Ultimate Guide To Buying Men’s Fragrances Online
I LOVE colognes!
But as I've found out over the last few months, buying men's fragrances online can be a NIGHTMARE.
There's so much choice… and so many deals out there.
Plus how do you know what works for you if you can't physically smell the fragrance?
And how do you avoid the counterfeits?
Through trial and error, I've created an ultimate guide to buying men's fragrances online.
And today, I'm sharing it with you.
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Contents – How To Buy Men's Fragrances Online
In a hurry? Check out this quick contents guide to jump to exactly what you want to read!
- Fragrance Fundamentals – Know The Basic
- Understanding Fragrance Families
- How To Choose ‘Your Scent'
- Online Fragrance Purchasing Options
- How To Spot And Avoid Fakes
1 – Fragrance Fundamentals – Know The Basics
Before we get into how you should go about purchasing the best men's fragrances online, we first need to go over a few need-to-know fundamentals.
It might seem obvious – but we're gonna start from the very bottom and work our way up. So… what is a fragrance?
Put simply – a fragrance (also referred to as an aftershave/cologne) is a carefully chosen mixture of great smelling components.
“Good manners and good cologne is what transforms the man into a gentleman.” – Tom Ford
The basic process involves scented oils being mixed in a solvent – typically alcohol – to preserve a pleasant cocktail of scents. The higher the concentration of oils – the greater the fragrance's strength and the longer it will last on the skin.
What's The Difference Between Fragrance, Perfume, Toilette, And Cologne?
‘Fragrance' is a unisex, generic term used for all types of perfume. Depending on strength and wearer's gender, fragrances come in many forms and are called different names. However, they generally fall into the following categories:
- Eau Fraiche – The most diluted version of a fragrance, usually with 1% – 3% perfume oil in alcohol and water. Lasts for less than an hour.
- Cologne (Eau de Cologne) – A common term in North America for masculine scents. It's typically composed of 2% – 4% perfume oils in alcohol and water. It usually lasts for about 2 hours.
- Toilette (Eau de Toilette) – A light spray composition with 5% – 15% pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. It usually lasts for about 3 hours.
- Perfume (Eau de Parfum) – Historically genderless, this phrase is used to describe both men’s and women’s fragrances. It contains 15% – 20% pure perfume essence and lasts for about 5 to 8 hours.
- Perfume – A corruption of the Latin phrase ‘per fumum' (translating to ‘through smoke'). The most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance options. Slightly oilier, perfume, or parfum, is composed of 20% – 30% pure perfume essence. A single application of perfume can last up to 24 hours.
How Is Fragrance Measured?
- Projection – Connotes how far the scent travels through the air surrounding the wearer.
- Sillage – Describes the length of time a scent lingers in the air around the wearer.
- Longevity – A measure of the lasting power of a fragrance while on the skin of the wearer.
What are Fragrance Notes?
Fragrance notes are the individual building blocks of scent – think of them as the different layers to a complex smell.
- Top Notes – the basic, initial scent that is experienced. Typically lasts 15 minutes – 2 hours.
- Heart Notes – the main elements of a fragrance that showcase how the perfumer intended the scent to be experienced. It can last 3-5 hours.
- Base Notes -the final layer to develop within a fragrance. The base note has a potential longevity of 5-10 hours.
Depending on the ingredients used to create each of the above notes within a fragrance, they can also be subcategorized into either summer and winter scents.
- Summer fragrances are made up of lighter notes such as citrus and floral notes and last on average 5-7 hours.
- Winter fragrances commonly utilize intense base notes such as wood and tobacco and last at least 10 hours.
2. Designer Fragrances vs. Niche Fragrances
Quick – name your favorite cologne.
Let me guess:
- Dior Sauvage?
- Paco Rabanne 1 Million?
- Maybe Jean Paul Gaultier's Le Male?
If you said one of those, then you're a man of good taste. They also happen to be some of the most popular men's fragrances across the world today.
Why are they so widely popular? It's a basic mixture of three things: cost, mass appeal, and marketing.
Typically, the most popular fragrances are ones you can find in a wide variety of retailers. These are called designer fragrances.
Most designer brands (Dior and Armani being two examples) price their fragrances anywhere between $50-$120 for a 100ml bottle.
Popular designers want their products to be considered among the best men's fragrances – so they formulate their scent to appeal to a wide audience. Their scents are usually ‘safe' and will be at least enjoyed by anyone who comes into contact with the smell.
