How to Apply Cologne: A Man’s Guide to Fragrance Usage

By Leanna Serras July 12, 2019
image of How to Apply Cologne: A Man’s Guide to Fragrance Usage

Most men are applying cologne the wrong way.

Knowing how to apply cologne is an art form which, if not done properly, can lead to either over-application or a scent that fades almost immediately. Since cologne is an afterthought for many men, they spray it on their clothes right before they walk out the door to start their day. This is, unfortunately, the worst way to apply cologne.

What’s more, most men don’t put much effort into choosing their personal scent. If planned properly, a man’s cologne can be an important part of their personal style. A good cologne can make you feel more attractive and confident, which helps you appear that way to those around you.

If fragrance is so important, why are only 36 percent of men wearing cologne on a regular basis? A lack of education may play a large part. If you’re wondering how to properly purchase, apply and store cologne, read on. You can also find our handy infographic below.

man spraying cologne

How to Properly Apply Cologne

One of the fears many men harbor about fragrance revolves around over-application. Most people have known or worked with an individual that wore way too much cologne. In order to avoid being “that guy” you should apply sparingly. You should also apply strategically so that the cologne you put on lasts all day. This is the proper way to apply cologne:

  1. Apply right after you shower onto dry skin. The shower cleanses your body of any other scents and opens your pores, which helps the scent absorb. Completely dry your skin and then spray.
  2. Hold the spray bottle 3–6 inches from your body. If you hold the bottle any closer you risk over-applying; any further and you will likely under-apply.
  3. Apply cologne to heated areas of your body. The heat helps diffuse the scent throughout the day and allows it to meld with your body chemistry to develop your signature scent. Heated areas include your neck, chest, pulse points, forearms or inner elbows.
  4. Start with a light application. If you are new to using fragrances do not apply cologne to all of the aforementioned heated body areas. Choose one area and start with one spray. If you notice that your scent fades quickly, choose another area and spray the cologne there next time you apply. You might want to ask the opinion of a close friend or family member if the application is appropriate, as you can become nose-blind to scents you wear often.
  5. Re-apply if needed. Depending on the type of cologne you buy you may need to re-apply — especially if you are going out in the evening. When doing so, simply dab a little onto your pulse points.

recommended areas to apply fragrance labeled illustration

Common Mistakes When Applying Cologne

There are a few mistakes men commonly make when applying cologne that can prevent them from getting the most out of their cologne usage. When applying the fragrance you should avoid:

  • Spraying the fragrance on your clothing. Spraying cologne directly on your clothes prevents it from mixing with your natural oils, which is what gives it its unique quality. This can also prevent the scent from going through its scent stages (more on that here), rendering the scent flat and monochrome. Finally, spraying a fragrance directly on clothing can be harmful to some fabrics.
  • Splashing the cologne on your skin. If using a fragrance that does not have a spray nozzle, some men splash cologne onto their skin. This is an easy way to over-apply. To apply correctly, you should place one finger over the opening of the bottle and gently tip it upside down before dabbing the scent on your body.
  • Spraying a mist cloud and walking through it. While it may seem like this method prevents over-application, it actually renders the cologne almost useless. The majority of your cologne needs to be placed on your body, and applying cologne this way means most of it ends up on the floor.
  • Rubbing the perfume onto the skin. Rubbing the cologne into your skin actually makes the scent fade faster as it breaks the molecular bond in the fragrance. If you’re not going to spray the fragrance then simply dab, but don’t rub.
  • Applying too much cologne. A man’s fragrance should be a subtle enhancement to his image. Less is more when it comes to cologne and you do not want it to be overpowering. Start light and don’t be afraid to ask a friend or significant other if they think you need more or less cologne.

customer paying at shop

How to Buy the Right Cologne

While applying cologne the correct way is important, it’s also important to start with a scent that complements your natural body chemistry and fits your lifestyle in terms of how long the scent lasts.

For example, some colognes (usually the more expensive ones) last longer than others. There are some that start out smelling one way but smell slightly different throughout the day. You can learn which cologne is right for you by educating yourself on the complexities involved with men’s fragrance.

The Difference Between Fragrance, Perfume, Eau de Toilette and Cologne

Fragrances are mixtures of different “raw materials” or perfume oils. These “raw materials” can be natural or synthetic and are mixed with a solvent (usually alcohol) to preserve and dilute the scent.

