’s mixed with alcohol and a small bit of water. You’ll find about 3-5% aromatic oil in cologne that’s diluted with up to 90% alcohol.
Again, the ratio of perfume oils and alcohol determine whether the fragrance is a perfume, cologne, eau de toilette, or other type of product.
Just like wine, perfume goes through an aging process before it hits the shelves.
The final step in the production of perfume and other fragrances is the aging process. Aging can last for several months up to a year, and the cologne is kept in a cool, dark area during this step. Doing so allows the oils and alcohol to permanently bond.
The finished product is ready to hit the market only after an expert – the man or woman with the best nose, we presume – tests the scent to see if it’s stronger than when first stored. Additional blending and other adjustments may be needed. No scent is ready until it has the three distinct notes – top, middle, and base.
Today’s perfume-making process also includes the addition of antioxidants to aid in the fragrance’s longevity.
What the future may hold for fragrance manufacturing
To say that the manufacture of perfumes today differs from previous centuries is an understatement. For one, the use of synthetic chemicals is quite common today and helps to eliminate the need to extract oils from animals. They also serve as a backup in case a bad crop of plants limits the amount of available natural oils.
Many consumers also prefer less concentrated versions of perfumes, which helps decrease the cost of scents while making them available to a wider range of people.
Fragrances have a long history of use for medicinal and healing purposes and that trend has grown in recent years. Aromatherapy, in which oils and fragrances are used to cure physical and emotional problems, is very popular. Essential oils are said to help bolster the immune system when applied topically or when inhaled. Their scent can even help improve a person’s mood.
The future may also see the widespread use of synthesized human perfume – scents that humans naturally produce to attract or repel other humans. Not surprisingly, a variety of new perfumes and scents mimic the effect of pheromones, which attract the opposite sex while stimulating the brain’s sexual arousal receptors.
So, How Long Will My Cologne Last?
The above question actually has two parts: how long the cologne or perfume’s scent lasts before it goes bad in its bottle or another container, and how long the scent lingers on your skin. Let’s start with a cologne’s shelf life.
No, it won’t last forever
All good things must come to an end, including your favorite bottle of cologne, but the good news is that it won’t lose its potency anytime soon. Or, even in a year. Most fragrances should last three to five years which is further good news if you only use your favorite brand for special occasions. But the key word is “should.”
What you can do to make your fragrance last
You can turn that “should” to “will” by taking proper care of your cologne. While cologne doesn’t expire in the same sense that food expires (think of that rotted head of lettuce in the back of the fridge), its aroma can meet an untimely demise. But there are things you can do to bolster its longevity:
Keep your cologne or perfume away from the heat
Nothing breaks down the chemical structure of a fragrance quite like heat, and when the chemical structure falls apart, so does its cherished scent. Even more problematic is fragrances stored in plastic bottles; excess heat may cause the plastic to leach into the liquid.
Store your cologne in a cool, dry place
It only makes sense to store your favorite fragrance in a cool place because of the potential havoc caused by heat. Storing it in the bathroom, where things can get hot and humid, isn’t a good idea, nor is storing it anywhere close to a radiator or other heat source.
People who go to great lengths to keep their cologne out of the heat and sunlight sometimes store it in the refrigerator. It’s not a bad strategy, except that perfumes best maintain their potency when kept at a consistent temperature. Removing your cologne from a cold environment, like the refrigerator, to spray some on your skin exposes it to fluctuations in temperature that may have a negative impact on its longevity.
The best temperature at which to store cologne is one that’s slightly less than room temperature. Find a place in your house or apartment that remains cool throughout the day, and is away from light exposure.
Keep your cologne in its original container
You may not like the decorative container that your cologne comes in and thus feel the need to transfer it to another bottle. Don’t do it. You’ll not only expose your cologne to bacteria, but even minimal exposure to air can threaten its longevity.
Always, always keep the top on your container
Alcohol-based scents quickly evaporate when exposed to the air, so leaving the top off can cause the liquid to dry up too soon. An advantage of spray bottles is that you’re far less likely to take the top off and then leave it off.
How can I tell if my cologne has lost its potency?
The easiest way to detect a change in fragrance is through the use of your nose. You already know what your fragrance should smell like and any changes in its familiar scent usually are noticeable. Perfumes, including cologne, may develop a vinegar-like smell as they deteriorate.
