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How To Apply Cologne For Maximum Effect

If you’re willing to put down your hard earned cash for a quality cologne, then you should absolutely learn how to apply cologne for maximum effect. It’s simple: To get the best bang for your buck on every cologne you wear, you have to know how (and where) to wear it.

In this guide, we’ll be sharing our years of experience in choosing and wearing colognes to get you started on how to apply cologne for maximum effect. Along the way, you’ll learn everything from where to spray cologne, whether you should spray, dab, or rub cologne on, and the answers to your most frequently asked questions about applying cologne.

Table of Contents

Where To Spray Cologne

If you’ve ever watched an experienced wearer apply cologne, you may have taken notice of their ritual: A spray at the base of the neck, then a spray on one or both wrists, before bringing the wrists together, and moving each to behind the ears. What’s up with that?

This simple ritual will apply cologne to the most effective places on the body: The pulse points. As the areas where you can most strongly feel the flow of blood through your veins, pulse points are also where your blood lies closest to the surface of the skin — subtly warming that area throughout the day, and bringing out the best qualities in any cologne you wear.

Applying cologne to the base of your neck, both wrists, and behind your ears is a great standby. Some men also enjoy spraying a bit of cologne on the center of their chest or behind their knees, two of the more uncommon pulse points.

How To Properly Apply Cologne

To properly apply cologne, you must begin with an understanding of the pulse points. Did you skip over that section above? No? Excellent — then let’s continue.

Before beginning to apply a cologne to your pulse points, consider its relative strength. Is it a light and airy summer cologne, or a thick and dense winter fragrance? If it’s a lighter cologne, you can be more liberal with your application. For stronger colognes, take a more reserved approach.

Start with just one small spray of cologne on each of the pulse points, resisting the urge to rub the cologne into your skin. The more time you give the alcohol of the fragrance to absorb into your skin, the greater its longevity will be throughout the day.

In the case of colognes that fade fairly quickly, you should consider bringing your bottle along with you. That way, by the time your base notes are fading at the end of the work day, you can reapply using the same pulse point ritual to stay smelling fresh and amazing all through the night.

How Do I Apply Cologne So It Lasts?

Tough news: The longevity of a cologne is more a product of which cologne you choose than how you apply it. Still, there are a few ways you can squeeze greater longevity, intensity, and performance out of any cologne. As follows:

  • Apply your cologne to your pulse points, as explained above.
  • Don’t rub your cologne into your skin — let it absorb slowly.
  • Use a single spray of cologne on your chest, where it will develop slowly inside your shirt.
  • Consider investing in a cologne with longer lasting base notes, such as a vetiver cologne.

Common Mistakes When Applying Cologne

Applying fine fragrances may not be as easy as you first thought. Here’s a few mistakes we see guys make all the time when applying colognes, wasting their time and money while not getting the best out of their fragrances:

  • Not applying cologne to your pulse points, as outlined above.
  • Rubbing your cologne into your skin, releasing its aromatics too early.
  • Spraying cologne on your clothes rather than your skin.
  • Expecting too much out of an inexpensive cologne.
  • Spraying too much cologne into the air around you, rather than onto your body.

Avoid those and stick to the guidelines in the sections above, and you’ll get the best out of each fragrance you wear.

How To Choose The Best Cologne For You

Choosing a cologne is a very personal thing, and one in which you’ll have to lean heavily on your own style and taste to determine what’s best. Thankfully, we have some resources that may be of help.

Your first stop should be our guide to finding your signature scent, where we detail our streamlined 4-step process for developing and testing a scent profile for yourself. When you’re finished here, you’ll be generally acquainted with all the fragrance terminology you need to proceed.

After that, go ahead and check out our article on how to pick a cologne for any situation. This will take you beyond the cologne you use for your daily wear, and into developing a collection of colognes that prepares you for any situation.

Once you’ve acquainted yourself with both of those articles, it’s time to start getting specific: Take a look at our full list of cologne guides to explore the wide world of fragrance possibilities.

How To Apply Cologne For Maximum Effect: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do You Apply Cologne On Clothes Or Skin?

Quick question: Do you want to smell good, or do you want your clothes to smell good? If you have any intentions of getting undressed, then your colognes to get laid should be on your skin — not on your clothes.

This doesn’t paint a full picture of all the reasons you might wear a cologne, though. Even if you’re looking for the best cologne to wear to the office, spraying it on your skin will give it greater longevity and complexity than just spraying it on your clothes. Apply a cologne to your skin, and your natural body chemistry will interact with the scent in surprising and pleasant ways.

How Do I Make My Cologne Smell Strong?

If you want a strong smelling cologne, the first step to take is to pick the right cologne. Try as you might, you’ll never get a strong scent from a light, airy, or citrus cologne — instead, reach for a bottle that contains ingredients known for their intensity, like:

  • Agarwood, also known as oud, is legendary in the fragrance world for its intensity and longevity. Check out our guide to the best oud colognes for men to find a brand that suits your style.
  • The best oriental colognes are made with loads of strong, exotic aromatics, making them an intriguing alternative to more traditional strong colognes.
  • Amouage makes their colognes in an ancient Arabian style that’s incredibly powerful. Wear any of the best Amouage colognes for men, and you’ll have no trouble making them smell quite strong.

Should I Wear Cologne Everyday?

In our opinion, cologne deserves to become a part of every man’s daily care routine. Just as you brush your teeth, take a shower, and put on deodorant, you should consider wearing cologne an essential part of your hygiene and personal care.

Of course, you don’t have to wear cologne every day. But once you find a fragrance that you really love, why would you stop wearing it? Just be sure to order another bottle when you’re getting low on the first, and you’ll be able to smell great every single day.

Is Wearing Cologne Bad For You?

Sometimes, guys worry that applying cologne will be bad for their skin. After all, cologne is made with an alcohol base — and it’s not like you’d want to shower in vodka every day, right?

The bottom line, however, is that cologne is not bad for your skin except in extreme situations. The small amount of alcohol that’s applied to your skin won’t cause you any harm unless you happen to be allergic to one of the ingredients in the cologne’s composition. 

In any instance where your skin gets red or irritated after applying cologne, just stop doing it. That cologne obviously doesn’t agree with your skin chemistry. But if you don’t notice any redness, discoloration, or irritation, then your cologne isn’t bad for you at all.

Is 3 Sprays Of Cologne Too Much?

How much cologne is too much? It depends entirely on the context.

For example: An inexpensive cologne with a short duration and weak intensity can be applied liberally without fear, since it will evaporate quickly and leave no fragrance trail in its wake. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, applying three sprays of an exceptionally long lasting cologne might leave you walking in a cloud of aromatics all day long. With expensive, high quality colognes, we always recommend applying the smallest amount possible at first, waiting a few hours, and then applying more if necessary.

How Do I Apply Cologne For School?

The same rules for applying cologne in everyday life are pertinent for how to apply cologne for school: Start with the smallest amount you can use, apply it to your pulse points, don’t rub it in, and give it plenty of time to develop.

If you’re looking for more specific advice on which colognes to wear at school, please check out our guides to the best colognes for college guys and the best colognes for teens. In them, we detail exactly how young men can choose their first cologne, and give helpful tips for how to progress into finer fragrances from there.

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.