The Complete Guide to Men’s Cologne

When it comes to men’s cologne, there’s a fine line between adding a touch of fragrance that attracts, and clearing out a room because your scent is too strong.

Cologne is just one of many types of fragrances, and the world of fragrance is complex. Many of us don’t put much thought into what fragrances we wear—we give it the old sniff test at the department store, and as long as it doesn’t repulse us, it’s fine, right?

Our goal in this blog is to help clear the air on men’s fragrances because there’s a lot of misinformation and bad marketing out there—yup, we’re looking at you cologne advertisements. We’ll also teach you how—and when—to properly apply your favorite fragrance.

A quick note before we begin: we’ll use cologne as a kind of catch-all term throughout this blog. We’ll break down the different types of fragrances in the next section, but for the sake of simplicity (and Google algorithms), we’ll be using the term cologne frequently.


Okay, first things first, if you grew up believing that cologne was for men and perfume was for women, you’ve been sold up the river by big advertising.

Cologne, which originated in Cologne, Germany, in the early 18th century, was initially intended to be a unisex fragrance, and not what we think of as the de facto men’s fragrance.

Instead, cologne is merely a classification of fragrance based on the percentage or concentration of fragrance oils used in producing it. Other forms of fragrance include perfume, Eau de Parfum, Eau Fraiche, and Eau de Toilette. If you own a bottle of “cologne,” go take a look at it—chances are it’s actually an Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette.

Fragrances, like those mentioned above, are produced with a mixture of fragrance oils, alcohol, and water. Eau is the French word for water, so Eau de Cologne (the formal name) literally translates to cologne water.

Fragrance oils on their own are too strong to wear—they really sting the nostrils. Alcohol helps to dilute, break down, and blend the different fragrances and makes them wearable. Check out our blog for a more in-depth look at how Beardbrand develops a fragrance.

Let’s look at the differences in each type of fragrance, from strongest to lightest.

The word perfume is derived from the Latin word perfumare, meaning to smoke through. The act of creating perfume can be traced back to Mesopotamia.

Perfume, or Parfum, contains the highest concentration of fragrance oil, ranging from 20% to 30%. Given its concentration of oil, it’s no surprise that perfume has the longest staying power and can last on your skin up to 24 hours—typically, eight to 12 hours is more common.

People with sensitive skin usually have fewer problems with perfume because it contains less alcohol than other types of fragrances.

Eau de Parfum
Eau de Parfum, or EdP, is one of the most versatile types of fragrance on the market. It generally contains a fragrance concentration between 15% and 20%.

You might think of EdP as a watered-down perfume, but that’s a bit misleading as “watered down” tends to have a bad reputation. Eau de Parfum is an excellent option for an everyday go-to fragrance. With EdP, you get around six to eight hours of scent time on your skin, and because it’s lighter than pure perfume, you’re less likely to be that guy that no one wants to be on the elevator with.

Eau de Parfum by Beardbrand, which launched in April 2020, was the hands-down choice for the type of fragrance we wanted to produce to match all of our other grooming and styling products.


Eau de Toilette
Eau de Toilette, or EdT, literally translates to toilet water. Okay, before you dump on the word toilet, remember that toilet also refers to the process of washing, dressing, and attending to one’s appearance—let’s keep it classy, guys.

EdT has a fragrance concentration between 5% and 15% and typically lasts for three to six hours, making it another good option as an everyday go-to.

Cologne is a very lightly perfumed fragrance. Cologne, or Eau de Cologne, typically contains a concentration of fragrance oils between 2% and 4%.

Because of the low percentage of fragrance oils, a cologne’s scent typically only lasts for about two hours.

In North America, cologne has become a blanket term for masculine fragrances, but unisex colognes can be found.

Solid Cologne
Solid cologne can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and it has a balm-like consistency from ingredients such as beeswax and shea butter. Solid cologne usually comes in a tin or a jar, but it can also be found on a sheet divided into daily-sized tabs.

One of the benefits of solid cologne is its staying power. Because it’s highly concentrated and stays on the skin, the scent of solid cologne lasts a bit longer than spray cologne.