Another sign of a faded or fading fragrance is a change in color. In most cases, a cologne that’s become darker in color is on its last legs, although color changes can depend on the liquid’s original color, the color of the container, and where you stored the cologne.
Another general rule says that cologne and perfumes with higher concentrations of alcohol or water may evaporate more quickly than those with lesser concentrations.
How long will a cologne’s scent last on my skin?
There’s no precise answer to this question because cologne reacts differently with different wearers due to individual body chemistry. To answer it in general terms, however, a cologne or perfume’s scent may last an entire day, although it usually doesn’t last that long. Consider yourself fortunate if your fragrance lasts eight to 12 hours.
An important aspect of any fragrance is its three “notes.” Every fragrance has a top note, middle note, and base note in its composition. The top note offers the initial hint of fragrance but wears off rather quickly. Top notes are followed by middle notes, which provide a different layer, while bottom notes provide the foundation and the final overall scent that lingers for most of your day.
Perfume is the strongest fragrance, at 20%, and the longest-lasting. Cologne is among the lightest of fragrances because it usually contains only 5%, and sometimes less, aromatic. The only lighter fragrance is Eau Fraiche, which contains 1-3% oil and a low amount of alcohol.
So, to make a long explanation short, the more oil your fragrance has, the longer it lasts on your skin. Furthermore, more oil means you can apply your cologne or fragrance in smaller amounts – and you should always apply fragrance, whether it’s perfume or cologne, sparingly. No one wants to sit next to someone who smells as if they just fell into a perfume dunk tank (coming soon to your local carnival).
How long a fragrance lasts on your skin also comes down to other factors, including your skin type. Men with dry skin may lack the necessary oils that cologne or perfume needs to absorb its fragrance. In turn, the fragrance evaporates faster. But layering cologne can help the fragrance last a bit longer.
While oily skin can be a nuisance to some men, it helps to maintain a cologne’s aroma longer because the oils in the skin retain the fragrant molecules better than other types of skin.
One way to help your skin retain a fragrance’s scent is to moisturize it. Yes, it’s good to apply your fragrance after you’ve first come out of the shower and dried off, but men with dry, cracked skin – you can relate if you live in a colder climate – understand the necessity of consistent moisturizing. For those men, at least, moisturizing the skin before applying cologne will help extend the fragrance’s longevity.
It's also worth repeating that you must be conscious of how your fragrance interacts with other scents, such as your soaps, beard oil, and skin moisturizers. If your soap or body wash has a strong scent, as well as your moisturizer, choose your cologne carefully because the three strong scents together may have all the subtlety of a Mike Tyson right hook. When Tyson was in his prime, that is.
A quick word about another kind of fragrance: Beard oil
Most men have little use for aftershave after they grow a beard. Theoretically, that’s one less fragrance a man will wear, but the usefulness of beard oil has helped fill the gap.
While beard oil isn’t from the same fragrance tree as cologne, perfume, Eau de toilette and what have you, it isn’t a product to take lightly. Not only does it provide many benefits for your beard, it also offers another scent to replace the aroma of your aftershave while providing a fragrance that will get you noticed as you venture out into the world.
The Story Behind Beardbrand’s Line of Fragrances
At Beardbrand, we’re always striving to be the ultimate source for your men’s grooming needs – including fragrances. Our distinctive line of Beard Oils (two lines, actually) is unique and offers one-of-a-kind scents suitable for every man. Our Gold Line of fragrances was launched in 2014 and includes three fragrances: Four Vices, Temple Smoke, and Old Money.
Four Vices represents our first Gold Line offering and, like all of our fragrances, came to fruition in no small part thanks to our fearless leader, Eric Bandholz. It was Eric’s idea to create a product that touched on his life experiences as well as experiences common to urban beardsmen. That said, Four Vices pairs the elements of cannabis, tobacco, coffee, and hops to create an earthy, fragrance that’s complex and bold.
We followed up on Four Vices with the creation of Temple Smoke, which was inspired by our Middle Eastern friends and fans who wanted a fragrance that, in turn, was inspired by Oud – an ancient, expensive scent that comes from the wood of an Agar tree.
One of our goals in creating Temple Smoke was to develop a fragrance that had the deep, rich element of Oud, and included ingredients used in religious ceremonies around the world. Temple Smoke, in part, should create imagery of the fragrance that fills a temple.