To guarantee good sales of their cheaper product – designers utilize tried and tested ingredients to create their own mixture of already loved scent profiles.
In contrast – some fragrances are harder to come by and are less widely-appreciated by the general public. These are called Niche fragrances.
Niche Fragrances are made from high-quality ingredients and by industry artists for a more selective style of customer.
Some classic examples are perfume houses:
- Tom Ford Private Blend
- Ramon Monegal
Companies that formulate niche fragrances target their products at customers who desire a less common and far more complex scent. Niche fragrance houses do not intend their products to have a huge amount of mass appeal. Instead, they aim to produce products for fragrance aficionados that can appreciate the complexity and value of high-quality ingredients.
As such, the more refined fragrances within a company's niche collection will typically set you back $250 or more for a 50ml bottle. A steep price point but one that can be well worth it for superior ingredients and unique scents.
3. Understanding Fragrance Families
When it comes to categorizing the best men's fragrances, it's possible to consider it within one of four categories:
The floral scent is one of the most common fragrance families.
Can you guess what ingredient from nature features heavily in floral scents? It's a no brainer, right?
As the name suggests- floral fragrances are heavily influenced by the scents of different flowers. As such, it's more common for women's perfumes to fit within this category. However, that's not to say that there are no men's colognes that utilize the market's floral scents.
For example, Tom Ford's Black Orchid is considered a unisex fragrance, which means it is intended to be worn by both men and women.
Just to make things even more confusing – the floral category of scents can be further divided into 3 subfamilies:
- Fruity: Sweet and tropical – think peach, pear, and apple.
- Natural Floral: Smells like freshly cut flowers — imagine rose and lily.
- Soft floral: Soft and sweet – magnolia is a great example of this.
The oriental fragrance family is made up of exotic, spicy scents. Typically – oriental fragrances are formulated with herbs, spices, and different powdery resins.
Oriental scents are widely considered seductive and exotic – their strong opulence is complimented by subtle sweet notes to create a well balanced and sensual tone.
Breaking this scent family down even further- oriental perfumes can be subcategorized into the following groups:
- Soft oriental: Floral notes mix with warm and spicy incense.
- Traditional Oriental: Warm notes with a hint of sweet – think cinnamon or vanilla.
- Woody oriental: Earth tones like patchouli and sandalwood complemented by spicy and sweet notes.
Woody perfumes are usually warm and well suited to the colder months.
To tone down the warmth of woody scents, sweeter notes like citrus are incorporated within the scent profile. Typically, woody fragrances are quite masculine and strong with hints of classic sophistication.
Woody tones can be further divided into three main categories:
- Natural Woods: Highly aromatic scents – think cedarwood and vetiver.
- Mossy woods: Sweet and earthy scents – like oakmoss and amber.
- Dry woods: Smoky scents often mixed with leather aromas.
Fresh fragrances have a clean and bright scent. Very masculine citrus and oceanic scents are common within this category due to their tendency to be robust and long-lasting. It's very common to see a mixture of crisp and spicy scents within this category – creating a good balance between fresh and zesty fruit scents.
The typical subfamilies within this category of fragrance are:
- Aromatic: fresh herbs mixed with contrasting woody scents.
- Citrus: tangy notes such as mandarin or bergamot.
- Water: Aquatic scents that smell like rain mixed with oceanic notes.
- Green: Scents found within nature – freshly mowed lawns and crushed green leaves.
4. How To Choose ‘Your Scent'
Every guy has ‘his scent'.
No, gents – I'm not talking about that natural musk you get when you forget to apply antiperspirant in the morning. Eau De Stink isn't exactly the nicest smelling fragrance you can wear.
What I'm referring to is that one cologne a man finds himself returning to time and time again. After all, the best men's fragrances are ones that appeal to the individual wearing them.
It might not be the most expensive or the most popular on the market. A man's favorite fragrance is very personal to him and works best when worn with confidence.
‘No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory.' – Coco Chanel
But how do you find out what ‘your scent' is?
Where Do You Want To Wear Your Fragrance?
Colognes are not universally pleasing – some fragrances will suit a situation, and some fragrances won't.
As such, when choosing your personal favorite, you need to consider where you plan on donning that scent the most.
Will you wear it to the office?
Do you spend more time at home?
Are you trying to smell nice for your dates?
Ultimately, these are the key questions you need to ask yourself because they're going to help you decide what sort of fragrance you should be considering your go-to scent.
