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First things first: The best colognes for men may go by a different name. “Cologne,” after all, is just one classification of fragrances, and it has nothing to do with gender. That’s why it’s good to look far past that term when shopping for colognes (or perfumes, or fragrances, or scents) online.
What You Should Consider Before Buying Cologne Online
“The biggest hurdle for online scent shopping is buying a new scent before smelling it,” says Clayton Ilolahia, who splits time and expertise between Fragrances of the World (where they classify scents) and What Men Should Smell Like (where he reviews fragrances and reports on the industry). “To play it safe, have an idea of what notes or ingredients you like and dislike.” Ilolahia also says to check the retailers’ online returns policy before you buy. “Some will provide a sample or scented card with the purchase to try first before opening the product, allowing for returns or exchanges.”
How to Pick the Best Cologne
To better understand what you want in a fragrance, Ilolahia says to think about the ones you have worn in the past, or the ones you have noted liking (whether your friends, colleagues, or family members wear scents that have left positive impressions). “Look at the fragrance families these scents belong to, or their notes,” he says. “Is there a common theme like woods or citrus? If there is, do you want to stay within that theme or is it time to try something different?”
Sometimes these notes can play to seasonality, too, like how woody, smoky, or spicy notes often warm the senses in fall or winter, while citrus, aquatic, and floral notes play strong in spring or summer. But, of course, don’t overthink it too much: If you like a scent, it doesn’t matter what season it is.
Finally, consider when and where you’ll be sporting the scent. Is it going to take you from the office and into a future happy hour or for a date once it’s safe to do so again? Or is it for a specific special occasion? Perhaps you prefer a more alluring scent for date night, but a brighter and relaxed option during the day or at an office. For the latter, Ililahia prefers more intense notes like sandalwood, amber, leather, or exotic spices. But if you stick with one cologne for all occasions—a signature scent—you might want a fragrance that meets in the middle.
But how do you know when you’ve found the best cologne for you? “You’ll know your signature scent when you smell it,” Ilolahia says. “It’s a bit like love: Pick the one that attracts the most compliments. You, and the people around you, should enjoy the scent.”
What’s the Difference Between Cologne and Perfume?
When you see “Eau de Cologne,” “Eau de Toilette,” or “Eau de Parfum” written on the bottles, it’s important to pay attention: This labeling refers to the scent’s intensity (that is, the concentration of fragrant oils used in the blend). It increases in that order— EdC, EdT, EdP. Chances are you’ll only want to shop for EdT (which uses 5-15% perfume oil concentrations) and EdP (which uses 15-20%). EdCs only use 2-5% so they won’t last as long. Above EdP is “Parfum” itself, with 20-30% concentrations—probably too intense for most. But a fragrance’s cost is often determined by this concentration, which also determines how long lasting and pronounced it is. In other words, EdPs are often going to be more expensive than EdTs because they use more oil.
With the above in mind, we’ve picked 10 of our favorite colognes right now. Some of the scents work all season long, while others are candidates for your next (or first) signature scent. Whichever one you finally choose, remember that a little usually goes a long way.