The other perks of a solid cologne? You don’t have to worry about breaking the bottle (which we’ve all done), it doesn’t have any TSA restrictions, and it’s typically hard to over-apply it.

Beardbrand Utility Balm works well as a lighter solid cologne, and also has tremendous moisturizing benefits for your skin, beard, and tattoos.

Eau Fraiche
Lastly, there’s Eau Fraiche, which translates to fresh water. Eau Fraiche is usually in the 1% to 3% fragrance oil range. It also doesn’t have a high concentration of alcohol. Eau Fraiche lasts less than two hours.

What about body spray?
Don’t do it, man.


Most guys never receive any formal training on how to apply cologne, EdP, or other fragrances. You might think that haphazardly spraying it is fine, and well, we’ve all probably done that at some point, but there is a science to how to apply and maximize your Parfum de Choix (fragrance of choice).


Most of us know what it’s like when a dude’s fragrance enters the room before he does, or when it lingers long after he’s gone. Don’t be that guy—you’re more likely to repulse than to attract.

The stronger the concentration of fragrance, the fewer sprays you want to use. Two strategically placed sprays is generally a good rule of thumb.

If you are using a heavily concentrated fragrance like a pure Parfum, one will probably be powerful enough. With Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette, two sprays are definitely more than enough. With the really light fragrances like cologne and Eau Fraiche, you could probably get away with three, but again, two will typically serve you well.

Whether you opt for cologne, EdP, EdT, or Parfum, here are some general tips to avoid being a walking musk bomb:

  • Fragrances take time to work into the skin and mix with your natural oils. Give it a good 15 minutes to get an idea of how the fragrance actually smells on you. See if one spray is enough before adding a second.
  • Your skin type can help determine how much you should use. Fragrances tend to cling better to oily skin. If your skin is drier, you may need that second spritz.
  • If you can smell your fragrance without directly sniffing the spot you sprayed, that’s probably a sign that you’ve applied too much. If it’s strong enough that you can smell it without intentionally trying to smell it, those around you probably feel an assault on their senses.
  • Cologne, EdP, or any other fragrance is not a substitute for soap. You need soap to maintain proper hygiene. Pick soap that does its intended job and smells good to you, or choose an unscented cleanser that doesn’t clash with your cologne’s fragrance. Better yet, grab a Beardbrand Utility Bar and then match it with Eau de Parfum.
  • Be aware that an overpowering dose of fragrance can be hell for people prone to migraines and asthma attacks. Be considerate.

Always remember, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.


For any fragrance to be its most effective, it needs to get into your pores and mix with your body's natural oils. The best time to do this is after you’ve taken a warm shower.

The steam and heat open up your skin’s pores to help them better absorb the fragrance. This also helps you get more mileage from your fragrance since you’re maximizing its impact.

Never apply cologne or any other fragrance over sweaty, dirty skin. That’s the equivalent of pouring yourself a glass of expensive whiskey and then dumping it directly down the drain.


You probably know to apply cologne or any other fragrance to your neck, but have you ever wondered why?

It has to do with pulse points—areas of the body where blood vessels are closest to the upper layer of skin and give off the most heat. The warmth makes the fragrance more aromatic and noticeable to others.

The most effective pulse points for applying a fragrance are found on your neck—where you would typically take your pulse, behind the ears, the wrists, and the elbows.

If you’re going with one spray, typically, the neck is going to be your best bet. If you’re doing two sprays, try to avoid doing them too close together i.e., one on the neck and one behind the ear. One on the neck and one on the wrist or elbow works well for most men.

Once you’ve identified the pulse point you want to apply your fragrance to, hold the bottle three to six inches from the skin and spray directly on that spot and allow it to air dry naturally.

You may have seen guys spray their cologne in the air and walk through the mist. This is ineffective and a waste of your fragrance. If we’re sticking with the whiskey analogies, it would be like pouring yourself a glass, tossing it in the air, and then opening your mouth and hoping for the best.