The level of “raw material” in your fragrance will determine the length of time it will last when worn. The most diluted fragrances are the most affordable, but the more concentrated fragrances last longer and have a richer scent. The scent categories are listed below:

  • Eau Fraiche: 1–3% perfume oil; usually lasts less than an hour
  • Cologne (Eau de Cologne): 2–4% perfume oil; usually lasts around two hours
  • Toilette (Eau de Toilette): 5–15% perfume oil; usually lasts around three hours
  • Perfume (Eau de Parfum): 15–20% perfume oil; usually lasts five to eight hours
  • Parfum: 20–30% perfume oil; can last up to 24 hours

While cologne is listed as a scent category, most men’s fragrances are sold in several of these concentration levels. The concentration level is usually indicated on the bottle and the fragrances are often categorized by price.

frangrance concentration bar chart

The Fragrance Lifecycle

Fragrances almost always contain three “notes”: a top note, medium note and a base note. When you’re wearing a fragrance it goes through three stages of evaporation. Top notes evaporate first, then the medium notes and then the base notes, so you should take this into consideration when choosing a scent.

  • Top notes: The initial, lighter set of smells that linger on the skin soon after application. Depending on the type of fragrance you use, these smells can last from 15 minutes to two hours.
  • Medium notes: The “main” elements of the fragrance that usually include heavier scents like spices or florals. This stage lasts 3–5 hours.
  • Base notes: These scents develop last and are the boldest scents in the equation. These can be detected all day and are the last to evaporate, lasting 5–10 hours.

fragrance wheel donut chart

As the layers of notes evaporate the scent will change. While this may sound strange, this evolution is actually what makes a scent interesting and attractive. The higher quality fragrance you buy, the more you will notice these changes.

There is an enormous amount of scent types, and the way they blend with your particular skin can vary. It’s best to determine what scents you are initially attracted to and then test them out on your skin. The fragrance color wheel above can give you a good idea of what kinds of scents are available on the market.

man smelling cologne

How to Test Your Cologne

Testing a cologne before you buy it is important so that you can see how it will react with your particular skin chemistry. Of course, you will not be able to test more than a few scents on your skin at a time, so there are a few steps you can take to ensure you get to sample a wide variety of scents and choose the one that is right for you.

  1. Research scents online. Using the colored scent wheel above and any previous knowledge of scents you might have, think about which scents might be appealing to you. Use Google to search for the fragrances that include these scents so that you have a starting point once you reach the store.Remember, you can always decide that you don’t like a certain type of scent after smelling it in person and the store representative should be able to direct you toward another scent based on your preferences.
  2. Use scent blotters to initially test fragrances. Choose a store that has plenty of scent options (usually a department store or specialty fragrance store). Once you’re there, use the scent blotters available to test the fragrances you are initially interested in. Scent blotters are usually small, white cardboard strips that absorb the fragrance and help you smell the scent without putting it on your body.When applying the cologne to the scent blotters, spray two or three times in a downward motion onto the blotter. Be careful not to get the scent onto your skin just yet and sniff the papers individually until you find a few scents that you really like.
  3. Test the fragrance on your skin. Once you have narrowed it down between two and four fragrances, it’s time to see how they react to your skin’s chemistry. Spray one cologne type on each wrist. If you’re testing more than two, spray onto your inner elbows as well. Do not test more than four at a time or this could confuse your sense of smell.
  4. Give the scent time to develop. Walk around the store or do something else for 30 minutes. Once the scent has had a chance to mix with the oils on your skin, give them each another sniff. In between each sniff, it can be helpful to smell something different to cleanse the nostrils (coffee works well for this).Notice how each smell has developed once it’s had a chance to work with your body chemistry. This will give you a true idea of what each cologne will smell like on you.
  5. If you still love it, buy it! If there is one or more fragrance you really enjoy after the 30 minute development period, it’s a good chance you’ll enjoy owning that scent.

Don’t forget, you can also do this from the comfort of your home by ordering fragrance samples online. If you prefer the help of a human attendant to help you pick your fragrance for the first time, you can always order the fragrance online next time at a discounted price.

hands holding cologne bottle

How to Make Your Cologne Last

Cologne does not have an infinite shelf life, and many bottles will have a date on the bottom that indicates its optimal use-by date. To make your cologne last longer, keep it in its original box as light exposure over a period of time can cause fragrances to deteriorate. You can also choose to keep them in a dark drawer or cabinet, but avoid exposing them to direct sunlight if at all possible.

Fluctuations in temperature can also shorten the lifetime of a fragrance. This means that storing them in the bathroom will likely increase their likelihood of spoiling. The fluctuations in temperature and humidity can destroy the molecular integrity of the fragrance. Another place to avoid storing your fragrance is in your car, where temperatures can fluctuate rapidly.

While some colognes naturally have longer shelf lives than others, properly storing the fragrances should allow you to enjoy them for many years.

