How to Apply Cologne the Right Way – 6 Steps and Mistakes for 2023

Fashion

Scent has a lot of pulling power. After all, whether in the boardroom or the bar, who doesn’t love a great-smelling guy? But once you know how to choose the best fragrance for the occasion, it’s time to understand how to apply cologne to make the most out of your favorite scent.

Apply too much of your signature scent, and you run the risk of smelling like the department store cologne counter. Too little, and even the best colognes for men will take a back seat on the sensory scale.

A good rule of thumb for how to put on cologne is the old saying, “a little goes a long way.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that humans can identify more than one trillion smells, and in an ideal world, your cologne should only be apparent to people within arm’s reach. Any closer, it can become overpowering, triggering others to experience migraines or allergic reactions.

Get it right, and you’ll send a mood-elevating message to those close to you. “Aromas can enhance your mood and change your behavior,” says fragrance expert and founder of Note Fragrances Danielle Fleming.  “Fragrance plays a huge role in how you feel and has the ability to elicit a range of emotions from feeling confident to sexy, happy, relaxed, and more.”

When it comes to men’s fragrances, the team at Fashionbeans are olfactory aficionados. We can tell you everything you need to know about the best fragrances for men and where and how to apply cologne to get your partner’s pulse racing.

Keep scrolling to get a sense of scent and discover how to apply men’s cologne.  

Half empty bottle of perfume
hamzafragrances / instagram

How To Apply Cologne The Right Way

Step 1: Post-Shower Spritz

If you’re that guy who starts every day with a hot, steamy shower sesh, we’ve got great news. Freshly showered skin is the ideal base for your favorite cologne. Post-shower, the body’s pores are more open, allowing your favorite scent to absorb deeper into your skin.

After you shower, fully towel dry your body. While your skin is still warm, reach straight for your cologne and dab it onto your pulse points which include the neck, inside wrist, behind the ears, and inner elbows.

Step 2: Target Hot Points

When it comes to how to apply cologne properly, the key is pulse points. These areas give off more heat, so spraying scent here helps it smell more intense. Pulse points include the inside wrist, chest, neck, back of the ears, and inner elbow.

Leading fragrance influencer JeremyFragrance has his own method for hitting these points when he applies cologne. He calls it the “5-spray” technique. “For me, the most efficient spray technique for getting the most compliments is when I spray myself one time behind each ear, one spray on either side of my collar, and one on the back of my neck.”

Step 3: Keep Your Distance

Learning how to apply cologne so that it creates an attractive, subtle fragrance cloud around you rather than an overpowering punch of scent is primarily down to how you spray.

When spraying larger areas of your body, hold your bottle approximately 5-6 inches away. This distance allows the cologne to distribute correctly, creating an even, light layer of scent rather than concentrated patches. For smaller areas, hold the bottle a little closer, around 4″ away, to avoid wasting product.

If you’re an everyday shaver, try to avoid applying cologne to areas prone to shaving rash. The alcohol in the cologne may irritate the freshly shaved skin, particularly on the neck and jawline area.

Step 4: Mist Your Clothes

Ask a few fragrance experts how to apply men’s cologne so that it lasts longer, and some will suggest spritzing the scent onto your clothes – while others strongly warn against it. However, spraying your clothes as well as your skin is a surefire way to boost the longevity of your favorite cologne. At Fashionbeans, we are strict members of team “spritz your shirt” if you do it properly.

The main drawback is that squirting cologne in concentrated patches too close to fabric may cause minor stains. However, there’s an easy solution to avoid this scenario. First, spray your shirt before you put it on. From 8-10″ away, spritz your shirt with 2-3 sprays of cologne moving your hand in a sweeping, wafting motion. This movement will ensure your clothing receives an even-all over mist.

Step 5: Reapply to Skin

If you’re heading from your desk straight to a date, then no doubt you’ll want to smell great. That means you will need to reapply your cologne. How to apply your cologne when topping up follows similar principles as the first application.

Aim for pulse points, like the wrists and neck. If you can, spritz your cologne inside your shirt rather than on top. Remember, if you’re in a hurry, scent on the skin develops a little quicker than on clothes, so you’ll hit those hearty base notes earlier.

Step 6: Moisturize Daily

This step could be the most important one to remember when learning how to put on cologne. Dry skin and cologne are not BFFs; parched skin will immediately strip the fragrance of its top notes. Cologne lasts longer and is more effective on well-moisturized skin.

The ideal time to moisturize is after your morning shower. But if you don’t like the feeling of tacky skin before getting dressed, moisturize at night and throw on a robe to help the moisturizer soak in. Keep to this regime daily, and you’ll immediately start seeing a positive difference in your skin’s texture and in how you smell post-cologne spritz.

four different kinds of perfumes
hamzafragrances / instagram

Resist the Rub

On TV, in movies, and even in perfume commercials, we see the lead star spritz cologne on their wrists and then seductively rub them together. Despite this seeming to be a common practice, it’s a massive no-no when it comes to applying men’s cologne according to fragrance experts.

Master perfumer and creator of the cult classic, Baccarat Rouge 540 Francis Kurkdjian explains why this is “very bad.” When we rub our wrists together, we create friction that he says “heats up the skin, which produces natural enzymes that change the course of the scent.” The top and middle notes, plus the dry down, are most heavily impacted. Plus, rubbing can accelerate evaporation, so you’re not going to get the most out of your costly cologne.

Instead, spritz your cologne on your pulse points and allow it to soak into the skin. If you overspray and the product sits on top of the skin, you can gently dab the area to help it settle.