Here are a few more tips on where to apply fragrance:

  • Experiment with which pulse points work for you.
  • It’s generally a good idea to not spray on pulse points where you sweat a lot i.e., armpits or pulse points that will be covered by clothes.
  • Speaking of clothes, we don’t recommend spraying on clothing. Not only are you preventing the fragrance from being it’s most impactful, but you could also potentially stain or damage the fabric.
  • If your bottle doesn’t have a spray nozzle, place your finger over the opening at the top and then tip the bottle to get a small amount of liquid on it. Dab it onto your skin; usually, one dab per area is enough. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying, so the fragrance doesn’t also get on everything else you touch.
  • We touched on it above, but don’t rub the fragrance into your skin. Doing so can crush the fragrance notes, mute the overall scent, and decrease it’s staying power. Let it dry naturally.


Knowing when not to wear cologne is an essential element in knowing when and how to wear it. 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 job search experts advise never to wear cologne to a job interview.

You don’t know how the person interviewing you 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 have different emotional connections to scents.

Don’t wear cologne to mask another smell
Don’t cover body odor 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
Tight quarters and strangers is a good enough reason to skip the cologne. No one wants to get stuck next to someone who’s wearing a heavy dose on a multi-hour flight, especially if it’s a cologne they aren’t a fan of. This goes for other forms of public transportation, except the New York City subway—your cologne is hardly the worst smelling thing on the F train.

Don’t wear cologne to the gym
This may be a hard rule to follow if you go directly to the gym from work, but chances are your fragrance isn’t that strong by the end of the workday. No one wants to get a whiff of cologne while they’re in the middle of benching a couple hundred pounds.

Don’t wear cologne to a funeral
Your clothing, your demeanor, and scent should be subdued when attending a funeral, for apparent reasons.

Don’t wear cologne on a first date
This depends on whether or not you know your date beforehand. If you’re meeting someone for the first time and don’t know much about them, you run the risk of them having an adverse reaction to your fragrance. If you do apply, keep it lighter than usual.

If it’s somebody that you know and they’ve been around you while you’re wearing your fragrance, you’re in the clear.

The type of date should also be taken into account. If you are doing something active like hiking or going to the climbing gym, wearing cologne or a different kind of fragrance is going to be out of place and may send a signal that you’re insecure.

Stick to your basic grooming routine and keep it simple.


The fragrance you wear is often the finishing touch in your personal style. Whether you opt for cologne, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, or another type of fragrance, it should complement your vibe.

There are a variety of elements to take into account when choosing a fragrance. It’s a little more involved than going to the department store and smelling cologne sprayed on paper.

For starters, no one responds to a fragrance precisely the same.


Everyone’s skin consists of different chemical compounds that combine to create a unique, individual scent. Your scent blends with the fragrance of a cologne or perfume to create a new scent that’s unique to you—which is one of the coolest benefits of wearing a fragrance.

This is also why it's vital to try a fragrance on your skin. What smells good on paper may not smell as great when it's mixed with your body’s oils. Do a sample spray on your wrist at the pulse point, and then wait at least 15 minutes to get a more accurate idea of how it will smell when you wear it.

Something to keep in mind is the difference between linear and 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.

Speaking of notes...


All fragrances consist of top notes, middle notes, and base notes.

Top notes
Top notes tend to be light, fresh, and uplifting in nature. Top notes are generally highly volatile, fast-acting, and give the first impression of the fragrance blend. They’re bright and in your face, but don’t last very long. Top notes tend to be fruity and floral scents.

Middle notes
Middle notes are generally warm and soft. They’re not always immediately evident and may take a couple of minutes to stand out. Middle notes tend to feature spice, floral, and green aromas.

Base notes
Base notes are generally intense, heady, and rich. These are the notes that give fragrances their longevity. It's the base notes you smell hours into wearing a fragrance.

Knowing the top notes, middle notes, and base notes in your cologne, EdP, or EdT, etc. can help give you a good idea of how the fragrance will evolve as it spends more time on your skin.


Certain scents work best with certain seasons. A good practice is to opt for heavier fragrances with spicy, woodsy, and sweet notes for the cooler fall and winter months and lighter fragrances with citrus and floral notes for spring and summer.