The inspiration for Old Money comes from the massive, stately Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. It’s a place filled with amazing rooms, beautiful wooden chairs, large curtains – and many other things that signify the “old” money of its day. Our mission was to create a fragrance that hearkens to those days while also changing the perception of old money. To us, old money can mean coolness, distinction, and facial hair – to name just a few attributes.
The inspiration for Tree Ranger comes from a forester friend and has a fragrance that is decidedly woodsy – something that a Tree Ranger would appreciate.
Spiced Citrus captures the essence of citrusy aromas, with the addition of spicy elements. We like to think of it as the “essence” of the holidays in a tiny bottle.
While the tea tree scent is often something people either love or hate, we infused our Tea Tree-scented Beard Oil with different elements, such as peppermint and vanilla, that help to provide a light, fresh, appealing aroma. In fact, many users tell us that they don’t like the fragrance of tea tree, but that they love our Tea Tree Beard Oil.
The Art of Choosing the Right Cologne For You
If you’ve ever stood next to someone whose cologne overpowers the senses or just seems “off” for some reason, then you understand why it’s important to choose a cologne that fits you, your style, the season, etc. Every man should strive for a scent that others notice, in a good way.
Let’s examine how to properly choose a cologne, a process that, if done correctly, takes into account a variety of elements. Among those elements is the type of cologne, which we’ll touch on in a bit. For now, let’s dig deeper into the art of finding the right cologne.
What smells good on another man might not smell good on you
It happens: A friend or someone you meet at a party wears a cologne that you think smells fantastic. Your nose isn’t wrong, mind you, but keep in mind that what smells good on him might not smell the same on you. Why? Because every man’s skin consists of different chemical compounds that combine to create a unique, individual scent. Your scent combines with the fragrance of a cologne or perfume to create a new scent that’s unique to you.
So, don’t forget about biochemistry when searching for a cologne that smells good on your skin, not someone else’s.
The importance of knowing your notes before choosing your cologne
As mentioned, almost all colognes consist of three parts called “notes” – top notes, middle notes, and base notes. The three notes have unique scents which combine to create a cologne’s overall fragrance.
A fragrance’s top notes are lighter than the other two notes and are what you smell first when your nose reacts to a cologne. They tend to have fruit (or citrus) and floral notes which are the first to fade. While floral notes may seem a bit far removed from masculinity, the fact is that many men’s colognes include scents such as rose, violet, jasmine, etc., that commonly are associated with a more feminine feel. There’s no reason to fret about your manhood, however, because all of the notes found in cologne combine to create an overall scent that’s decidedly masculine.
A cologne’s middle notes are stronger than top notes and feature spice, floral, and green aromas. The floral elements are more intense than those found in top notes.
The base notes are where things take a more masculine turn: they’re usually woody, smoky, or musk-based. You may – and often will – notice them at the beginning, but base notes linger on your skin longer and become more intense as the top notes fade. Sandalwood is a common base note and is among a variety of fragrances that put some muscle into a cologne’s overall scent.
Always try a cologne before you buy it
Proceed at your own risk if you decide to buy a cologne without trying it first. It’s easy to be swayed by reviews and celebrity endorsements, but you won’t know if a cologne is right for you until you apply it to your skin. Which leads us to our next point:
Don’t choose a cologne until you master the patch test
There’s nothing complicated about the patch, or spray, test, but by no means should you take it lightly when choosing a cologne. The “test” involves spraying a cologne or other type of fragrance on your skin and allowing it to interact with your skin and body chemistry to reveal the fragrance that’s unique to you.
The patch test comes with a set of rules you should adhere to, including the importance of spraying the cologne on your skin and not in the air or on a slip of paper the salesperson gives you that you wave around in front of your nose after spritzing cologne on it. Again, and we can’t over-emphasize it enough, your skin and how it reacts to cologne is different from the guy you know with the kick-ass fragrance.
Then again, you shouldn’t spray the cologne randomly on your skin; instead, spray it on an area where your blood vessels are close to the skin’s surface and provide heat that diffuses the scent into the air. The inside of your wrist and elbow crease are ideal patch test areas. Hold the cologne approximately six to eight inches away from the area before spraying it on your skin.
