woman applying perfume on her wrist

Colognes, like perfumes, are scents produced as oils or sprays. They are applied to the skin, particularly the pulse points such as the wrists and sides of the neck, where body heat causes them to warm and diffuse. Colognes are infused with accents that produce a distinct odor. They have a limited shelf life and should be purchased and consumed with care. The difference between cheap and expensive fragrances is like rock guitar versus classical violin.


Individual colognes are composed of signature ingredients and scent combinations. Most colognes start with a uniform base, including the chemical properties and essential oils that cling to the skin. There are a few scents or "notes" that provide the foundations of smell, such as musks, citruses, woods like oaks, powders, leathers, fruits and florals.

Not every fragrance suits everyone or every occasion. Colognes have an effect on brain chemistry, individual association and physical perception all at once. At best, their mental and physical effects are harmoniously balanced. One cologne has an erotic effect, another is simply sophisticated. Cinnamon is relaxing, while citrus is stimulating. One personality might suit bold sandalwood, while another suits the gentle peony flower.

Exotic spices and musks and leathers are heavier and better suited to winter and masculine personas. Light citrus is good for summer, carefree occasions and casual days. Florals are good for spring, very fair skin and contemplative atmospheres. You can test the different types at a cologne counter and get help. Try some on, let it sit and walk around for a while. See how it blends with your own smell.


Cologne is sensual and often sophisticated. Fragrances are painstakingly developed and tested by a team of trained professionals. The creation of cologne is an alchemical process considered by many as a delicate art form. As such, cologne selection is culturally regarded as an emblem of personal taste. People will come to associate you with the smell you choose.

Some companies try to market cologne as an experience or idea, rather than just a smell. Ad campaigns package colognes as a lifestyle or fashion choice, in part because it is a luxury item. One cologne might be designed specifically to attract a lover, for example, and is therefore marketed as alluring, tempting or dangerous. Another might have a pleasing light scent geared toward a feeling of freshness, possibility and well-being. Another might embody the archetype of the rugged woodsman.


Cheap colognes tend to be heavily alcohol-based and scented with pre-made artificial fragrance. The odor is potent, heavy and simple. Wearing cheap cologne is like wearing a stamp of smell that seldom changes. For this reason, many cheap colognes are instantly recognizable. As such colognes are affordable, they are often purchased for daily use.

Expensive colognes tend to be subtle, well-crafted and distinct. Their fragrances are carefully tailored and complex. Expensive colognes are composed of natural ingredients, infusions and oils that are better suited to the body chemistry than overpowering alcohols and artificial fragrances. They change and evolve throughout the day and on the wearer. Overall, their quality is markedly superior.


Colognes can be custom-made at a perfumery or purchased pre-packaged in brand form. Designer brands are becoming more common, from exclusively cologne producing companies, fashion designers and celebrity labels. They are widely available at department stores and drug stores.

Colognes range widely in cost, depending on the number of ounces or size, the quality of the ingredients and the status associated with the name. Cheap colognes can be purchased for less than 20 dollars and up to around 70 dollars, whereas expensive colognes tend to range from 80 dollars for a small bottle up to hundreds of dollars.

Cologne has a short shelf life, ranging from six to 18 months on average. Cheaper cologne often goes bad sooner, developing a strong alcoholic odor or "flat" fragrance. Expensive cologne is a better investment for those who take colognes seriously: aficionados, collectors and the elite. For everyone else, cheap cologne--or even better, mid-range designer cologne--is an affordable alternative. Buying cheaply also allows you to play around with different styles, scents and effects.


Colognes should be applied sparingly, as one or two dabs or sprays. Sprays should be misted overhead, rather than directly on the skin. The cologne will settle a few minutes after application. Once it blends with your own unique body chemistry, a slightly new odor will be created. In this sense, every cologne is one of a kind, as no two wearers of the same fragrance will produce the same scent. The oils can stain your clothes, so avoid getting it on fabrics.

The trick is to create a whisper or invitation. Proper application offers just a hint of a smell, like a secret. This creates a pleasant perception for both the wearer and others. Only those who can actually press their nose to the skin should be able to clearly detect the most profound notes. When you leave or enter the room, or as the air stirs in a breeze, your cologne will temporarily make its presence known. It should not dominate or be ever-present in a way that is off-putting.

Cologne will fade throughout the day and may be applied in the morning, at midday and for evening. In most cases, however, it does not need to be reapplied. Once will do it. The body's natural warmth fluctuates throughout the day, and periodically, little bursts of heat will reach your pulse points causing the cologne to diffuse again. With expensive colognes, this smell will change subtly as the day goes on. With cheap colognes, it will be more uniform or homogenous.


Many people are allergic to colognes in general. In some places, laws prevent their use in public spaces. Cheap colognes tend to be more offensive, as they have the powerful effect of air fresheners or cleaning supplies. They are often over-applied by the wearer and as such, can be offensive to others.

Cheap cologne can also irritate the skin, leading to a rash. This is especially true when the wearer sweats or has dermal sensitivity. Cheap colognes should not be worn to the office or to sporting events for this reason, and ought to be avoided at nightclubs where air circulation is poor.


Colognes can be complemented by other smells and fragrances. Deodorants, shower gels and aftershaves are all examples of attendant odors. If you use other scented products, it is best to do so sparingly, and to choose ones that compliment your cologne. Many brands of cologne, especially designer brands, now offer gels and washes in the same line. This helps to create olfactory stability and avoids confusion on the part of the consumer.