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.

Our sense of smell is heightened in the summer, which is another reason why the heavier, more formal winter fragrances can be overpowering when worn during the hotter months. Choose light citrus or floral scents, as well as those that have a hint of sea air, orange blossoms, jasmine, and so on.

The transition from hotter summer months to cool, crisp air and freshly-fallen leaves should be reflected in your fragrance. Your cologne should have a comforting scent 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.

Your best bet for winter fragrances is 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.

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.


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.


We cover this in more detail below, but always keep in mind how your fragrance pairs with your other men’s grooming products such as Beard Oil, Utility Balm, Soap, etc. A bad pairing of scents can negate the quality of a single scent—we call this scent confusion, and that’s why we produce products in matching fragrances from the Utility Bar to Eau de Parfum.


While season plays an important role in the type of fragrance you choose, your clothing style is another factor to consider. Some 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.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how it makes you feel. Everything you wear, from your shoes to your fragrance, should instill confidence in you. If it doesn’t, don’t wear it.


Bring someone with you, especially a significant other, trusted friend, or anyone who will be honest with you, to give their opinion on how a fragrance smells on you. Not that they have the final say, but someone whose 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.


It’s often tempting to reach for a designer brand with celebrity endorsements. Those brands may very well offer high quality, but smaller, lesser-known brands can provide tremendous value too.


Get to know a fragrance’s sillage and projection sphere. Sillage refers to the fragrance trail that’s left behind when you move from one spot to another.

A good way to test sillage is to spray the fragrance 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.

The projection sphere refers to the distance at which others can smell the fragrance on you. You really only want people to pick up subtle hints of your fragrance unless they’re getting particularly close and intimate.

For instance, when you’re speaking with someone from an average 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 essential conversation because the other person just developed a fragrance headache.


Layering has to do with all the fragrances that you apply to your body during the day. Think about it, you’ve got whatever soap you wash with, Shampoo, Conditioner, maybe Beard Wash and Beard Softener, a lotion or Utility Balm, Beard Oil, Deodorant, and hair styling products—each of which contains their own fragrance notes.

If you’re like most guys, you likely haven’t put much thought into how these different products, in their myriad of scents, layer together. Add your cologne or Eau de Toilette on top of that and you’ve got a recipe for what we call scent confusion.

Scent confusion
At Beardbrand, we coined the term scent confusion to describe what happens when all the products you use to clean, moisturize, and style yourself with are in different scents.

With scent confusion, the fragrances that you are wearing don’t get a real opportunity to shine through. If you don’t know anything about layering fragrances, well, it’s the equivalent of getting dressed in the dark.

It is possible to develop the ability to layer fragrance notes, but this is complicated, especially when using finished products that are each made up of multiple base, middle, and top notes. Layering is most digestible when using single-note fragrances.

Of course, the easiest way to eliminate, or at least minimize, scent confusion would be to use a consistent fragrance in all of your products.

At Beardbrand, we’ve been hard at work developing a full line of products in six unique fragrances. Those products include:

That’s everything you need to significantly minimize scent confusion, and look and feel awesome in the process.


The above question actually has two parts—how long the cologne or perfume’s scent lasts before it goes bad in its bottle, and how long the scent lingers on your skin. We covered how long it lasts on your skin at the top of the blog, so we’ll mostly be focusing on shelf life here.

Most fragrances should last three to five years in the bottle, and there are some storage best practices to follow to help 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 scent. Even more problematic is fragrances stored in plastic bottles, as excess heat may cause the plastic to leach into the liquid.

Store your cologne in a cool, dry place
Storing your fragrance in the bathroom, where things can get hot and humid, isn’t a good idea. You should also avoid storing it anywhere close to a radiator or other heat source.

Some people swear by storing their fragrances in the refrigerator. Perfumes maintain their potency the best when kept at a consistent temperature. Removing your cologne from a cold environment, like the fridge, to spray some on your skin exposes it to fluctuations in temperature that may reduce 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 fragrance comes in and 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 keep the top on your container
Alcohol-based fragrances quickly evaporate when exposed to the air, so leaving the cap off can cause the liquid to dry up too soon.