It’s also important to let the cologne settle on your skin (15 minutes if you can) so that the top notes fade a bit and allow you to experience some of the cologne’s overall scent and what it will smell like over the course of a day.
Match your scent with the time of year
As mentioned earlier, certain scents work best with certain seasons. A fragrance you wear in the fall can be heavy and overpowering when worn in the summer, while a summer fragrance can be too light for colder months.
While pairing a fragrance with the time of year may sound complicated, the good news is that many fragrance makers keep seasonal differences in mind while creating slightly different versions of the same scent. That makes it much easier to switch scents as the seasons change.
How well does your fragrance get along with other fragrances?
Always keep in mind how a cologne’s aroma pairs with the other scents of your men’s grooming products – such as beard oils and washes, beard balm, shampoos, deodorants, antiperspirants, and moisturizers. A bad pairing of scents can negate the quality of a single scent, so mix and match carefully.
Your scent and fashion should walk hand-in-hand
While season plays an important role in the type of cologne you choose, your clothing style is another factor to consider. Many experts say that a subtler scent works best when a man has a laid-back look, i.e., jeans, t-shirts, etc., while spicier scents pair well with formal attire.
You don’t have to fly solo when choosing a cologne
There’s nothing wrong with figuring things out on your own without asking for a lot of help – as many men do – but no rule says that you must try on cologne alone. Bring someone with you, especially a significant other, trusted friend, or anyone who won’t bullshit you, to give their opinion on how a cologne smells on you. Not that they have the final say, but someone who’s opinion you trust can be a great barometer.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. How you react to a fragrance is often a visceral, emotional thing, and you shouldn’t ignore those sensations. You won’t find those feelings on a label, or in any research you do on a product.
Your image and finding the right cologne
Image isn’t everything but it’s another factor to toss into the mix during your search for a cologne that best suits you. Moreover, no edict proclaims that you must, say, wear a smokier fragrance if you’re an academic, intellectual type, but it’s often a strong pairing. If you have an athletic image, cleaner scents with hints of lemon or verbena often work well, while men who prefer the outdoors (and outdoor adventures) should consider scents commonly found in nature, such as pine or sage.
When in doubt, keep it simple
You may be one of those men who are willing to try cologne but who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time sifting through dozens of fragrances to find the perfect fit. If so, look for a cologne with a small list of ingredients and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many colognes, including some of the well-known, high-quality brands, have an ingredient list that’s more than a little daunting.
Don’t ignore smaller brands just because they’re smaller
It’s often tempting to reach for a designer brand, or one that’s endorsed by a celebrity, and those brands may very well be of high quality. But smaller, lesser-known brands have their place, too, and many of them focus only on colognes and perfumes while seeking to create the highest quality product possible.
A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better cologne
You’ll obviously want to consider the price when choosing a cologne and most men look for one that fits their budget. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when comparing the price of colognes, not the least of which is that a higher price tag doesn’t guarantee of better fragrance. Some of the most popular colognes and other fragrance types are available for a very reasonable price and made from cheaper raw materials.
Marketing costs and image often drive the price of colognes which is another reason not to ignore smaller brands. That said, many major brands (such as Ralph Lauren) have various families of scents in which the fragrance remains familiar as new products reach the marketplace. While it’s not the same scent, it also doesn’t represent a drastic change for loyal customers.
Cologne, like wine, varies depending on the year
The same blend of cologne today may not smell the same as it did a year ago, so it always helps to know its release year. While the variations in scent from year to year may not be drastic, there’s often enough of a difference to be noticeable.
Choosing between natural and synthetic cologne
Another thing to consider is whether to buy natural cologne – which contains all-natural ingredients – or synthetic cologne. Some men prefer natural colognes because they don’t contain chemicals but the scent of synthetic cologne, in general, lasts longer.
Why it’s helpful to know your cologne’s sillage and projection sphere
Getting to know a cologne’s sillage and projection sphere is helpful knowledge to have in your quest to find the perfect cologne. Sillage refers to the fragrance trail that’s left behind when a cologne-wearer moves from one spot to another.
A cologne’s sillage closely relates to its concentration of aromatic oil, at least in most cases. A good way to test sillage is to spray the cologne in an empty, odor-free room with the windows closed. Shut the door behind you and return every few minutes to monitor the strength of the scent. If you can still smell the fragrance strongly after 10 minutes or so, then the sillage is considered strong.
