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How Long Does Cologne Last On Skin?

Self-conducted sniff tests aren’t always that reliable, so when it comes to answering “how long does cologne last on skin,” lots of guys are in the dark. Worst of all, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

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Is It Safe To Put Cologne On Skin?

Not only is it safe to apply cologne to your skin, but perfumes and colognes are actually designed to be applied to your skin.

Something special happens when your cologne meets the oils on your skin. The two get along like old friends, and your natural oils hold and preserve the cologne’s scent.

If you do experience any rashes or itchiness from your cologne, it’s likely one of two root causes: either you’ve put something on your skin that you didn’t realize you were allergic to, or you’re especially sensitive to the artificial fragrances in lots of colognes.

The hard thing about colognes is that they don’t have to list the types of “fragrances” they’re including in their products. That’s considered a trade secret…which makes sense, but also makes it difficult to figure out what ingredient your skin doesn’t like.

For those of us with sensitive skin, one thing you can do to minimize outbreaks is go with an all-natural cologne that lists the majority of its ingredients. If you see the word “fragrances” or “parfum” on the label, be wary. The more transparent a cologne is with its ingredients, the less likely you are to mess up your skin (or, at least, if you do get rashy, you can pinpoint the offending ingredient).

But really, cologne-caused rashes and outbreaks are rare. For the vast majority of guys, applying spray or solid cologne to your skin is safe, more effective, and better smelling.

How Long Does Cologne Last On Skin?

Cologne is fickle. Some bottles last for 24 hours. Other colognes last for 3 to 12 hours. It varies widely from brand to brand and scent to scent. Even your skin type can change the answer.

One rule of thumb is that lighter, citrus-based scents won’t last as long as sweet, musky scents. That’s partially because of the cologne’s particle size. Those sweet/musky scents have larger particles that linger on the skin.

We mentioned before that the oils on your skin also preserve your cologne scent. Hence, people with oilier skin and hair tend to make their colognes last longer (it’s a gruesome trade off).

Colognes that are more concentrated (“smellier”) are also known to last longer, but don’t necessarily rely on that. The cologne world is constantly locked in debate as to whether higher concentrations just smell stronger when you apply them, or whether they actually stay on your skin for a longer period of time.

My advice is to always choose to re-apply rather than over-apply. If your cologne is the type to wear off quickly, don’t apply more in the morning. Just give yourself an extra spritz at lunch. That way your coworkers don’t have to endure an especially pungent morning smell.

And, remember, YOU MIGHT BE GOING NOSE-BLIND TO YOUR COLOGNE THROUGHOUT THE DAY. It’s not that your cologne isn’t working. It’s that you’ve gotten used to the scent, so you can’t smell it anymore.

Ask one of your homies or a loved one to help you out with a sniff test if you’re unsure.

How Long Does Cologne Last On Clothes?

The higher-quality your cologne, the longer it will last on your clothing. Most experts say that cologne will last anywhere from one to seven days on clothes. The cheaper the scent, the faster it will wear off.

But before you go hosing your clothes down with your favorite scents, remember that the odor will be much more prominent if you apply it to your clothing instead of your skin, and that’s not always a good thing. You really don’t want people to be able to smell you coming.

Colognes can also stain. If you’re ardent about putting a cologne on your clothes, especially without spray, test it somewhere discreet, or first use it on another item of clothing that you don’t care about.

You can treat cologne stains with diluted white vinegar, clothing detergent, or baking soda. And if you realize that you’ve made a mistake by scenting up your clothing, it should wash off easily when you launder it.

Does Cologne Last Longer On Skin Or Clothes?

Cologne will last longer if you apply it to your clothing, but that doesn’t mean you should apply it to your clothing.

Think of it this way: if you apply cologne to your clothes, everyone within a five foot radius has a solid chance of being able to smell you. If you apply cologne to your skin, only those people who breach the one to two foot bubble will catch a whiff. 

Really, it’s a public service to apply your cologne to your skin rather than your clothing. Not everyone wants to smell you, and those who do need to make it to the inner circle to have that privilege.

How To Make Cologne Last Longer On Skin

To make your cologne last longer on your skin, think oily.

Apply a moisturizer before you cologne it up. Let your natural oils do the one thing they’re good at (holding a scent). And don’t try to rub your cologne in. Cologne is meant to sit on top of your skin and mingle with those oils. It will evaporate faster if you rub it in.

You can also try scent matching. Scent matching is a personal favorite of mine. When you’re in the market for a soap, lotion, deodorant, or any other scented product, choose your signature smell and stick with it. All those hygiene items can work together to keep you smelling fresh.

If you’re worried that your cologne isn’t lasting long enough, have a friend do a sniff test before you reapply. It’s often hard to accurately smell yourself.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.