Spray and Walk Away

If you googled how to apply cologne a decade ago, most likely, you’d see the same tip; “spray and walk away.” This method involves spraying cologne into the air in front of you while dressed and walking through the mist. Unfortunately, this tip has been debunked as fiction when it comes to the correct way of how to put on cologne.

Not only does this method waste a lot of product, but most likely not enough fragrance will land on your skin or clothes to make a real difference. And don’t forget what we said about longevity. To last, apply scent to your body and pulse points. “Spray then walk away,” and you’ll find your scent fades within an hour, leaving you to reapply.

Eliminate the Competition

We already talked about how moisturizing can seriously boost your scent’s performance. When choosing your moisturizer, don’t reach for any old fragrance. Try to choose a moisturizer with a scent that compliments, rather than competes with, your cologne.For example, if your cologne is fresh and citrusy, you don’t want a scented lotion that is warm and spicy.

To elevate your scent to another level, apply this same principle to all your grooming and body products. Try to keep your shower gel, lotion, hair products, and deodorant within the same scent family. Doing this will help keep your scent harmonious and avoid clashing fragrances that can be overpowering.

Overspraying

Have you ever sniffed yourself and thought your cologne had worn off, only for someone to compliment your fragrance an hour later? There’s a name for this phenomenon: nose blindness.

Healthline explains that nose blindness is a natural adaptation of your body that causes an inability to detect common scents. The effect, also known as olfactory fatigue, is temporary. Simply put, your nose learns to ignore familiar smells like your everyday cologne.

A good rule of thumb is 4-5 spritzes of cologne on your body and 2-3 spritzes on your clothing if you’re aiming for all-day wear. Still, this may be too much depending on the cologne concentration. The next time you apply your cologne, ask an honest friend if your cologne is overpowering or just right. Your cologne shouldn’t be detectable to other people from more than an arm’s length away.

a bottle of Milano Cento fragrance
milanocent / instagram

How To Make Your Cologne Last

Don’t Ditch the Box

Following the correct way to store cologne is as important as learning how to apply cologne correctly. We have bad news if you’re currently keeping your cologne out in the open, on your dresser or bedroom shelf. Light is the enemy of fragrance and can break down the product’s liquid makeup.

What’s more, ultraviolet rays can change your cologne’s color. If your amber cologne suddenly appears to have a greenish tint, it’s on the turn. However, this problem is easily fixable. You don’t need to rush online and buy a fragrance refrigerator or “wardrobe”; you already have the perfect storage container, the product’s original box!

Storing the cologne bottle in its original packaging is a surefire way to bump up its endurance. Go the extra mile and store the boxed cologne in a drawer or closet to further increase its lifespan.

Don’t Get Hot and Steamy

It’s pointless learning how to apply cologne to smell your best if you’re going to damage the juice. While this metaphor may seem dramatic, think of your bathroom as a cologne graveyard. Humidity can affect a cologne’s composition and cause unwanted chemical reactions.

Your cologne is delicate and super sensitive to environmental changes. The heat and steam in your bathroom particularly affects natural ingredients, with patchouli being the quickest to smell “off.” So, when searching for a safe storage spot for your scent, you’re not only after somewhere dark but also dry and free from dramatic temperature changes.

Don’t Save it for a Rainy Day

So, now you’ve learned the proper way of how to put on cologne. Flushed with success, you’ve invested in a new signature scent and are now in a hurry to test your new knowledge. The upside is your cologne will stay pretty much pristine while it sits unopened in the box. The downside, though, is the clock on its expiry date starts ticking the moment you open the bottle.

So, if you buy a new cologne, try to avoid the temptation to open it and test it out if you don’t plan on wearing it for a while. The moment you open that cap and use that first spray, oxygen enters the bottle. More important still, don’t save those last drops for a special day. The more you use your fragrance, the more oxygen enters the bottle and the faster the oxidation process. Instead, use those last sprays before it’s too late to savor them.

Firmenich senior perfumer Clement Gavarry explains, “Generally, top notes like citrus, fruits, aromatics, green notes, and patchouli are most sensitive to oxidation. Another indication that perfume has expired is discoloration.” Fear not; follow our storage instructions, and your cologne should have a respectable shelf life of approximately 2 years.

a bottle of creed viking
colognereviews / instagram

FAQ

    • While you can spray cologne on your clothes, be aware that it can cause stains to some fabrics. Some fragrances have a high oil content, which can spoil materials such as silk and satin. What’s more, long-lasting colognes may also linger on clothing after washing. Should you decide to spritz garments as part of how to apply mens’ cologne, it’s better to do this before dressing while spritzing from a distance.

      • Wearing cologne daily has positive psychological effects on the wearer and those who smell the scent. Brown University adjunct professor and neuroscientist Rachel Herz, Ph.D., specializes in the psychological science of smell and recognizes fragrance’s power to affect our moods. “Scents have a very special capability of immediately triggering emotion because of where they are processed in the brain,” she says.

        Wearing a scent to the office can help you feel put-together and self-assured. Meanwhile, spritzing yourself with a sultry scent before heading out on a date can boost your confidence. Simply put, there isn’t a day or occasion where a spritz of your favorite, appropriate cologne would go amiss.

        • When it comes to how to apply cologne, our major no-no is rubbing it in. Cologne should sit on the skin’s surface and absorb. It then combines with your body’s natural oils instead of evaporating faster and altering the scent.

          Dedcool founder Carina Chaz explains, “Fragrance application can be delicate. Fragrance should sit on the skin in order to mix with your natural oils. When wrists are rubbed together, top notes will fade and evaporate.” Let’s face it; good cologne doesn’t come cheap. Rubbing the scent prevents you from experiencing the full range of top notes and progression, meaning you’re not getting the most from your scent.

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