A Dummy's Guide to Men’s Fragrance

A Dummy's Guide to Men’s Fragrance


A signature scent is a powerful finishing touch to good grooming and style. But do you actually know where best to apply it and what the difference is between an aftershave and a cologne? We asked Alex Goddard of Acqua Di Parma and Eva Carlo of Creed for the fundamentals of fragrance – and how to find the one that really works for you…

Why are scents important?
“Different smells have different emotional associations for all of us. These associations are always tied to memories – good or bad. When it comes to fragrances, a scent is not just a collection of carefully selected raw materials. It has the power to evoke a certain memory or emotion, to express an idea, a feeling or a mood. See your fragrance as an extension of your personality and ask yourself: what do you want your fragrance to express about you?” – Alex

“A scent can communicate something about you. Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Or are you looking for something more discreet and intimate? You should feel completely comfortable wearing your signature scent, so it’s important you love it, but remember that we are ultimately wearing fragrance for other people, so it’s crucial we know what we want to communicate.” – Eva

And do you think most British men wear the right scent?
“With no statistics at my disposal, I would venture that the majority of men are not wearing the right scent. The right fragrance is one that you love the scent of, that speaks to you and that you have a positive association with. But, in reality, we buy fragrances for so many other reasons – brand name or image, the colour of the juice, the bottle design, or the ad campaign. And then there are all of the men who still rely on other people to buy their fragrance for them, and the others who just rebuy the same scent they’ve been wearing for years and years.” – Alex



Okay, so the learning starts here – tell us about the different types of scent…
“There are three classifications you need to know…

Eau de parfum (EDP) has the richest formula and highest concentration, usually around 18-20%. An EDP will have a much deeper base with more emphasis placed on the heart and base notes to give a more lavish and sumptuous effect.

Eau de toilette (EDT) is rooted in the French culture of morning grooming rituals. EDTs are about freshness, cleanliness and everyday usage with a generous application. Concentration is usually 8-12%, with a very generous head note that can often be perceived as very powerful to begin with. An EDT tends not to be as long-lasting on the skin and notes that may seem initially overpowering will quickly settle down on the skin to leave a subtle feeling of freshness.

Eau de cologne (EDC) is the lowest concentration, at around 4-6%. A true cologne is a fragrance with huge head notes (largely made up of citrus ingredients) and a tiny base of herbal notes.” – Eva

“Concentration equates to staying power. An EDC will last up to two hours; an EDT should last four hours; and an EDC can last six hours. Some fragrances exist as, for example, an EDP and an EDT. They will share some ingredients, so they’re recognisable as siblings, but they are effectively different fragrances because other ingredients will have been added or removed to make them, say, brighter or more intense.” – Alex

What’s aftershave then?
“That can be a bit of misleading term. Originally, men applied fragrance from a splash bottle after shaving. All fragrance uses alcohol (to diffuse and preserve raw materials) and the splash feeling was restorative post-shave. Many fragrances still exist in the aftershave splash format and offer additional post-shaving benefits, but these days most men prefer to get their scent from a vaporiser – this is a fragrance not an aftershave.” – Alex

Is it useful to know about the fragrance families?
“Understanding the fragrance families will really help you gauge which type of fragrance you are naturally drawn to. Whether it’s citrus, floral, fruity, oriental, musky or woody, be mindful that just because you like one perfume that sits in a certain fragrance family, it most certainly does not mean that you are drawn to every scent in that family, but it’s a great way to narrow down what pushes your buttons. Oriental and spicy fragrances tend to be much warmer and heavier in nature, lending themselves best to the winter months or an evening fragrance. Fruity and citrus fragrances tend to be more uplifting and easy to wear, making them ideal for daytime wear or for summer months. Woody scents are more masculine in nature.” – Eva


"Fruity and citrus fragrances tend to be more uplifting and easy to wear, making them ideal for daytime wear or for summer months."

