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How To Apply Cologne Without Spray: The Complete Guide

You’ve probably got a bottle of cologne on your dresser that you’ve been spraying on — but do you know how to apply cologne without spray? If you’ve been disappointed with the intensity or longevity of a bottle of spray cologne, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about applying cologne without using the bottle’s built-in sprayer, including sections on how to choose the best scent to wear this way, where to apply your cologne, and one thing you absolutely shouldn’t do when applying cologne without spray.

After that, we’ll cover some of your most frequently asked questions about how to apply cologne without spray, including tips on pulse points and how to get your colognes to last longer. No need to wait, let’s jump right in.

Table of Contents

Step #1: Choose Your Scent

First and foremost, you’ll need to choose the fragrance that’s perfect for your style and your situation. But with a world of colognes that numbers in the thousands, how are you supposed to choose just one? We have a few suggestions.

You could go the way of choosing a cologne by a notable name brand, like choosing one of the best Thierry Mugler colognes or a more niche style, like one of the best armaf colognes for men. These are tried and true brands with legions of devoted fans, and a great place to start if you don’t know what exactly you like in a cologne.

Alternatively, think about choosing a cologne based on a season or situation. Need a great cologne to wear to parties this summer? Check out our guide to the best summer colognes for men. Or if you’re looking for a scent to wear at work, consider our article on the best office cologne for men as a jumping off point.

Step #2: Apply To Your Pulse Points

If you’ve ever watched someone apply cologne, you might remember the routine: A spritz on the base of the neck, then on the inside of each wrist, before spreading a little bit behind the ears. What’s up with that?

The trick of this maneuver is all in the pulse points, the areas of your body where your blood flow is closest to the skin. Applying cologne to these areas allows the natural aromatics to warm up slowly throughout the day, interacting with your skin chemistry to produce their best, most fragrant notes.

Even if you’re not applying with a spray nozzle, this procedure of dabbing cologne on each of the three major pulse points still applies. It’ll keep you smelling your best all day long.

Step #3: Dab (Do Not Rub!)

Let’s cover two types of colognes that you can apply without a spray: Either using a bottled cologne without its sprayer, or applying an oil cologne. If you’re looking for tips on how to apply solid cologne, check out our complete guide instead.

If you’re looking to get the most intense and long-lasting performance out of your spray cologne, you’ll want to avoid using the aerosolizing top altogether. Simply unscrew it and set it safely aside, then place your fingertip over the top of the bottle. Quickly turn the bottle upside down while keeping your finger sealed over the opening of the bottle, and then set it back down.

Now, you have a tiny bit of concentrated cologne on your fingertip, ready to apply directly to your pulse points. Resist the urge to rub this into your skin, instead just subtly dabbing it on without creating any friction. Give it just a moment, and the full cologne will absorb into your skin, ready to mingle with your natural skin chemistry as the day goes on.

Oil colognes, a concentrated form of fragrance with an oil base rather than the alcohol base of spray colognes, work in the exact same way. Follow the same directions as above with your smaller bottle of oil cologne, and you’ll be in great shape.

Should You Put Cologne On Your Neck?

Your neck is absolutely one of the best places that you can apply cologne, regardless if it’s solid cologne or spray cologne. But it’s not enough just to apply it without consideration, dabbing it all over your neck. Instead, remember your pulse points.

Your neck has plenty of veins and arteries that run to your head and brain, making it a great place to find pulse points and their matching warm skin that makes colognes smell so great. Before applying your cologne, take a minute to familiarize yourself with where you can feel your pulse most strongly in your neck, then apply to those spots in particular.

How Do You Dab Cologne?

Dabbing colognes, whether from an oil cologne bottle or a spray cologne bottle, couldn’t be easier: Just cover the opening of the bottle with your fingertip, then gently turn the bottle upside down before setting it back down. You’ll have a little oil on the end of your fingertip, ready to dab on your pulse points so you can smell great all day long.

Is Cologne Bad For Your Skin?

A little-known aspect of wearing cologne and perfume has to do with your skin — yes, your unique skin chemistry — and how it interacts with the myriad ingredients found in a fragrance. 

Depending on how dry or oily your skin is, as well as how sensitive it might be, cologne can either be completely harmless or somewhat damaging to your skin. If you see any signs of redness or irritation after applying cologne, it might be that the ingredients in that bottle don’t meld well with your skin.

Alternatively, consider using the dab method (explained above) to prevent damage that can be caused by rubbing cologne’s alcohols into your skin. It’s a much gentler way to apply cologne.

Should You Rub In Cologne?

Despite its sometimes intensely aromatic presence, cologne is actually quite a fragile substance. Even things like too much exposure to light or heat can indelibly alter the quality of a cologne for the worse.

What about rubbing cologne into your skin, though? We don’t recommend it. At best, this will decrease the longevity and complexity of the cologne by damaging its most fragile aromatics. At worst, it can lead to red, irritated, or dry skin — definitely not a good look.

Why Do You Put Cologne On Wrists?

Your wrists are one of the primary pulse points in your body, which is why they’re also one of the best places to apply cologne. Your blood flows extra close to the surface of your skin at your wrists and other pulse points, meaning that any cologne applied here will show off its best characteristics and develop complex, mingling notes while you wear it.

How Do You Apply Cologne So That It Lasts All Day?

We have two main tips for how to apply cologne so that it lasts all day:

First, go ahead and apply it to your pulse points (base of neck, wrists, and behind the ears) as outlined above. This will help the essential oils of the cologne mingle with your skin, giving it more time to show off its best notes throughout the day. This works even if you decide to travel with cologne.

Second, consider dabbing on your cologne rather than spraying it on. While spray colognes are quite convenient, the big infusion of oxygen into the composition will reduce the overall time that you’re able to smell the cologne’s aromatics on your skin. All of that lovely scent you smell in the air when you spray? That’s lost unless you dab instead of spray.

Brian has been fascinated with fragrances since his 8th birthday, when his Dad gifted him a bottle of Acqua di Gio. Since then, he has become a men's grooming & style aficionado who teaches men how to look sharp. Backed by personal experience, Brian's articles are known for his no-holds-barred style where he holds nothing back. You will get his real opinions on the latest men's grooming products and best practices where he reveals the best (and worst) style advice every man should know.