If you’re wondering how to apply cologne, know that there are many, many ways—but not all of them are effective. I’ve seen the “spray it in front of yourself and walk through it” method, which in theory distributes the scent all over your person. There’s the “spray some on your shirt collar” route, which feels just a bit too much like Febreze. There’s an entire category of hair perfumes; I wouldn’t advise spraying your standard colognes onto your hair, since there’s lots of alcohol in most colognes which can dry and damage. Some people also spray a cologne into their body lotion of choice and then lather it everywhere; that’s a lot of extra work for an uneven and poorly concentrated application. So, what is the best way to apply cologne?
We’ll get there. Before we get into how to apply cologne correctly and most effectively, we need to address one important thing: cologne concentrations and strength.
Cologne Concentration Determines Its Strength
When we use the word “cologne”, we’re just using a consumer term that includes all fragrances traditionally targeted at men. More accurately, the term “cologne” is one of many categories of fragrances. And it’s one of the weakest categories, too, in terms of concentration and power.
When you buy a fragrance, it will likely have some distinction on the bottle, like Eau du Toilette or Parfum. These are shorthand for different levels of fragrance concentration. And the more concentrated a scent, the more expensive it tends to be—but the better its sillage or cast (the “trail” it leaves when you walk away, as well as the radius it builds around you at standstill), and a higher concentration usually indicates better longevity.
That doesn’t mean you should shop from the top, because maybe you want something subtle or short-winded. It’s more important that you understand these categories before shopping and before applying.
Eau Fraiche: The lightest concentration of perfume oils—just 1-3% oil. Some aftershaves and body sprays might even fall into this category. Will wear off quickly.
Eau de Cologne: 3-5% concentration. If a scent is merely labeled “cologne” it probably sits in this range.
Eau de Toilette: 5-8% concentration. This is in some sense the “standard” concentration.
Eau de Parfum: 8-15% concentration. Will be noticeably stronger than an EdT.
Parfum or Extrait de Parfum: The highest concentration, 15-30%, but some heavy duty options may go up to 40%.
You need to get familiar with your scent to learn how much of it needs to be applied, and you can gauge that by understanding concentration. Often there’s no need to go heavy handed with an EDP or extrait, whereas an EDC or EDT might benefit from an extra spritz once you get the hang of the specific scent.
The Best Way to Apply Cologne
Along with the above intel about perfume concentrations, here are three things that will help you apply cologne correctly and effectively.
- Apply to clean skin: The same goes for any product and its efficacy. If you want to get the best benefits, then you need to start with a fresh, clean canvas—this way, no sweat, sebum, or other buildup interferes with the perfume oils.
- Target the pulse points: Aim for those places on your wrists and neck where you can feel your blood pumping through the veins. By applying cologne to these spots, you target the “warmest” points on your body. This builds the best projection/cast/sillage for your scent, helping it perform to its fullest potential.
- Apply from 6 inches away: This distance allows you to focus the scent on a specific target (the pulse point), without over or under concentrating it. It’s the perfect balance between turning your skin red from too much alcohol concentration, and from losing too many of the particles from a poorly targeted spritz.
- Start with one spritz: hit your wrists and rub them on your neck. If after a few wears you feel like that’s not enough, consider adding a second.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Second Opinion
It’s genuinely very difficult to judge how you smell yourself. So ask a your partner or a friend. Say it with me: “Bro, how’s my sillage right now?”
How to Apply Solid Cologne
Not all fragrances are bottled and spritzed on. Some are solid colognes, which are typically waxy and can be massaged into skin much like a skincare product.
For these, you still want to target the pulse points. Start with a sliver of product for each wrist and the neck, then see how well the amount casts itself and lasts. Adjust accordingly from there.