How to Buy Cologne – The Ultimate Guide
Fragrance is an integral part of style that’s too often overlooked in the world of male fashion.
A bold cologne can help to boost confidence, raise self-esteem, and leave a lasting impression on both men and women alike.
If you’re ready for a new scent, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the number of colognes you see out on the market. You might be tempted to pick up the first or the flashiest bottle that you find, but much like a picking a fine whiskey or good wine, choosing a new scent is a task that takes patience and dedication.
We’re here to help make your life a little bit easier by giving you a glimpse into the world of men’s fragrance, helping you to make an educated decision when deciding which scent you want to define you.
There are several different types of fragrances that you can choose from depending on how strong you want your scent to be and how long you need it to last. A robust perfume may last for an entire eight-hour workday, while many weaker fragrances will only last for one or two hours at most. All fragrances fall into five broad categories based on the concentration of oils and alcohol present.
Pure Perfume boasts the strongest scent of all fragrance types, containing anywhere between 20% and 30% perfume oils. They also contain less alcohol by volume than other fragrances, reducing the risk of drying out skin. Perfumes usually last around six or seven hours, but stronger scents can last up to eight hours.
Eau de Parfum
Eau de parfum has less fragrance per unit volume than pure perfume, but it still contains between 15% and 20% oils and less that 90% alcohol. This type of fragrance is gentle enough on the skin for everyday use and generally lasts for between four and five hours.
Eau de Toilette
One of the most popular fragrance choices available, Eau de Toilette, is cheaper than most perfumes. It has a concentration of between 5% and 15% oils with a scent that lasts between two and three hours.
Many people use eau de toilette to stay fresh during the day, while Eau de parfum is often used at night.
Eau de Cologne
Colognes are often light, fresh, and fruity, typically offering more masculine scent than many perfumes. They contain a fragrance concentration of just 2% to 4%, meaning that colognes have a high alcohol content and evaporate quickly throughout the day.
A good cologne will generally last around two hours, though some may lose their scent in a shorter timeframe.
Like cologne, Eau Fraiche has a low fragrance concentration, containing between 1% and 3% oils and lasting around two hours.
Unlike cologne, perfume, and other fragrances, however, Eau Fraiche doesn’t contain any alcohol. Instead, oils are mixed with purified water, making it inexpensive and safe for those with sensitive skin.
A cologne is much more than just a single smell.
As you take in the fragrance, subtle notes may give way to stronger and more distinctive aromas. All of the different components of a cologne work together to create a complex fragrance that melds with your own personal odor to create a truly unique scent.
Like the flavor profile of a whiskey, you can deconstruct fine fragrances into different notes that hit as the scent settles and begins to evaporate. Colognes and other fragrances can be broken down into three main scent components.
The Top Note
The lightest note, the top note, is the first thing that will hit people when they meet you.
The top note is immediately noticeable and can last anywhere between fifteen minutes and two hours. Common scents include:
- Light citrus fragrances
- Fruity overtones
- Powdery smells
- Sweet spices such as cinnamon and clove
The Middle Note
The middle note is sometimes referred to as the heart note of a cologne or perfume, as it’s the main component that makes up a fragrance.
This note only develops once the top note has cleared, and it lasts for a longer period, For between few minutes and an hour.
Middle notes showcase the deep and complex elements of a scent such as heavier floral elements, grassy or earthy scents, and savory spices. Common scents include:
The Base Note
The base note is the last scent component to develop in a cologne, appearing gradually and lasting for between five and ten hours.
This is the scent that will linger in the air after you leave the room, and the smell that people will remember when they think of you.
Countless scents can be used as base notes, but some of the more popular base notes used in colognes include:
The Fragrance Wheel
A fragrance wheel, also known as an aroma wheel, a fragrance circle, or a perfume wheel, is a diagram representing the relationships between different scent families.
Looking at a fragrance wheel can help you to determine which scents complement each other, and which don’t.
You can also use the diagram to find new fragrances and undertones that you’ll enjoy. Scents fall under the category of fresh, floral, oriental, or woody.
What to Look for when Buying a Cologne
When searching for a new fragrance, you want to find a cologne that complements your natural body odor over the course of the day and suits your personal sense of style.
The best way to pick a cologne is to test it out on yourself, but there are some important factors to keep in mind when scoping out a new scent.
Expense doesn’t necessarily equal quality, especially when it comes to fragrances.
Price is largely dependent on the concentration of fragrance oils in a mix, meaning that colognes are often cheaper that perfumes and other stronger scents. A designer label can also make a fragrance more expensive, as you’re paying for marketing costs and a brand-name image.
Ultimately, your decision to purchase a new scent should be based on a cologne’s fragrance profile rather than its price tag.
Whether you end up with a designer fragrance or a niche label, the most important thing to consider is whether or not a scent suits your body.
Cologne bottles come in all shapes and sizes, from travel-sized 0.5 oz bottles to 3.4 oz bottles and larger.
While you may save money by purchasing larger bottles and bulk packs, when buying a new fragrance, you should stick to smaller sizes.
Even if you like a cologne in store, you may change your mind later, or find a different scent that you like better. Only purchase a larger size bottle if you’re positive that the cologne is the one for you.
Rarely used fragrances last forever, as oils break down and lose their scent over time.
Rapid heat fluctuations and overexposure to light can both cause colognes to lose their vigor faster, especially when in a clear bottle.
They tend to last for a shorter timeframe than perfumes and eau de toilette due to their low concentration of aromatic oils and high volume of alcohol.
To keep your colognes smelling better for longer, you should store them in a cool, dry, and dark place such as a bathroom cupboard or bedroom closet.