Projection sphere also relates to a cologne’s strength and where you spray the fragrance on your body. You want to create and control a projection sphere around you, which is easier said than done, because it helps determine how a cologne works for you.
For instance, when you’re speaking with someone from a normal distance, such as during a conversation at a party or work, you only want to project subtle hints of your cologne. More is revealed when you lean in close, say for a handshake, and ideally there’s only a minimal sillage trail left behind when you walk away.
The ideal projection sphere strikes a balance between intimacy and what’s discernable. A sphere that’s closer to the face and torso is preferable because, again, you don’t want your cologne project to the other side of the room, or cut short an important conversation because the other person just developed a fragrance headache.
Also, different eras and style changes can influence a cologne’s fragrance. But the best brands tend to roll through the changes without doing a 360 scent-wise.
Solid Cologne: Another buying option with plenty of benefits
We’ve focused primarily on spray cologne until now but that doesn’t mean it’s your only option. There’s also solid cologne, which has a balm-like consistency and usually comes in a tin. Solid cologne is hardly new – ancient Egyptians produced it – but it has enjoyed a revival in the past few years.
One reason that today’s men choose solid cologne over spray cologne is the staying power. The scent of solid cologne lasts longer because it’s highly concentrated and stays on the skin. In turn, that allows the fragrance to slowly evolve during the day as it interacts with your body chemistry.
Solid cologne gets its consistency from ingredients such as beeswax and shea butter and is usually made from a mixture of natural oils. It also has a variety of benefits, including that you don’t have to worry about spilling it, and that – despite its highly-concentrated nature – it won’t overwhelm you, or anyone with you, with overpowering fragrance. Frequent travelers also like solid cologne because it doesn’t have TSA restrictions.
Cologne, Fragrances, and Their Many Variations
When we talk about fragrance, in many ways we’re talking about an all-encompassing term for just about anything that has some fragrance oil diluted in alcohol and water and is applied to the skin. Cologne, then, is a type of fragrance with a specific concentration of perfume oil.
Cologne is one of the oldest terms for a fragrance and a product that’s popular in North America and many other countries because of it’s masculine scents. Cologne has a lower concentration of fragrance than other types of “perfumes” – typically a 2% to 4% concentration of fragrance oil. Generally speaking, a cologne’s scent doesn’t last as long as other fragrances, but that varies from brand to brand. The typical staying power of a cologne’s fully-bloomed scent is about two hours.
Cologne usually comes in bigger bottles than other types of fragrance and more of it is needed to reveal its full scent
Pure perfume, a.k.a. parfum, has the highest concentration of (fragrance) oil, one which may range from 15% to 40%. It’s no surprise that perfume has the longest staying power, usually from six to eight hours, given its concentration of oil, and it’s also the most expensive of fragrances. People with sensitive skin usually have fewer problems with perfume because it contains less alcohol than other types of fragrances.
Eau de Parfum
A less expensive version of perfume, eau de parfum generally has a fragrance concentration of between 15% and 20%. It also has a higher concentration of alcohol than perfume and a little less staying power. Eau de parfum is a common fragrance type and good for everyday use.
Eau fraiche is similar to cologne but has an even lower concentration of fragrance, usually in the 1% to 3% range. It doesn’t have a high concentration of alcohol, however, and its scent lasts in the two-hour range. It consists mostly of fragrance and water.
Eau de Toilette
Eau de toilette is another popular fragrance type and ranks just below eau de parfum regarding oil concentration and price. The scent of an eau de parfum typically last for two to three hours and it’s considered excellent for daytime use. Perfume on the other hand, usually works best when worn in the evening.
There’s also more to defining fragrances than the concentration of oil, staying power, etc., including linear vs. non-linear fragrances. A linear fragrance smells the same to you from the moment you spray it on until the moment that you wash it off. A non-linear fragrance changes and goes through its layer of notes as the day progresses.
Cheaper fragrances tend to be linear and smell the same the entire time it’s on your skin. Quality fragrances usually go through the lifecycle of notes and smell different throughout the day.
And, with that friends, we wrap up our guide for wearing and choosing cologne. We hope you find it helpful and, as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. What cologne do you use, if any? What do you like about it?