Most people assume the longevity of cologne depends on the quality of the fragrance. The quality of the ingredients plays a role, but so does the type of cologne it is, as well as how it is applied. Technically speaking, perfume will easily last up to a full day if you put your nose directly on the applied surface, but the question really is how to ensure it continues to smell at a distance. In short, the answer is: its composition, your skin chemistry, the environment conditions, and how it is applied and stored.
The Composition of Perfume
Certain types of scents have more natural longevity than others. For example, woody, oriental, and leather notes last longer than floral, green, and aquatic notes. Citrus notes in particular fade the quickest because citrus blends are made with essential oils that evaporate rapidly. Layering notes of lavender, petitgrain, vetiver, cedar or other woodsy notes can help, in particular if accompanied by notes of musks. These less volatile scents can lend longevity to the citrus notes. On the other hand, oriental fragrances can retain a presence on your skin even after you shower because they have heavier molecules such as vanilla, sandalwood, patchouly, and ambers.
There is another factor that is equally as important in determining how long a cologne will last. That is its fragrance concentration. Concentration ranges from After Shave with 1% concentration to Parfum with 30% concentration. Typically After Shave fades after about an hour, while Parfum can last at least 12. In our experience, Eau de Parfum with 15%-20% concentration provides the ideal balance between longevity and subtlety.
The scent of perfume also develops throughout the day. In the first 30 minutes, the top notes will dominate, while in the following 1 to 3 hours the middles notes begin to shine through, and finally at four hours, the base notes of a fragrance will carry you through the rest of the day. Therefore, when we speak about longevity we are often indirectly speaking about the longevity of the base notes under ideal conditions, since those base notes are known as the ‘fixatives’. These essential oils are particularly long-lasting. Common examples include natural fragrances such as musk, genet, castoreum, resin, benzoin, vetiver, as well as other synthetic compounds chosen in part for their high boiling point.
Skin Chemistry and Environmental Conditions
The external environment can also have a measurable effect on the longevity of your favorite cologne. Perfumes last longer in colder climates than they do on a hot summer day when our skin is more likely to sweat. Luckily, lighter and citrusy scents typical of summer fragrances react well to perspiration, while heavier notes more suitable for winter such as musk and wood don’t mix as well. Your favorite scent is also more likely to last longer on a humid and rainy day, than on dry weather because it evaporates more quickly. In the same way, if your skin is dry, fragrance oils evaporate more easily than if you have oiler skin.
How to Apply Cologne the Right Way
Where you spray on cologne also makes a difference. Cologne tends to last longer on clothes than on our skin, just make sure it’s not colored so the cologne won’t stain your clothes. Wool, cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics stand out in particular. This is also partly why cologne lasts longer in colder weather when we are bundled up - innerware, scarfs, collars, cuffs retain scent particularly well. Alternatively, you can simply spray your favourite cologne in your closet so all of your clothes will take on a hint of its scent. Placing some tissue paper or cotton balls sprayed with yourfavourite scent is also a great way to lend your clothes a long lasting scent.
Naturally, we also want to apply our colognes directly onto ourselves. For perfect results, shower to naturally hydrate and moisten your skin before spraying cologne, wait a few minutes to allow the scent to dry and lock onto your skin before getting dressed to prevent the essential oils from rubbing off. For additional longevity, apply an unscented lotion before spraying cologne. Hydrated and non-dry skin will hold the essential oils longer.
Although moisture and oils are a fragrance best friends, friction is not. That means that rubbing your wrists together is not a good idea if you want your cologne to last longer. Instead, spray and gently dab your cologne in body pulse points, such as your chest, wrists, neck, and even your ankles. The body heat in these areas will help to diffuse the fragrance. This is also a better approach than spraying the cologne in the air and walking through it, which typically just leads to waste and short-lasting results.
Taking good care of yourfavourite scents is also important. High humidity and damp environments will weaken essential oils while in the bottle, so don’t store your cologne in the bathroom. Find a cool and dry place and keep them away from direct sunlight. Keeping them inside the original box can be an option too.
A final piece of advice, keep in mind that our nose slowly habituates to everyday scents and this affects our perception of how strong our cologne really is to others. Be mindful of how much cologne you apply and aim to be consistent.
P.s. Historically, men’s perfumes have typically been Eau de Cologne (2% - 5%), while women’s perfume has tended to have higher concentrations. This is why we have associated cologne to men’s perfume. This association is technically a misnomer but it serves a practical purpose of distinguishing the intended audience for the perfume so we have chosen to adopt the use this term in the colloquial sense.