Have you ever smelled a fragrance that you loved but shied away from it after learning that it was a men’s cologne?
Scent is gender-neutral. Although perfumes are marketed towards women and colognes towards men, the scents themselves have no reason to be categorized separately. It won’t harm a woman to wear men’s cologne – or vice versa.
The reason that companies have marketed to one group or another over decades boils down to a customer avatar. Keep reading to learn more and break the mold.
What’s the Difference Between Perfume and Cologne?
Collins Dictionary defines perfume as a “pleasant-smelling liquid that you can put on your skin to make yourself smell nice.”
Cologne is a “mildly perfumed toilet water.” Toilet water being diluted perfume. Its watery nature is why its French description is eau de cologne – eau meaning water.
Difference in Concentration Levels
Based on these definitions, cologne is actually a form of perfume, not a separate type of personal fragrance.
And you’ll notice that none of the definitions involve gender.
Initially both perfume and cologne were unisex fragrances. Cologne was created to offer a lighter alternative to perfume. It was named as such in 1709 because its inventor, an Italian perfumer, was living in Cologne, Germany at the time.
Therefore, the primary difference between men’s cologne and women’s perfume is the concentration of fragrance.
Perfume is typically formulated with more fragrance oils than cologne. The difference in amount of oils added to each varies greatly. It depends on the brand and quality of the fragrance. But colognes might have up to 5% of concentrated fragrance in them while perfumes often have up to 40% of fragrance oils.
Because there’s less fragrance oil used, colognes offer a less saturated scent than perfumes. Depending on the brand, this can present the need for reapplication throughout the day.
Another difference between the two is the scents used to make them.
Colognes lean more towards earthy musk, deep woods, or complex citrus notes. Whereas perfumes can include musk, bark, or citrus, but those notes would be minimal by comparison. Perfumes are inclined to smell more flowery, powdery, sweet, or airy.
Lastly, there could possibly be a significant price difference.
This of course varies by brand and ingredients used, but sometimes you can find men’s cologne costs remarkably less than women’s perfume. It’s suggested that the higher concentration of fragrance oils in women’s perfumes justifies a higher price point.
There wasn’t a clear divide between fragrances until the early 20th century but in our current century, more and more fragrances are unisex. There’s more focus on experiencing the nuances of a fragrance than predetermining how it should be used.
Should You Choose Cologne or Perfume?
Only you can decide which is best for you, but know that you don’t have to consider your gender when making that choice.
A perfumer might have a man or woman in mind when combining fragrance ingredients. But once it’s complete, brands have a specific goal in mind with every scent they release.
Their goals are both directly and indirectly communicated through adverts. On the labeling, you might see the words, “cologne for men” as a direct communication about who a particular scent was created for.
Indirectly, you might see a commercial with a well-oiled, shirtless man engaging in some manly outdoor activity, and then an image of the cologne. These ads stimulate the senses and make clear who they believe the fragrance is intended for.
And then who knows how many subliminal advertising messages you’ve been exposed to over a lifetime?
Combined, you can imagine how such messaging has been so impactful over decades.
But advertisements are simply tools of coercion. Their purpose is to convince you of what to buy and who to buy it for. But you don’t have to comply.
If you encounter a cologne that is a reflection of your mood or is made using one of your favorite ingredients that are not usually found in perfumes, there’s no reason why you can’t buy it for yourself, even if you are a woman.
Your primary goal should be to wear a fragrance that you really love and feel is a reflection of your personality – no matter how it’s labeled.
How to Choose a Fragrance You Love
So how do you go about finding a fragrance that you enjoy wearing? If you’re reading this article, then you probably already have a men’s cologne scent in mind.
But if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to buy it, here are some ideas to consider.
If you notice that you are immediately drawn to a scent, then it should at the very least be added to your short list of possibilities.
Because every person is different, whichever scent you choose may not smell exactly the same once you put it on. So if you’re trying it out, start with a smaller bottle or a tester-sized bottle.
But that initial spark you feel when smelling it is the first sign that it might be the scent for you.
Good Body Chemistry
As you’re trying out a new scent, you should take note of how you feel while wearing it and whether or not your skin is responsive to it.
It’s okay if a scent you thought you’d love doesn’t seem to be the right fit once you try it out. That’s the whole point in testing out fragrances in real life. You can eliminate any scent that isn’t a good fit.
And your skin will offer clues as well. Itchiness, rashes, or sinus irritation are all signs that this fragrance might not be for you.
Trusted friends and family members can help you narrow your choices as well. They can offer opinions about whether or not a scent smells “like you” or not.
But ultimately, it’s your choice.
Make Note of What You Like
As mentioned in this post, there are four major scent categories:
And then there are subcategories that range in intensity and scent notes. And often there’s overlap amongst them.
Although many fragrances on the market are layered, linear fragrances also exist. Quality levels of each will vary but they both serve a purpose.
Layered scents allow you to start the day smelling bright and citrusy, for instance, and then by evening transition into an aromatic moss, for instance.
But if you’re in a workplace, at a convention, or some other event where you want one consistent fragrance, then a linear one would be a simple solution.
The trick here is to set aside any assumptions you have about buying cologne as a woman and instead, only focus on which scent categories you enjoy and would like to wear.
Consider the Seasons
Just as with perfumes, colognes can be worn in conjunction with the season. Woody and oriental scents can be reserved for fall and winter. Floral and fresh scents are best used in spring and summer.
But plenty of people disregard seasons altogether if they’re really in love with a specific scent.
Understand Its Nature
Remember that there’s only between 2-5% concentrated fragrance in an eau de cologne. There’s far more alcohol and water in cologne than in perfume. In knowing this, you should expect cologne fragrances to be lighter.
There are always exceptions, just don’t expect a powerfully intense perfume fragrance when selecting a cologne.
Overall, colognes will be made up of heavier, masculine scents and perfumes are lighter and more feminine. Women can definitely wear men’s cologne. But whether you choose cologne or perfume, you should wear what you like without consideration for all of the categories and labels.