Why are so many scents unisex now?
“Fragrance is not gender specific. We might group certain types of fragrances (e.g. florals) with a particular gender, but the things that most often make us associate a specific gender with a fragrance are the packaging, colour, brand or image. Gourmand (or sweet) and fruity fragrances are often very popular with men and women, but whether many guys would buy them depends on whether you present them in a pink bottle with a bow on or in a black bottle with a bow tie. We should all be buying our fragrance based on our taste and what we like to smell. What’s interesting is that the term ‘unisex’ does not work when it comes to selling a fragrance – many men find the term off-putting, while many women do not care and like to declare themselves wearers of ‘male fragrance’. Some types of fragrance are sometimes more popular with one gender or another, but never exclusively so.” – Alex

So men shouldn’t be worried about wearing something too feminine?
“No. If you like it, wear it. At Acqua di Parma we don’t define scents as male, female or unisex. We believe each customer should find their favourite scent based on the actual fragrance and ingredients they like best.” – Alex

What’s the appeal of an old-school masculine scent?
“A typical type of old-school masculine fragrance is the fougère – a blend of citrus, herbaceous and woody notes, quite often including lavender. It’s been popular with men for decades, though it’s hard to say why this is so, other than that it is a proven successful combination of some of the most popular ingredients in perfumery. Maybe it’s the type of scent we associate with our fathers and grandfathers. For example, our original Acqua di Parma Colonia was created in 1916 but remains a favourite among men (and women) to this day. I think this speaks to the influence of heritage and the transmission of traditions between generations.” – Alex

Should you change your scent with the seasons?
“Many people tend to prefer a brighter, fresher scent in spring/summer as it’s easier to wear. Conversely, they enjoy something more intense in the winter months.” – Alex

“Temperature can change the way a fragrance smells, so it’s always great to revisit your fragrance wardrobe seasonally to make sure it’s still working for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with two or three signature scents that will carry you through the seasonal changes and your different personality traits. Perfume is emotive so it’s natural that you aren’t going to always want the same from your fragrance each day either.” – Eva

If you invest in a more expensive scent, what do you get that you don’t get with something cheaper?
“It depends on the brand, but you should get any or all of the following: higher-quality materials; heritage; something handmade with craftsmanship; and an ethos.” – Alex

“At Creed, our fragrances are high in natural oils. The quality always remains 100%, but the accents of the scent will vary bewitchingly with every vintage. We call this ‘millésime’ – a term taken from the wine industry to denote the upmost quality but slight natural variations in batches.” – Eva




How do you test a scent properly?
“You need to wear it. Fragrances smell differently on everybody. They need heat and moisture to develop and we each have different levels of heat, moisture and oils in our skin that will affect the scent. Spray it on your skin from six inches away, to allow the alcohol to begin to evaporate and the raw materials to disperse. Allow the fragrance to dry on the skin to allow it to develop – if you smell it immediately, all you will smell is the alcohol.” – Alex

“If you’re testing in a store, go get a coffee and let the scent develop over a few hours before making a decision. And make sure to test on your skin as well as on a blotter – Eva 

What questions should you be asking?
“In a store, they should be asking you the right questions! If you don’t know anything about raw materials or fragrance families, or even what you like, they should be able to find other ways to direct you to find something you like – or at least to narrow it down until you begin to learn more what you like.” – Alex

"Allow the fragrance to dry on the skin to allow it to develop – if you smell it immediately, all you will smell is the alcohol.”

Is it okay to ask for samples?
“Yes, but don’t ask for sample for the sake of it – don’t take something home that you haven’t even tried. There are thousands of fragrances on the market and, if you take home a sample of something without even knowing if it is close to something you might like, you are wasting your time.” – Alex



Where should you be spraying?
“On your pulse points. These are where the heartbeat is closer to the surface of the skin; they are therefore hotter and will allow for a better diffusion of the fragrance. For men, this means are the neck, torso and biceps.” – Alex

“When applying to the wrists, be sure not to rub them together – this will only crush the fragrance and interfere with the scent.” – Eva

When should you spray?
“This is a personal decision. Most people like to spray their fragrance in the morning after getting dressed, as the final way to complete their outfit. You can also use a travel format to spray again during the day or before the evening if you have something specific planned.” – Alex

How much?
“This is really up to the person wearing the scent and to the type of scent they are wearing.” – Alex

Do you need to top up through the day?
“You certainly can do. One thing you need to be careful about is that our nose gets used to the smell around us over time, so if you’ve stopped smelling your fragrances on yourself that doesn’t mean others cannot smell it. Be conscious of that before spraying your fragrance over and over again during the day.” – Alex

“Spraying the fragrance on your clothing as well as your skin can also help to retain the scent for a longer duration.” – Eva

Finally, do scents go off after a certain amount of time?
“Many fragrances use natural raw materials and, while they are preserved in alcohol, it is possible they will develop and change over time, just as they do in a fine wine.” – Alex
“We generally advise you use your fragrance within two to three years of starting to use it.” – Eva


Check out AcquaDiParma’s full range of fragrances – including its new Colonia Futura – here.
To find out more about Creed, head to CreedFragrances.co.uk.


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