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How to Wear Cologne: The Best Way to Apply Fragrances

three bottles of cologne on light blue background with text reading "how to wear cologne: the best places to spray cologne"

The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Applying Cologne

A lot of things can go wrong when you step into a crowded elevator.

Awkward small talk, an overly enthusiastic pet, someone trailing gas or an even worse assault on your nose, a guy wearing way too much cologne. You know the kind of bro we’re talking about.

And what can you do but grimace as the pungent cloud of scent overwhelm your sinuses and gasp for air as the steel doors of your olfactory confinement finally open, all unbeknownst to the nose-blind offender.

Don’t be that guy.    

Learning how to wear cologne is a simple yet important lesson in life, and it’s something many men don’t bother to get right. We’re here to help ensure you never commit a scented sin with dos and don’ts for how to wear your cologne properly.

Do: Prep Your Skin

shower head with water coming out and green tiles

Putting on cologne doesn’t start with the spritz, it requires some minor prep work beforehand. Don’t worry, these prerequisites are part of most morning routines.

Start by taking a nice, hot shower to cleanse your body of any foreign odors that might compete with your fragrance. Dry, flaky skin also prohibits absorption, steam, and warm water will help power over the course of the day. When you’re fully soaked, scrubbed, scoured and sterilized, towel off to remove any lingering dampness. This is the best time to apply your cologne for max effectiveness.

Don’t: Mix Fragrances

three different cologne bottles on a light blue background

Layers are great for birthday cakes and your winter wardrobe, but they can quickly lead you astray when it comes to fragrance. Avoid using other strongly-scented versions of these products – like body wash, soap, lotion, aftershave, beard oil, and deodorant – when you plan to wear cologne. Mixing and matching smells can lead to an unpleasant or confusing clash, so go with neutral, unscented or lightly scented versions of these products for your routine. Note that single dimension scents can benefit from layering but for the purposes of this guide, we’re going to assume you’re wearing the more popular colognes out there that are almost always already layered.

Do: Know How Many Sprays of Cologne To Use

man with stink line and other people are leaning away from him

There’s a saying “Fragrance should be discovered, not announced.” We agree. Only those in close proximity should be able to smell your cologne, and even then, it should only be a pleasant hint. It should never feel like a roundhouse kick to the nose.

Start with a light application and build up if needed. After all, when deciding how many sprays of cologne to use, remember: you can always add, but you can’t remove.

Don’t: Splash Recklessly

person tipping a cologne bottle onto two fingers

If your favorite fragrance comes in a splash bottle, resist the urge to take it literally. Splashing will lead to overapplication and is a surefire way to overdo it. Instead, press a clean finger over the opening of the bottle and gently tip it over. Then, dab onto any of the body parts described above — simple.

Do: Learn The Best Places to Apply Cologne

two fingers against the pulse point on a neck and a person with two fingers behind the eartwo fingers on inside wrist and two fingers on the inner elbow

The best places to apply cologne are at your pulse points. Pulse points are certain areas of the body that give off more heat, which helps spread your scent continuously throughout the day. To locate them, find spots where you can feel your heartbeat (your neck, your wrists, the inner elbow, below your ears, etc). These warm areas are the best places to spray cologne.

You may also have heard the popular theory that cologne should be applied where it can be smelled by someone cozied up close to you. However, it’s important to reference prior advice here and build up slowly, don’t spray every pulse point at the same time. Start with one, and then, as you learn the scent, expand to two or three spots max.

Don’t: Apply Directly to Clothing

person wearing a suit and spraying cologne with a red x on top

For maximum effect, your cologne should mingle with the natural oils on your skin. The perfumers who created the scent intended it that way and the interaction produces a scent that is more natural and organic than if the cologne were sprayed on a tester strip or your clothing. The ingredients in cologne can also stain certain delicate fabrics so directly on the skin is always best.

Do: Spritz From A Distance

person spraying cologne on wrist

If you’re wearing spray-on cologne (as opposed to the solid colognes that are starting to become popular), hold the bottle away from your body when you apply, this gives the liquid a chance to spread into a mist and lightly blanket your skin. Spray too close and you’ll end up with a concentrated puddle of product that risks dripping down your skin and soaking your clothes. As a general rule, aim to spritz somewhere between three to six inches away from your body.

Don’t: Spray And Walk

hand spraying cologne into the air with red x on top

Strolling through a cologne cloud may seem like a solid strategy for ensuring your scent is not overpowering, but this is particularly wasteful. When you use the spray and walk methodology, most of the cologne will end up on the floor instead of you. Moreso, what does manage to land on your body will miss the strategic spritz spots we’ve mentioned.

Do: Top Up With Caution

person wearing a shirt and tie spraying cologne on wrist

Throughout the day, your scent will inevitably weaken. You may refresh your cologne during the second half of the day if it has dissipated but proceed with caution. Just because you can’t smell it anymore doesn’t mean everyone else can’t. You might think the scent has worn off when in fact you’ve just grown used to it, so keep that in mind when you reapply. If you do choose to touch-up your scent, don’t apply the same amount that would at the beginning of the day. Instead, choose only one or two couple pulse points and apply conservatively.  

Don’t: Rub It In

person applying cologne with two fingers on the wrist

After you’ve applied your cologne, don’t rub it into your skin. Cologne is not a moisturizer. Aggressively massaging it in doesn’t help it soak into your skin. Instead, rubbing cologne can break down its molecular structure, which can make the fragrance weaker or corrupt the scent. Just spray and lightly dab.

Smelling good is one thing, but looking good is another — we’ve got you covered. Make sure to subscribe to The Compass below for up to date advice on all things menswear so you can feel confident that you’re looking your absolute best.

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5 thoughts on “How to Wear Cologne: The Best Way to Apply Fragrances”

  1. Riley Watts says:

    Very help full for my first time using. Thanks!

  2. James Lawrence Scott says:

    This was very informative and helpful ThankU

  3. Donald Muniz says:

    I remember my Dad applying Old Spice or Aqua Velva after his shave in preparation for Church on Sunday Morning. He’d trim his moustache with a Gem Razor Blade by hand meticulously. A Millman by trade, from a poor upbringing, he discovered an Armani Outlet in San Francisco. A Sharp Dressed Man. Smelled good with out a Designer Fragrance. Old School splash on both hand then onto his face. He’s 91 now, Still Strong and Handsome a Latin Gentleman as ever was.

  4. Darrius Thompson says:

    Yes very informative and you guys hit on a few things i thought were right but turns out they were completely wrong. Good job!

  5. Stan Rydelek says:

    Nice job!

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