One thing that both distinguishes and unites all my past girlfriends is the way they smelled. I remember Amy for her humble yet powerful lavender Eau de Toilette, Suzi for her coconut scented body cream, Alisa for her determined D&G Rosa Excelsa. Before having put a face, a personality, and memories to each scent, those were just regular smells. Now, whenever I smell lavender, coconut, or walk past someone with the same D&G perfume, I’m reminded of what those people mean in my life and thus feel a bit more connected to my own self.
The science behind fragrances
The amount of scientific research backing up the power of fragrances and the way it affects us as humans is overwhelmingly compelling: from the physiological effects it has on mood and working performance to the way it incites emotions and the aforementioned memories. Heck, its remarkableness has even been topic for literary essays. Still, as important as understanding the why’s is grasping the how’s.
If you have ever been perfume-shopping, you might have noticed the different names on the label: Eau de Toilette, parfum, cologne, Eau Fraiche, perfume. But what do they mean? Better yet, how to choose the best for you and the occasion?
Wonder no more – what follows is a men’s cologne guide with practical information ranging from the key differences between fragrances to how to put on cologne.
Perfumes are classified according to their fragrances – wooded, citric, floral, fruity, etc. – as well as their concentration, meaning how much their essential oil is diluted in a solvent, usually alcohol. In other words, a fragrance has a type of smell and a type of mixture, which define how long the scent will last, how strong it is and, ultimately, which particular time of the day or situation it fits best.
Let’s start by analyzing the key differences between the three most popular types of perfumes – cologne, parfum, and eau de toilette.
What is cologne?
A cologne (or Eau de Cologne) is the name given to perfumes whose fragrance concentration fall below 10% of essence-to-solvent, although most tend to fluctuate around 3%. This is a light type of perfume, the kind you spray when late for a date. You can rely on the smell sticking around for roughly 2 hours.
Cologne vs Perfume
Despite being the strongest in terms of essence quantity, the perfume (parfum or perfume extract) is also the rarest type to be used by men due to its potentially overwhelming smell – only a few sprays are enough to set the fragrance for up to 24 hours. With a high concentration of around 30%, the parfum also tends to be the most expensive kind, making it more of a “special occasion” alternative. And because of its oilier consistency, this kind is not recommended for warm, humid days as the heat and sweat intensifies the smell beyond pleasurable. If you are still looking for a kick though, a slightly subtler (and cheaper) version of the parfum is the Eau de Parfum, or EDP, which sticks around for roughly 8 hours at a lower concentration of 15-20% .
Eau de Toilette vs Cologne
The Eau de toilette, or EDT, is probably the most versatile type of perfume out there. It sits between a cologne and a parfum in terms of concentration (8-15% of essential oils) and you can use it either during the day or at night, winter or summer, in a humid or dry climate. It will last around 8 hours on the body and although it will not hit the nostrils as intensely as a parfum, if applied correctly and accepted well by the skin, a good quality EDT will leave its mark.
How to apply cologne
Applying cologne is much like sharpening a knife – you can pay lots for a fancy sharpener but if you are not aware of how to use it properly you will end up damaging the blade, or in this case, rendering the perfume useless. Although spraying cologne is not rocket science, learning a few tricks will help you enhance the fragrance and optimize its daily lifespan.
Overall, two sprays on so-called strategic spots are enough for your skin to imbibe the essence. Then again, depending on the quality and strength of the perfume you can apply more or less – without exaggerating.
Also, remember to keep the nozzle at about 3-6 inches away from your skin so as not to overload a single spot and allow the content to spread along a wider area. It’s about keeping the balance: you want people within your “aromatic circle” (more or less arms-reach) to sense the smell, not when they are too close or too far.
One of the main details that many men overlook when applying perfume is to do it after the shower, not straight out of it. Our body is still warm when we leave the shower, which makes the perfume evaporate quicker. Therefore, wait a few minutes until your bodily temperature gets back to normal before spraying the cologne or eau de toilette.
Another trick to make the fragrance last longer is to apply a thin layer of odorless hydrating lotion on the spots where you are going to spray the perfume, for dry skin is one of the factors which make fragrances last the least.
When to use it
For each occasion, there’s an appropriate fragrance. At work or on a regular day, choose a lighter fragrance, one that has a lower concentration of essence and thus is less likely to be overwhelming, such as citric fragrances. If going out at night, you would want your perfume to stand out, attract a bit more attention. In this case, look for bolder notes like those found on wooded fragrances. Let’s say that instead of a meeting with friends you’re actually going on a date. Then, it’s worth opting for something even bolder, like oriental fragrances.
Where to spray it
Someone once asked Coco Chanel where to spray cologne. She said, “On the spot where you want to be kissed.” Although it may sound smart in theory, in practice it doesn’t work so well. After all, perfumes are supposed to please the smell, not the palate.
Regarding where to spray cologne, aim for “heat areas”. These are spots in the body where the arteries are closest to the outer layer of the skin and thus heats the surface faster: lower jaw, wrist, forearm, behind the ears, chest. The heat intensifies the effects of the perfume so during the day it reacts to changes in body temperature and keeps emanating its fragrance.
How to wear it
By wearing a cologne we don’t mean it on your clothes, but with it. Spraying perfume on your shirt’s collar will not only risk staining it but also impede the essential oils of the fragrance to merge with your skin’s and ultimately create your very own scent.
That being said, many people have the habit of spraying the perfume on one wrist and then rubbing it on the other or around the neck, which is wrong. You should never friction the perfume for that will “squeeze” the essence.
Since perfumes are composed of scent notes which evaporate at different speeds, the rubbing will destroy the top note quickly and diminish the duration of the smell. Hence, if you don’t want to spray both wrists, transfer a bit of the perfume not by rubbing but by simply touching both areas.
Conclusion: Why wear cologne?
Beyond a powerful sensory persuader, a cologne can be seen as an extension of a man’s personality. Just as each of my past girlfriends imprinted my memory with their scents, I’m sure the way I smell must have affected how other people remember me and that alone is enough reason for me to want to know what cologne represents me best.