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The Grooming Manual

How to Use Cologne Like a Pro For Dates, Work, and Events

Best Natural Cologne Advice for Men

Have you ever caught a whiff of a great cologne and looked around to see who it was coming from? Or noticed an overpowering, horrible cologne smell and high-tailed it away from the perpetrator? 

The answer to both questions is probably yes. The point? Cologne matters. Get it right, and it can make a powerful, positive first impression, and - like a good suit or great self-care - it can really set the tone for an awesome interaction. Plus, cologne can boost confidence and really get you in the right headspace for your day. 

On the flip side, getting it wrong and over-applying or choosing the wrong scent can totally ruin things and make you the watercooler pariah. 

Here’s how to avoid common mistakes and use cologne like a pro. 

There’s A Lot That Can Go Wrong 

Listen, there’s a lot that can go wrong when it comes to cologne (and a slew of other day-to-day grooming practices). You can: 

  • Pick the wrong scent for your body chemistry: Cologne ingredients interact with your body oils, which means the same cologne will smell slightly different on different men. You might pick something that smelled fantastic on your friend - or in the store - only to find that it just doesn’t work for you. 
  • Overdo it: It can be hard to tell how much cologne is too much, and a lot of guys go for a healthy cloud of spritzes just to make sure they’re totally covered. This is not the way to go, and it’s easier to overdo it than you might think. 
  • Forget to apply it often enough: On the other end of the spectrum, many men apply their cologne one time and then forget about it for the rest of the day. Well, a 7 am application simply won’t last until your 5 pm meeting, date, or event, so you could miss out on making that great impression. 
  • Apply it incorrectly: There are certain places where cologne makes the most sense (not on your clothes) and where it can be smelled without being overpowering. Plus, there’s a technique involved in the application (after your shower...and remember, less is more). If you don’ know any of this, it’s easy to get things wrong and apply too much, and a lot of men fall in this lane. 

How to Get Cologne Right 

Understand Your Scent 

Here’s how cologne works. 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 or spice scents  
  • Base notes: Longer-lasting, bolder scents that appear later 

While every scent is different, most last several hours and slowly progress from the top notes - apparent right when you spray the cologne - through the middle notes, and finally into the base notes. This progression happens over time and as the cologne interacts with your natural oils and body heat. 

Now, some colognes will tell you exactly what top notes, middle notes, and base notes to expect right on the bottle - bust most will just give you an overview without telling you exactly what kind of progression to expect. 

The main takeaway, though, is that you won’t understand if a certain scent works for you just by smelling it in the bottle, and a cologne that works for someone you know may not be the best choice for you. 

That’s why it’s important to test some scents out directly on your skin and see how they interact with your unique body chemistry over time. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend that you begin with a light, fresh scent and explore from there. 

Pick the Right Spots 

We always recommend that you start with just one spray to the chest right when you get out of the shower and dry off. 

That said, if you notice that the cologne isn’t too overpowering with one spray, there are certain other key locations that work great, like pulse points on the wrists or on the side of the neck. These warm the fragrance up so it continues to emit scent throughout the day. 

Again, though, it’s important to start simple - just with the chest - and play it by ear from there. 

Refine Your Technique 

Spray cologne directly on your skin, not on your clothes. Also, avoid rubbing cologne into your skin (like rubbing your wrists together) or walking through a “cologne cloud” to get it onto your skin. 

Rubbing, in particular, can actually mess with the top note molecules and dull them away so you never get that part of the scent. Similarly, with a cologne cloud, it usually lands in all the wrong places - like on your clothes and in your hair - so you wind up wasting product. 

Reapply 

How often you should reapply really depends on the specific cologne formula and your personal preferences. That said, no cologne lasts all day long, so if you apply in the morning and you have an event in the evening that you want to smell great for, then you’ll want to reapply before you go. 

Finally: How to Get Rid of Cologne Gone Wrong 

Sometimes things are going to go wrong, and you’re going to either apply a scent that doesn’t work for your body or accidentally overapply one of your favorites. And this can be tricky to resolve - cologne is usually the last thing you apply before you head out the door, and you don’t want to take off your whole outfit and jump back in the shower if you make these common mistakes. 

The good news: you don’t have to. Instead, you can dab rubbing alcohol, non-scented lotion, or baby wipes directly where you overapplied and it should tone down the fragrance right away. 

So remember - less is more, start light, and apply cologne to your chest right out of the shower. That way, you’ll be sure to make an amazing, lasting impression for your date, work meeting, or event.

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