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 it was stored.


How long a fragrance lasts on your skin comes down to its concentration of fragrance oils. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect for each type of fragrance.

Perfume or Parfum: 8–12 hours
Eau de Parfum: 6–8 hour
Eau de Toilette: 3–6 hours
Cologne: 2–4 hours
Eau Fraiche: 1–3 hours


There’s no denying that fragrances affect us both emotionally and physically. Researchers continue to examine why fragrances make us feel the way we do.

Our sense of smell is the only one of our five senses that link directly to the emotional control center of the brain—the same place where feelings of fear, anxiety, joy, and anger are generated.

From a physiological sense, a fragrance affects the part of our brain that stores emotional memories. 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. Chances are, at some point, you’ve smelled something that has transported you to a place and time you hadn’t thought about in years.

The sense of smell is indeed powerful; studies indicate that smelling a reminder of a person, such as a piece of clothing or their cologne or perfume, evokes a sharper 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.

Evidence also suggests that the effects of fragrances on a person’s emotional state happen rapidly. While your scent can affect you or another person almost immediately, chemicals such as caffeine often don’t kick in for nearly 20 minutes (coffee drinkers may disagree).

The big thing to keep in mind here is that people often react to the same scent in different ways.

Fragrances connect with our experiences, memories, beliefs, expectations, and more. So, while you may wear cologne or Eau de Parfum to attract a potential romantic partner, keep in mind that the fragrance won’t necessarily attract everyone who gets a whiff. But when it does connect, it can make quite the impression.

Want to talk about fragrances and finding the right one for you? Use the live chat feature on our website, or shoot us a message at

If you haven’t done so already, drop sign-up for our email newsletter to get beard advice, style inspiration, blogs like this one, educational videos, and more, sent directly to your inbox. You’ll also be the first to know about new Beardbrand products, fragrances, and events.

As always, Keep on Growing.


Look as good as you smell with this ultimate men's style guide.

Enhance the performance of your Beardbrand Eau de Parfum with matching soap. Learn about all the benefits of using a Beardbrand Utility Bar.

Ever wonder how Beardbrand makes a fragrance? Find out here.


It’s common for men to think that cologne is their only option when it comes to men’s fragrances. However, cologne is just one of the five types of fragrance available.

Perfume or Parfum
Perfume, or Parfum, contains the highest concentration of fragrance oil, ranging from 20% to 30%. Given its concentration of oil, it’s no surprise that perfume has the longest staying power and can last on your skin up to 24 hours—typically, eight to 12 hours is more common.

Eau de Parfum
Eau de Parfum, or EdP, is one of the most versatile types of fragrance on the market. It generally contains a fragrance concentration between 15% and 20%. It typically lasts six to eight hours on your skin. It’s a good every day go-to.

Eau de Parfum by Beardbrand launched in April 2020 in our three Gold Line scents—Four Vices, Old Money, and Temple Smoke.

Eau de Toilette
Eau de Toilette has a fragrance concentration between 5% and 15% and typically lasts for three to six hours, making it another good option as an everyday go-to.

Cologne, or Eau de Cologne, typically contains a concentration of fragrance oils between 2% and 4%. Because of the low percentage of fragrance oils, a cologne’s scent usually only lasts for two to four hours. In North America, cologne has become a blanket term for masculine fragrances, but unisex versions can be found.

Eau Fraiche
Lastly, there’s Eau Fraiche, which translates to fresh water. Eau Fraiche is usually in the 1% to 3% fragrance oil range. It also doesn’t have a high concentration of alcohol. Eau Fraiche lasts less than two hours.

Want to talk about fragrances and finding the right one for you? Use the live chat feature on our website, or shoot us a message at

If you haven’t done so already, drop sign-up for our email newsletter to get beard advice, style inspiration, blogs like this one, educational videos, and more, sent directly to your inbox. You’ll also be the first to know about new Beardbrand products, fragrances, and events.




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