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The Grooming Manual

How to Choose the Right Cologne for You

How to Choose the Right Cologne for You

Smell is perhaps your most powerful sense. It has strong connections to memory. Just a whiff of a familiar scent can summon powerful recollections of experiences, places, and people that you may not have thought about for years.

Now, imagine bottling that and using it to your advantage.

That’s exactly why men have been using fragrances since ancient times. The right fragrance inspires a sense of personal confidence. It makes you more attractive to others. And it allows you to stand out from the crowd in a positive, memorable way.

But it can be an issue too. You know the guy - he wears way too much of the wrong cologne and you can smell him from a mile away. How can you find the best cologne for men, use it properly, and enjoy the benefits without becoming the stink-cloud guy at the office?

How Colognes Work

A men’s cologne is a combination of raw scent ingredients. They include top notes (the initial, temporary smell of a fragrance), middle notes (heavier floral and spice scents), and base notes (longer lasting, bolder scents).

Every fragrance is a little different, but most last several hours and will slowly progress from the top notes, through the middle notes, and finally into the base notes. This happens as the ingredients in your cologne mix with your body oils and are activated by body heat.

Because the ingredients in the best cologne for men interact with your body oils, no fragrance will smell exactly the same on two different guys. You have you own unique scent - not gross, just reality - and the way your cologne of choice interacts with it determines the smell it produces.

The same way cologne is affected by your body heat, it can be damaged by exposure to heat and sunlight. So be sure you store your fragrance in a cool, dark place. A bedroom closet is usually a safe bet.

How to Apply Cologne

If you’re new to wearing cologne, keep it simple. Use one spray to your chest. That’s all you need to get an appealing, subtle scent that won’t overpower anyone.

The best time to apply your fragrance is after showering when you’ve dried off. Apply the cologne to your skin, not to your clothing. And to emphasize - one spray is plenty. Here are some common mistakes guys make when applying cologne (please avoid them):

Too Much. Less is more when it comes to your cologne. One spray to the chest will work great. You can progress to more than one spray in other key locations, but simple is a smart way to start.

Rubbing. Do not rub your cologne into your skin. This kills the top notes and alters the scent of the fragrance.

Spraying Your Clothing. Fragrance makers design their colognes to work with your body oil and heat. The scent notes will be messed up if you spray them into your clothes. Don’t do it.

How to Choose a Cologne for You

Trust yourself. Everyone has their own preferences. No two guys smell alike. No two people are going to perceive the scent of your cologne in exactly the same way. So go with what you think smells good on you.

You can get an idea for what scents and notes you like best by trying small cologne samples. But beware - rubbing several sample spray sticks all over yourself at a department store is not the best way to do it.

best cologne for men

Remember, rubbing is a bad way to apply cologne and you need to apply it directly to your skin to truly get an idea for how it will smell when you wear it all day. Since it takes several hours to move through the top, middle, and base notes, that initial spritz doesn’t tell the whole story.

A better approach is to sample one cologne at a time and find which scent notes you prefer. Do you like a light, citrusy scent? Or are spicier notes your preference? You may be able to determine what you like without even trying several colognes since the scents are similar to what you might find in similar essential oils.

Avoid Harmful Ingredients in Many Colognes

Sadly, there is little to no regulation of the ingredients used in fragrances. So you have to be your own personal advocate when it comes to choosing a safe product free of potentially harmful substances.

Many cologne makers use parabens, glycols, phthalates, sulfates, silicone, and synthetic dies in their products. Since all of these substances can cause skin irritation and have been linked to harmful side effects, it’s the smart choice to avoid them completely. 

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