Now that you know how to pick a fragrance that speaks to your personality and mixes well with your body chemistry, you can enjoy the perks of daily cologne usage. If you apply it correctly and appropriately you may start to notice a boost in confidence and maybe even the occasional compliment. Feel free to try different fragrances in the same scent family to develop a personal scent brand that your friends and family will associate with you from now on.

how to apply cologne illustrated infographic

Share This Article

Featured Posts

woman walking down the street looking confident and happy

What is Sillage + 10 Other Fragrance Terms You Should Know

September 10, 2019
attractive perfume bottles with roses

Fragrance Notes: Everything You Need to Know

September 10, 2019
attractive young woman drinking water

13 Beauty Benefits of Drinking Water

September 10, 2019

VIDEO: Best Men’s Fragrances with Jeremy Fragrance!

September 4, 2019
woman looking in the mirror and touching her face

8 Face Yoga Exercises for Anti-Aging

August 28, 2019
woman mixing essential oils

24 Essential Oil Roller Recipes (+ Free Wedding Gift Printables)

August 26, 2019
lady with tattoo smelling her wrist

How to Smell Good: 18 Ways to Smell Fresh All Day

August 20, 2019

Best Niche Perfumes For Fall

August 18, 2019
Jean jacket with open perfume bottle on it's side sitting next to it

How to Get Perfume Out of Clothes: 6 Methods to Try

August 15, 2019

What is Eau de Toilette & How Does it Compare to Other Fragrances?

August 9, 2019
peach colored perfume in decorative box with ribbon around the box

How to Store Perfume: 13 Ways to Help Your Fragrance Last Longer

August 5, 2019
woman standing near her sliding glass door

13 Ways to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution (Backed by Science)

August 5, 2019

Best Citrus Fragrances for Summer

July 28, 2019

15 Evidence-Based Aphrodisiac Scents to Improve Date Night

July 18, 2019
woman laying in bed smiling

9 Benefits of Beauty Sleep – According to Science

July 16, 2019
man and woman enjoying a date

[Survey] Women’s Biggest Date Killers Revealed

July 12, 2019
perfume bottles, flowers and fun little illustrations

Kids Craft: “Perfume” with Printable Labels

July 12, 2019
flowers and petals in science equipment

The Science of Scent Marketing

July 12, 2019
Bride putting perfume on her wrist - close up

Find Your Perfect Wedding Fragrance

July 12, 2019
closeup on a diffuser

15 Scents to Help You Sleep

July 12, 2019
a cup of tea with a flower in it

12 Scents That Will Make You More Productive

July 12, 2019
Person holding clear containers of homemade beauty products

35 Coconut Oil Beauty Products You Can Make at Home

July 1, 2019
woman sneezing into tissue

Fragrance Sensitivity: What You Need to Know

July 1, 2019
colorful perfume bottles arranged in a row

Your Guide to the Fragrance Wheel and Scent Families

June 26, 2019

 A Week of Vacation Fragrances For Summer

June 19, 2019
happy woman meditating on beach

Celebrity Morning Routines Backed By Science

June 11, 2019

Best Designer Perfumes for June Brides and Grooms

May 21, 2019
A perfume makers extracts ingredients to create a fragrance.

14 Strangest Perfume Ingredients of All Time

May 20, 2019
Women sitting at window ledge with tea

15 Healing Aromatherapy Scents And How to Use Them

May 13, 2019
photo of perfume making materials

How Is Perfume Made? The Perfume Manufacturing Guide

April 26, 2019
Best niche perfumes for fall

15 Fragrance Hacks to Make Your Perfume Last Longer

April 25, 2019

Best Perfumes For Mother’s Day

April 22, 2019
essential oils, flowers and herbs

8 Scents Scientifically Proven to Increase Student Productivity

April 19, 2019

Versace Dylan Blue: 3 Moments This Cologne Makes Infinitely Better

April 3, 2019

Parfums de Coeur: 5 Wild & Wonderful Fragrances to Try

March 26, 2019

Award Winning Fragrances for Men and Women

March 24, 2019

Ferrari Colognes: The 4 Best Fragrances to Test-Drive

March 21, 2019
herbs, flowers and spices

The Fascinating History of Perfume

March 21, 2019

Joop! Cologne: 4 Signs You Need to Start Wearing It Immediately

March 13, 2019
woman testing perfume to see if its expired

Does Perfume Expire? Find out If Your Fragrance Has Gone Bad

March 8, 2019

Polo Cologne: How a Legendary Scent Lasted 40 Years

March 5, 2019

How To Find Your Signature Scent: Starting a Perfume Collection

March 3, 2019

Black Cologne by Kenneth Cole: A Rare Scent for All Four Seasons

February 25, 2019

Chrome Cologne by Azzaro: 3 Occasions This Scent is Perfect For

February 18, 2019

Rihanna Nude Perfume: Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Wear It?

January 23, 2019
Follow us @Fragancex