When cared for correctly, a bottle of fragrance can have a shelf life of 3 to 5 years.
Type of Scent
You don’t have to feel limited to just one scent when it comes to cologne.
There are different smells to suit every occasion, from formal events to everyday functions.
You can also have a different scent for different seasons, such as light, citrus fragrances during the summer and cooler earth notes during the winter.
Smelling great isn’t just important during the daytime. Your spouse or significant other is sure to appreciate a spritz of cologne just before bed, and it’ll leave your pillow smelling like you whenever you leave on business trips and solo adventures away from the family.
At night, you can go for heavier, muskier, and more provocative scents that aren’t necessarily appropriate for the office. You can also wash with fragranced soaps and creams to leave your skin clean, smooth, and smelling fresh.
Some fragrances leave a stronger scent in their wake than others, and this mostly depends on the concentration of oils in the mix.
Perfumes are stronger than Eau de parfum, which is, in turn, stronger than eau de toilette.
While colognes tend to have a low ratio of oils to alcohol by definition, those with a higher concentration of fragrance will have a bolder smell and last for longer during the day.
Perfumes and colognes can be categorized into the four different families, depending on the notes and undertones that they encompass.
The fragrance wheel discussed earlier is an easy way to tell which family a fragrance belongs to based on its overall scent.
A cologne can be fresh, floral, oriental, or woody. Certain complex fragrances may contain hints from more than one family.
The easiest way to pick out a new fragrance is by visiting a brick and mortar store, but this isn’t always possible. Luckily, it’s easy to purchase cologne through one of many online vendors.
The downside to buying online is that you’re unable to try out new colognes before you buy them, but if you know which scent profiles suit your body chemistry, you can choose a cologne based on ingredients listed.
You can also look at current trends and popular brands to help you narrow down your options.
If you’re not sure where to start in your search for cologne, you can sign up
for online monthly subscriptions that send you a test-sized bottle of cologne
each month for a small fee.
This not only lets you test out a variety of new brands without spending a fortune but also gives you the chance to sport a fresh new scent every month.
There are countless brands of perfume and cologne to choose from, but some are better known than others.
Designer names such as Armani, Versace, Calvin Klein, or Ralph Lauren produce a wide range popular men’s, women’s, and unisex fragrances that have withstood the test of time.
The only downside to brand name colognes is that they tend to be pricier than niche fragrances.
Most fragrance vendors, whether online or brick-and-mortar stores, allow you to return purchases and gifts as long as they’re still sealed.
If you’ve opened your cologne to test it out, keep in mind that you may not be able
to return it for a full refund.
It’s important to check out a company’s return policy if you think there’s a chance
that you may want to get a refund or exchange a product at any point.
What’s the Best Cologne for Me?
With all of the choices available on the market, you may feel that finding the perfect cologne is a near impossible task.
If you’re having trouble finding a scent that suits you, there are several factors that can help to guide you to your ideal cologne.
Your Sense of Style
Do you have the wardrobe of a sophisticated professional, or do you prefer to keep things more casual?
Your scent should match your lifestyle, whether you’re a project manager or a state park ranger.
You can find fragrances that fit just about any lifestyle, from simple and subtle for enclosed office setting to bold and powerful for nights out on the town.
Your Body Chemistry
No two people smell exactly alike when using a fragrance.
Aromatic compounds interact with each of us differently depending on our personal body odor.
What smells great on a friend or coworker may not work as well for you, and vice versa.
It’s important to test out a cologne on yourself to see how it will smell, instead of just sniffing the bottle.
The Time and the Season
You don’t need to feel obligated to stick to a single cologne year-round.
Some scents are designed to be worn in the summertime, such as the fresh and the fruity, while notes of smoke and leather are often found in winter colognes.
Different colognes can help to add a whole new dimension to seasonal wardrobes.
You can also switch out your cologne at night for a deeper, muskier scent that your partner is sure to appreciate.
Price and Budget
You can find fine fragrances costing up to $215,000 per bottle, but chances are, you’re not planning on spending that much on a bottle of cologne.
You can narrow down your search for a new scent based on prices, eliminating anything that’s too expensive- or too cheap- for your tastes.
Designer fragrances are often slightly more costly than generic or niche names, but you can still find lower priced lines of brand name products if you’re concerned about price.
How to Give Cologne as a Gift
It can be difficult to buy the right perfume for someone that you don’t know well.
Fragrances are a very personal gift that’s best reserved for close friends, family members, and loved ones.
You can stick with a person’s favorite scent, or try introducing them something new that you think they’ll enjoy. Personality is important to consider when gifting fragrances.
If you’re buying perfume or cologne for someone who’s extroverted and outgoing, you might want to go for a bold scent, whereas a shy individual might appreciate a more delicate fragrance.
You should also consider whether they’ll be wearing the scent during the day or night, and during which season they’ll be using it.
If you have no idea where to begin in your search for a fragrance to give as a gift, consider some of your loved one’s favorite foods and plants. You can find them something that reminds them of their favorite fruit, dessert, or flower.
Someone with a sweet tooth might prefer a perfume with a hint of vanilla, while a red wine lover might prefer something with smoky or musky undertones.
A Final Word
It’s not easy to choose a new fragrance for yourself or your loved one.
There are thousands upon thousands of unique colognes to choose from, and beyond that, each one reacts differently depending on your own personal scent.
I hope that this guide makes it just a little bit easier the next time you’re looking for a new scent, and gave you some good advice on how to buy the right cologne.
Good luck in your search for the perfect cologne!