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How to apply cologne to smell amazing all day

Apply cologne and smell fantastic (without overdoing it)

If there is one thing that a man can put on his body that speaks volumes more about him than any item of clothing, it is his cologne. Like the Emperor’s new clothes, the fragrance is entirely invisible, appealing to only one of our five senses, and barely makes it through a whole day unscathed. It can signal deep-seated psychological cues to the smeller, connecting with memory and experience, or all too often grab the unwilling attention of passersby as an all-enveloping cloud. Wearing cologne may be one of the best applications of the maxim “less is more.” What is the best way to wear cologne, though? Let’s start with an explanation of this bedrock of men’s grooming.




5 minutes

What You Need

  • Signature Scent

All fragrances are a mixture of oils, alcohol, and water. While the strengths and concentrations can vary from one product to another, most men’s colognes contain around 2 to 4 percent oil. There are also extracts, at 20 to 30 percent; perfumes, at 15 to 25 percent; Eau de perfume, at 8 to 15 percent; and eau de toilette, at 4 to 8 percent. Those oils can be anything from natural botanicals to entirely artificial chemical ingredients. The higher the percentage, the longer they last on your skin.

Once applied, those mixtures will begin to break down into what industry professionals call notes. The top notes are the first aromas that hit your nose. As the alcohol and water evaporate and the oils mix with your body chemistry, heart notes begin to take center stage. Finally, as the day wears on, base notes remain behind.

Given that changing dynamic, the scent also must work with any other product you may be using that day. Think about how your cologne choice may interact with anything from shampoo and soap to shaving products, especially body lotion. Layering fragrances can make them last longer, which is why so many brands will offer a kit of grooming products that all include the signature scent. (Like home bartending, you may also discover a cocktail of different products that works for you.)

A side profile of a man washing his face in the shower.

Shower and moisturize

Start after you’ve showered while your skin is still warm and your pores are open. Once you are dry, moisturizing your skin will assist the cologne in absorbing into your skin more efficiently, lasting longer.


If you're using a spray cologne, hold the bottle six inches from where you want to apply the scent, preferably the neck and lower stomach or upper groin area. The wrists are a great place as well. Don't rub the product once it is applied as it can damage the molecules and cause them to disapate faster. Don't overdo the sprays; one spray is most likely enough, and don't spray it into the air and walk through it (it wastes the product), and don't spray your clothes (could damage the garments).

how to apply cologne wax

Wax solid

These are more sophisticated and less often used by the general masses. These are perfect for application on the nape of the neck and the wrists. While these, by design, have to be rubbed in, they don't need to be done in the same way as lotion. Less is more, so be frugal with how much you apply to your skin.

best colognes Stock-Man-Spraying-Cologne


Your nose will get used to the scent, and you will start to lose the scent throughout the day. Keep in mind that just because you don't smell the cologne doesn't mean that your co-workers, date, or friends can't. You develop olfactory blindness throughout the day, so if you feel the need to reapply, do so sparingly, about a third of what you put on in the morning.

How to Make Cologne Last

Like that expensive bottle of liqueur you’ve been cherishing, don’t store cologne in hot, sunny places like your bathroom or on a dresser top. Find a little shelf for it in the closet. Sun and heat will break down the components faster and make the alcohol and water evaporate sooner. A good cologne should last from three to five years. (Some say to replace in a year, but those people are also probably selling cologne.) Rancid oils and a higher concentration of alcohol can affect the way the product smells and might even harm your skin.

Choosing a Fragrance

Choosing the right cologne in the first place may mean that you don’t have to worry about how long it will last because you’ll want to wear it every day. Think about what kinds of fragrances you already like. Are you into long walks through pine trees? Does the smell of fresh orange juice or baking cookies bring back great memories? Do you miss the tobacco smell but are still glad you quit smoking? Any scent that has positive connotations for you has probably been worked into a cologne.

Do your research. Many brands now have guides on their websites to help discover a combination you’ll like. If you’re headed to a store, remember only to try two or three brands in a visit. More than that, and your olfactory receptors shut down. If you can, hit the store during off-hours, too, when there are less likely to be fragrance models around pushing the latest designer concoction and strong-arming you into a sale. Speaking of which, all those potential exotic ingredient combinations and the concentration will affect the price of your cologne, as can hefty marketing budgets. While you’ll get what you pay for within reason, remember that if you (or your significant other) like how a fragrance works with your body chemistry, that’s what counts.

Think about where you’re wearing it, too. A musky, sexy fragrance may be great for a night out, but are you really looking to turn on your company’s head of Human Resources? While having a signature scent is great, think about having a cologne wardrobe. The best rule of thumb is to have seasonal scents, with the ideal being eight fragrances, one for the office and one for your off time in each season. A lighter fragrance may be better for summer’s heat and humidity, while a warm, woody one feels perfect in winter’s chill. Just like having a perfectly fitted suit or that comfortably broken-in pair of jeans, having the right cologne can inspire confidence and arouse interest.

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