A Complete Guide To Men’s Fragrances, Colognes & Aftershaves
The world of fragrances is a vast one, to say the least, and it can be completely overwhelming to try and navigate all of the different types of fragrances, scents, notes, and more. Long gone are the days of Axe body spray and cheap drugstore options, as the scent you choose can not only make a lasting impression but can totally become part of your unique aesthetic. From the different types of fragrances to fragrance families and how to choose the best scent for you, check out the complete guide to men’s fragrances for everything you need to know about colognes, aftershaves, and more.
The Different Types of Fragrances
- Aftershave: As the name suggests, an aftershave is a liquid, gel, oil, or other substance used after you shave, and its purpose is actually to protect your skin. When you shave, you leave behind a bunch of tiny little cuts that can easily become infected; an aftershave helps disinfect those tiny cuts and helps kill bacteria and/or other toxins that may be on your face. Alcohol-based aftershaves notoriously sting after applying them because they act as a disinfectant – think a low-alcohol hand sanitizer for your face – but a more natural aftershave, like one made with jojoba oil or coconut oil, will give you the benefits of a traditional aftershave while acting as a moisturizer.
- Eau Fraiche: The term “Eau Fraiche” is translated to “freshwater,” which makes sense considering it contains the lowest amount of perfume oil in a fragrance – typically, 1-3% – and is diluted mostly with water and a bit of alcohol. This type of fragrance usually stays on the skin for about one to two hours as well and is considered somewhat of a “lightweight” in the fragrance world.
- Eau De Cologne: This type of fragrance is a bit stronger than Eau Fraiche, as it typically features a concentration of 2-4% perfume oil dissolved mostly in alcohol with a bit of water. An eau de cologne typically lasts for about two to four hours on the skin, and because of its light and balanced scent, it’s an excellent choice for a summer or warm weather fragrance.
- Eau De Toilette: An eau de toilette is a type of fragrance that usually has anywhere from 5-15% oil concentration, and will typically last for about three to four hours, making it the perfect type of fragrance to wear to the office, a business meeting, or to an upscale daytime event.
- Eau De Parfum: This type of fragrance contains about 15-20% of pure perfume essence, meaning that it will typically last anywhere from four to five hours, and will often cost twice as much as an eau de toilette.
- Parfum: A parfum is the strongest in the fragrance family, containing anywhere from 20-30% oil along with a mixer like water and/or alcohol.
The Different Types of Fragrance Families
- Chypre: Characterized by a woodsy-mossy base, often contains leather, fruity, and floral notes, and usually has a rich, lingering scent. Considered to be one of the most sophisticated and well-rounded scents in the fragrance world.
- Citrus: Classified as energetic, fresh, and light, and includes scents like orange, bergamot, lemon, tangerine, and grapefruit, and can also have aromatic and spicy notes.
- Floral: Considered the most feminine of scents for men, this fragrance often includes iris, violet, freesia, jasmine, and rose, along with musky or woodsy scents like cedar, patchouli, and sandalwood.
- Leather: Notes in the leather family, most of which are synthetic, include smoke, wood, honey, resins, tobacco, and wood.
- Oriental: These scents are often considered very rich, sensual, and opulent, and include notes of amber, resin, spices, and tobacco, and make for excellent nighttime scents.
- Aromatic: Characterized by fresh herbal notes like rosemary, thyme, lavender, or tarragon, and often have a woodsy feel to them.
- Woody: Warm notes like vanilla, amber, cinnamon, or musk mixed with opulent notes of sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, or vetiver; these scents are usually equal parts comforting and seductive.
- Fougere: Considered the “greenest” of all fragrances families, and typically features aromatic scents with notes of lavender, oakmoss, cumarin, and geranium.
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The Fragrance Life Cycle
- Top Notes: The top note of a fragrance is the first note you smell directly after you apply it on the skin, and typically lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to about two hours. Some common top notes include light floral scents, powdery scents, aquatic scents, and fruity or herbaceous scents. Top notes are a key component of a fragrance because they give off the first impression of the scent.
- Middle Notes: Used interchangeably with “heart notes” or “medium notes,” the middle notes become more noticeable once the top notes evaporate from the skin. Typically, middle notes are familiar and soft and last anywhere from three to four hours on the skin. Some common middle notes include heavier floral scents like rose or jasmine, spicy scents like cumin or clove, and green scents like grass.
- Base Notes: Think of base notes as the soul of a fragrance. Base notes start to become identifiable once the top notes have completely worn off and the middle notes are about halfway through their scent lifecycle, and typically last anywhere from five to 10 hours. Some common base notes include sandalwood, moss, vanilla, tobacco, leather, vetiver, amber, and musk.
How To Choose the Right Fragrance for You
The good thing about choosing the right fragrance for you is that you are the one who ultimately decides what feels right for you and what doesn’t. If you’re not into floral scents, then you don’t have to wear a floral scent, and if you want to smell like you were smoking cigars in an old library while sitting in a leather chair and sipping cognac, then you totally can. There are a few things to keep in mind, though, when it comes to picking out the perfect fragrance for you:
- Occasion: It’s important to think about the occasion or event in which you are going to wear your fragrance. If you’re heading to the office, a heavy and seductive scent might not be the best idea, especially if you’re in close quarters with your coworkers all day – no need to overwhelm them with your scent. However, if you’re going on a date, going to a nighttime wedding, or plan on hanging out in a smoky lounge listening to jazz all night, then you can totally get away with wearing something a little heavier.
- Season: It’s a good idea to save your heavier and/or warmer smelling scents, like anything with woody notes, notes of amber, leather, vanilla, sandalwood, etc. for autumn and winter. On the flip side, during the spring and summer, you should opt for something a bit lighter, like a floral or citrus scent, or anything with aquatic or fresh notes.
- Try in store: The fact of the matter is, you can read all the fragrance reviews you want to online, but you’ll never truly know how a fragrance smells on your skin until you try it on in store to see how it reacts with your unique body chemistry.
Where To Apply Fragrance
Select one or two areas to apply your fragrance, and be sure to apply it on clean skin out of the shower. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t rub your fragrance in, and it’s a total waste to do that whole “spray a cologne cloud” and walk through it. Some of the areas to spritz your fragrance on include behind the ear, on the neck, shoulders, chest, inner elbow, forearm, and wrist.
Hopefully, this little guide to fragrances, colognes, and aftershave has been helpful and will enable you to make the right choice when it comes to choosing your scent.
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