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Do You Spray Cologne On Your Skin Or Clothes?

Fragrances seem simple enough, but it often comes as a surprise when people find out there’s a right way to apply them. The specific question is, do you spray cologne on your skin or your clothes?

In general, cologne should be applied to the skin and not the clothes. It emanates more effectively from the skin and the skin will also allow the base notes to properly come through. Colognes can also stain clothes, particularly those with a high oil concentration.

Although that’s the gist, there’s definitely more to it.

Let’s talk through the main reasons why it’s usually better to apply cologne to your skin and not your clothes. Afterward, we can go through a few exceptions as well.

6 Reasons Why You Should Spray Cologne On Your Skin

It’s the little details like this that make all of the difference. You may well find that the same cologne you might have been spraying on your clothes all this time, smells so much better with this one simple change.

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1. It Radiates Better From Skin

Colognes radiate and emanate better off of the skin than it does off of clothes.

The key reason for this is body warmth. It’s why you always hear people telling you to apply cologne to the “pulse points”.

These are parts of the body that are typically warmer and therefore more likely to effectively emanate the cologne you’ve applied.

Examples of “pulse points” include the wrists, inner elbows, behind the ears, and chest.

You’ll often find that applying cologne to these areas will make a fragrance subtly more obvious. The base notes will seem more prominent, as the scent radiates further than it would if you were to just apply it to random areas.

Applying it to clothes isn’t as effective at emanating the scent of the cologne, as it doesn’t come into direct contact with the warmth.

2. It’s Easy To Wash Off Skin

There may be times when you overdo it with the cologne.

You just feel as though you’ve applied too much.

You may just dislike the scent of a new cologne you’ve just bought.

A benefit of applying cologne to the skin and not the clothes is that it’s easier to wash it off. You could wash it off pretty quickly, dry it, and apply a smaller amount shortly afterward.

Alternatively, you could apply a different fragrance afterward altogether and not have to worry too much about the fragrances mixing.

If you were to have applied it to your clothes, it’s tougher to wash out and reverse your mistakes. You’d have to run it through the washing machine, which isn’t really an option when you’re in a rush to leave the house.

3. Skin Allows The Base Notes To Come Through

Applying cologne to the skin will properly allow the fragrance to complete its cycle from the top notes to the middle notes, and finally to the base notes.

“Notes” are categories of aromas included within a fragrance. Much like notes are used in music to create a glorious composition, notes are blended within fragrances to create something well harmonized.

“Top notes” are the first impression people get from a fragrance – they push through right at the start. Citrus oils are commonly used as top notes, including lemon and grapefruit. Top notes don’t last long – around 5 to 15 minutes.

Once the top notes fade away, “middle notes” make themselves known and last around 20 to 60 minutes. They include compounds such as linalool, lavender, and rose.

Finally, once the middle notes have also faded away, the base notes come through. They’re the most important notes and can last around 6 hours or more. They may not be as immediately noticeable as top notes or middle notes, but they’re the longest-lasting and become more prominent as the top and middle notes fade.

The bottom line here is, the skin often makes it easier to progress through this cycle and to make sure that the base notes come through as they should.

The “dry down” is the period where the base notes are most prominent – it’s considered the best phase.

Colognes are usually designed and tested with the assumption that they’ll be applied to the skin. As a result, colognes are more likely to behave like they should and progress through their cycle of notes when they’re applied to the skin and not the clothes.

4. Cologne Can Ruin Clothes

Put simply, colognes can ruin clothes.

Some are worse than others, but in general, you should expect some staining. Eau de parfums and parfums have quite a high oil concentration and are even more likely to stain the clothes can Eau de toilette, for example.

The stains can sometimes be hard to remove, potentially ruining a beloved item of clothing.

Over time, the cologne could even damage the integrity of the fibers themselves.

The impact cologne can have on clothes will often lead people to apply it to their skin instead.

If you were going to apply it to your clothes, avoid applying it directly onto nice or expensive items you’re wearing. Instead, consider applying it to your undershirt – something that won’t be visible and you don’t mind getting stained quite as much.

5. It Creates A Unique Scent On Skin

You may have realized how a cologne can smell differently depending on who it’s sprayed on. It’s one of the most interesting features of fragrances in general.

The reason for this comes down to the wearer’s skin. People have different levels of oils and different natural scents on their skin.

When a cologne is applied to the skin, it mixes with these existing compounds and produces something quite unique. While this may not sound desirable, it’s actually something people love about colognes.

The cologne itself may be the composition, but it’ll smell like something subtly unique on practically everyone. While you may not notice it, that scent could become instantly recognizable to others.

A scent that no one else really has – in a good way.

You don’t get this benefit when applying it to your clothes. It doesn’t have a chance to mix with your natural chemistry and produce that unique scent.

Instead, it’ll smell a little more generic. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but in a way, it’s a lost opportunity.

6. Cologne Lingers Too Long On Clothes

While being long-lasting may sound like a good thing, in some ways, it isn’t. Colognes can stick around on your clothes for longer than you might want.

As I mentioned earlier, you want to be able to get rid of the scent of your cologne when you want to. It’s tough to do this once you’ve applied it to your clothes, particularly clothes you don’t wash very often.

Even after washing them, you may still find that the cologne is still noticeable the next time you wear them.

It’s often the piercing top notes that stick around on the clothes, making themselves noticeable even when they aren’t welcome.

One common issue is that the residue from old colognes linger on your clothes and mix with new colognes that you want to apply.

This is never usually a good thing and is yet another reason why applying cologne to the skin is usually the best way to go.

Should You Ever Apply Spray Cologne On Your Clothes?

While most people would benefit a lot more from applying the cologne onto the pulse points of their skin, as always, there are exceptions.

Here are instances where you might want to consider applying it to your clothes instead.

1. If You Have Sensitive Skin

This one is important.

Some people have sensitive skin, easily irritated by fragrances, creams, lotions, etc.

It’s a key reason why you should always do a patch test with any new cologne, cream, or any other product before you apply it properly.

At the end of the day, having sensitive skin would be a key reason to apply the cologne to the clothes instead of the skin.

As I mentioned above, minimize the amount of cologne you use to reduce potential staining, and also to reduce the risk of it lingering on the clothes for longer than you want it to.

Applying the cologne to the undershirt instead of the clothes above would be a good way to protect your more important and expensive clothing from staining and damage.

2. If The Cologne Is Very Weak

Some colognes are very weak. They’re generally cheaper and watered down. They aren’t usually designed intricately, with the progression from top notes, to middle notes, to base notes not given much thought.

Because of this, it’s often the top notes that are more obvious, with the deeper base notes not really making themselves known in the same way a well-crafted cologne would.

People often find that applying the cologne to their clothes is a solution to this. It isn’t a great solution, but it’s a way of at least stretching out the amount of time those top notes are noticeable.


There you have it. Some great reasons why applying cologne to the skin is usually better than applying it to your clothes, with a few exceptions to round things off.