Shopping for colognes can be hard on your nose, what with so many options available. And unless you’re familiar with French, you can be excused for not knowing the difference between eau de toilette and eau de parfum. Still, should you do run into any trouble, here’s a guide to make things easier.
Types of cologne
Eau de Cologne (EDC) – Possesses a very light concentration (5% to 10%) of fragrance along with a high concentration of alcohol. Can work as a skin freshener. Tends to come packaged in larger quantities in expectation of higher usage. Typically lasts for up to two hours.
Eau de Toilette (EDT) – The middleman of the four, eau de toilette has a concentration level of between 8% and 15%, lasting between two to three hours. Traditionally regarded as a “day” fragrance.
Eau de Parfum (EDP) – Moving up a step brings us to eau de parfum, which has a higher oil concentration of 15% or more. Can last four to five hours. Usually worn at night or for special occasions.
Parfum/Extrait de Parfum – Most parfums have a concentration of 20% to 30%, but there are some that go as high as 40%. This category of fragrances lasts the longest: up to six hours. Since they come with the least amount of alcohol, they can be a better choice for those with sensitive skin.
Types of scents
“Scents are generally classified under six olfactory families,” says Taylan Torin, founder of The Lab Fragrances. “Perfumes may belong to one of these classes or be a combination of two or more of them.”
Floral – Flowery fragrances that include rose and jasmine.
Fruity – Scents featuring the aromas of fruits other than citrus, such as peach or blackcurrant.
Gourmand – Notes of vanilla and tonic bean convey an “edible” quality to such fragrances.
Green – Evokes the smell of freshly cut grass and cucumber.
Citrusy – Fragrances that carry a freshening effect, much like how a freshly peeled orange would smell.
Aquatic – Newcomers in perfume history, these represent a clean smell reminiscent of the ocean.
There are a few immediate things to look out for when shopping for a cologne. “A pleasing smell, absence of unwanted accords (from alcohol or unbalanced base notes), safety for personal use and the environment, long-lasting, and reliable packaging are the main things to keep in mind,” says Taylan.
When shopping, you’ll probably end up with a couple of fragrances that appeal to your senses. Don’t buy them right away, as you need to know how the cologne interacts with your individual body chemistry. What you smell out of the bottle are the high or immediate notes of the fragrance. When applied to the body, the cologne breaks down over time to reveal the middle notes. These are the defining smells of the scent as they’re what will remain with you over the course of the day.
To make things easier on yourself, narrow your choices down to your top two using paper testers. Spritz one option on your left wrist and the other on your right, and wait for 15 minutes to see how it smells on you. If you want to be doubly sure, revisit the scent again in an hour to see how well it has settled on you.
Cologne should be applied around areas of the body known as pulse points. Doing so will allow your body’s natural heat to activate and distribute the scent. The most common pulse points are the wrists, behind the ears and at the base of the neck. Johanna Monange, founder and CEO of Maison 21G, recommends different areas of application depending on the cologne type. “EDCs can be applied on the chest and/or face as they’re meant to provide a burst of freshness. EDTs and EDPs are best used on areas like the neck and wrist. This is especially the case for EDPs, as they tend to be more luxurious and warrants optimal exposure.”
Most colognes today are dispersed via an atomiser, so a spritz is all it takes. On the off chance that it uses a roller ball, be sure to dab instead of rubbing it in. This will allow you to preserve the high notes of the fragrance. “If you have long hair, try to avoid applying your fragrance at the back of the ear. Your hair can end up masking the fragrance, which would be a waste,” adds Johanna.
When it comes to storing your colognes, it helps to think of them as fresh produce. In other words, avoid directly exposing them to heat, light and oxygen. You may have heard about storing your colognes in the fridge for maximum longevity, but that could possibly lead to health issues. “Fragrances contain natural or synthetic volatile molecules not intended for consumption and we do not want them to contaminate your food. Remember that 100% natural grapefruit essential oil is actually not the same thing as grapefruit, and can be seriously hazardous and harmful if consumed,” warns Taylan.
What about solid colognes?
Non-liquid colognes are something of a recent innovation. Instead of a bottle, these colognes are stored as solid blocks in small travel-friendly cases. The immediate benefit to this is the economy of space and the elimination of leakage. But is it as good as the traditional stuff? “There are advantages and disadvantages,” says Taylan. “The immediate advantage is the lack of alcohol. There’s no issue of the stinging alcohol smell and the drying effect of alcohol on skin. But because of this, you lose the nice sillage (waft) you would create around you within the room. Think of taking the lift after a person with a wonderful cologne just left. Though the person is not there, his/her smell will still be in the air for you to enjoy. That wouldn’t be the same if this person wore solid cologne.”
“One other advantage is longevity. Because there is not enough propagation, the fragrance is kept longer on your skin,” Taylan adds. “Also wax, which is a great fragrance encapsulator, helps to bolster this effect. So even if your colleague at the next desk may not be aware of your scent, you still experience its intensity on your wrist after five hours.”
Like ties and pocket squares, colognes are a great way to express your identity. However, they should also be treated as a reflection of your personality. After all, it would be pretty odd for a 16-year-old boy to be wearing Old Spice. Go with what resonates with you on an emotional level, and you might even find yourself a signature scent.