Fragrance 101: How to Pick a Scent, Why to Bother and The Types Available

What Fragrance to Buy?

Fragrances (often called cologne) are one of the most important parts of a persons style, but it’s also frequently overlooked. You might spend hours picking out a new shirt at the store, but then you don’t even bother to wear a fragrance. It’s complete madness.

Why Bother Wearing a Fragrance?

We know from science that smell is one of our strongest senses and it’s one of the factors that we use to decide if we like someone or not when we first meet them. Wearing a fragrance is proven to increase your attractiveness, make you appear more trustworthy and it will even boost your confidence.

Despite all of these benefits, an estimated 80% of men don’t regularly use a fragrance.

Why not? We’re not quite sure.

It might be that most men don’t understand the benefits of a fragrance or the branding could be intimidating or they might just not enjoy any of the scents they’ve tried.

What Are Fragrances?

Fragrances are developed from a mixture of raw materials which are either sourced from nature or from synthetic materials. These materials are mixed together with oils and solvents to extract the scents and to preserve them.

This leaves the creator with an extremely concentrated oil that is then diluted with alcohol and water to make it more palatable, shorter lasting and more commercially viable.

Forms of Fragrance

Fragrance is a generalized term that we use to describe what people would think of as either perfume or cologne. However, both perfume and cologne have very specific meanings and dictate a level of concentration of perfume oil within the bottle.

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Eau Fraiche - This is the most diluted version of a fragrance that you can find and it usually consists of 1-3% perfume oil, lasting for less than an hour.

Eau de Cologne (i.e. Cologne) - This is used in North America primarily to describe a masculine fragrance and is usually around 2-4% perfume oil, lasting for a couple hours.

Eau de Toilette - This is normally found between 5-15% (often on the lower end) and might last from between three to five hours.

Eau de Parfum - This type of fragrance is a little bit stronger at 15-20% and can last for five to eight hours. Eau de Parfum is generally the strongest concentration that most brands will produce and is also the best choice for most men.

Perfume - Finally, perfume is the most concentrated version at over 20%, with some being significantly higher. The strongest perfumes can last for over twenty-four hours and usually are extremely expensive.

The Life Cycle Of a Fragrance

If you’ve ever smelt somebodies fragrance throughout the day then you may have noticed that it can change and develop, having a different smell at different times. Quality fragrances are designed in this way, they develop and change as times passes.

This happens because certain scents evaporate quicker than others. These scents are roughly organized into three separate groups known as notes ; top notes, middle notes and base notes.

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The top notes evaporate the quickest, becoming noticeable almost instantly upon being sprayed. These top notes form the initial impression of the fragrance and are usually described as fresh, sharp and assertive.

Secondly, the middle notes (sometimes called heart notes) will make themselves known. They may emerge after anywhere between a couple minutes and an hour, and are primarily there to mask the initially strong and unpleasant base notes that will come next.

Generally, the base notes will begin to appear just as the middle notes are disappearing, allowing for a smooth transition into the deeper base notes. These are typically the richest scents in the fragrance, appearing after around 30-minutes and ‘grounding’ the upper notes.

Choosing a Fragrance

There are thousands of different fragrances available and this can make picking one extremely difficult, especially when many of them are expensive which can make the decision burdensome.

In general, we would recommend that most men stick to a maximum of two fragrances. Although having more is almost certainly better, the extra utility per bottle declines heavily after the first two.

Instead, picking out one or two solid bottles that are well liked can bring you almost all of the benefit possible at a fraction of the cost that aficionados end up spending.


When you’re looking at any product the first thing that you should consider is cost, if you don’t then you’ll be more likely to overspend on a product that you don’t care much for.

Set yourself a strict budget based on how much you can justify right now for a bottle that will last you six months and then be determined to stick to that budget. The great news is that there are wonderful fragrances available at all different prices ranges .

Saying that, as with anything, if you spend more then you’re more likely to find a product that you like.

You’ll find that the economics of the fragrance market are roughly similar to the fashion world, the better fragrances cost more, but you also end up paying for the brand and marketing costs.


When you’re looking at different fragrances it’s important to keep in mind how you plan to use it. If you’re going to be wearing it primarily to work then it’s likely that the ideal choice would be different than if you were only going to wear it to a nightclub.

It's important to decide where you're going to use your fragrance before you buy it based on the longevity and projection of the scent.

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Not only with the setting of your usage impact the ideal smell of your fragrance, it will also dictate the perfect longevity and projection. Longevity refers to the amount of time that you can smell it, while the projection is the distance at which is becomes noticeable.

In an office environment the projection is likely less of an issue because you may not work closely together, but on a date you need to be careful that it’s not overpowering.

Testing and Buying the Right Fragrance

In most cases it’s best to go to a store and test the fragrance before you buy it, although with online reviews and note profiles it’s much easier to buy blind.

If you do decide to test the fragrance first then ignore the pieces of paper and spray it once directly onto your skin. As the fragrance mixes with the oils on the surface of your skin is will alter the scent, allowing you to smell what it’s really going to be like.

Once you’ve sprayed it you should smell it periodically, every half-hour to every hour, to see how you enjoy the scent as it develops. If you still love it at the end of the day then go ahead and make the purchase in store or online.

Applying Your Fragrance

When you’re applying your fragrance you should first decide where to use it. The hottest parts of your body will produce more projection, while the coldest parts will have the least. This is why we usually apply to the hottest parts , because you can use less of the bottle each day.

The hottest areas on your body are your neck, shoulders, underarms and crotch. But since most of these are covered, we know the ideal locations is your upper neck, which is relatively hot and close the other peoples noses.

One mistake that you should avoid is rubbing the fragrance. Although there is some debate over this, the consensus is that rubbing the fragrance will cause faster evaporation on lower notes which can ruin the scent of the fragrance.

Instead of rubbing it on your wrists and then onto other parts of your body, spraying once or twice onto your neck will give you the ideal application.

Knowing the right amount to use is somewhat of a guessing game because it will depend on your body temperature, the fragrance itself and the place that you spray. However, it’s generally smart to use one or two sprays, anymore and you risk it becoming too strong.

On a similar note, don’t bother spraying a cloud and then walking into it. Not only will this end up with oil on your clothes, which is hard to wash out, it’s also a huge waste and isn’t as effective as spraying onto your neck.

Storing Your Bottles

Most fragrances don’t come with a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date on the bottle, but that doesn’t mean that they will last forever. In most cases you’ll notice a degradation of the scent after a few years and by a decade in the scent can be quite different.

One of the ways to increase the life of your bottles is to store them correctly. Remember, you’re storing an oil and that means that you need to avoid directly light, changes in temperature and the heat.

In most cases you can store your bottles in a medicine cabinet in your bathroom, or in a drawer in your bedroom, but don’t leave them in the sunlight. Also, ensure that you keep the air out by putting the cap on when you’re not using it.

About the author

Jack Prenter

Jack has been fascinated by fashion for decades and spent huge amounts of time researching it and becoming an expert. He's written for many well-known publications and is in the process of opening an online clothing store for men. Jack studied at the University of Nottingham and is now based out of Toronto, Canada.