Funnily enough – these are scents designed to be worn in the office. They're typically lighter and breezier and give off a ‘professional' smell (masculine yet sophisticated).
Office scents aim to boost the confidence of the wearer and make them feel empowered.
Usually, an office scent is more suited to the daytime. They're not as sensual and smooth as night time scents.
Some great examples:
- Gucci Pour Hommell
- Prada L’Homme
- Versace Pour Homme
In contrast, casual scents should be worn when at leisure.
Depending on the situation, a casual fragrance can be worn during the day or at night time. They are designed to be easy to wear and pleasing to the masses.
Some great examples:
- Dior Sauvage
- Acqua di Gio
- Parfums de Marly Layton
There is a certain element of sensuality about the way that a date scent smells. After all, their base purpose is simple: create an alluring scent that successfully attracts the opposite sex.
As such, date scents tend to be bolder and more masculine than other scents. Normally worn at night, these scents can get away with being far more sensual and seductive than an office fragrance. I'm sure your colleagues are great – but no one should be trying to seduce their colleagues with their office cologne.
Date scents are strictly for situations in which the wearer wants to appear sexy and seductive. Stick to wearing these fragrances at night time, gents.
Some great examples:
- Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme
- Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male
Where Can You Find Out More Information?
Where better to learn about the best men's fragrances than online? Let's be honest, guys. If you didn't think online style advice was the way to go, you wouldn't be reading this article right now.
For really specialized advice on how to find the best men's fragrances and which notes compliment different situation and scenarios, check out this list of awesome fragrance websites:
- Fragrantica – the best online encyclopedia for fragrance lovers.
- Base Notes – a great place to learn about individual notes within a fragrance.
- Now Smell This – awesome for information about perfume launches and honest fragrance reviews.
- The Perfume Shop Blog – a blog run by a top perfume supplier.
- Reddit – check out the r/fragrance subreddit for real people discussing their favorite scents.
The internet hasn't been around forever, guys. But men have smelled great for hundreds of years.
How could this be possible when fragrance websites have only been around for the last few decades?
Let me take you back to a simpler time – a time where reading a book was the best way to be in the know about a topic.
If you want more detail about the best men's fragrances written by published authors, check out these two paperback guides to fragrance:
- Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent by Neil Chapman
- Perfume The Art & Craft of Fragrance by Karen Gilbert
How Do I know A Fragrance Is Right For Me?
I get it, guys – blind buying a fragrance is a risky business. No one wants to buy a fragrance without smelling it first, and with online shopping, this seems like the only option.
At the end of the day, it’s vital to test something out before you spend your hard-earned cash. Men's fragrance is a very individual thing, so you need to test if your chosen cologne complements your natural body odor before dropping over $50 on the whole product.
Fear not – there are a few tips and tricks I can offer that will help you shop online for the best men's fragrances with confidence.
With huge fragrance departments, department stores are a convenient place to trial different samples without the commitment to spending any money. You know those bottles they have sitting out in the open in most fragrance sections of bigger stores? You can use those to test the smell of a fragrance quickly.
When doing this, you must try not to spray more than four fragrances on your body in one trip. If you apply too much scent to your skin, it will overwhelm your senses and make it hard to distinguish between the different testers you have used.
When applying tester fragrances – spray each cologne on a different part of the body. Ideally, aim to spray one tester on each of the following areas:
- Right wrist
- Left wrist
- Top of right forearm
- Top of left forearm
Doing this will separate the fragrances enough that you can smell them individually and make an informed decision on what you think the best men's fragrances are.
Warning: Don’t let the salesperson persuade you until you’re 100% ready to buy. Most salespeople work on commission and might try to sell you the most expensive cologne without considering what is right for you as an individual.
Sometimes going to a department store can be a hassle, especially if you live more rurally away from larger towns and cities.
Don't worry, gents. There is an alternative that won't cost you any more than $15. If you're unable to get to a department store to try a tester fragrance – you can always buy a cheaper fragrance decant.
Decants are fantastic. Often, authentic fragrance houses sell a miniature bottle of their expensive scents so that customers can try before they buy.
Typically, these decants will come in the form of a small, 5ml bottle (which will give you roughly 50 sprays of the best of men's cologne).
Creed offers a smaller version of their popular ‘Green Irish Tweed' fragrance. A 5ml tester will cost you as little as $13 (before shipping).
For more information and a place to access decanted fragrances, check out The Fragrance Decant Boutique online.
5. Online Fragrance Purchasing Options
Before we get into this section, there's an important rule you guys need to know.
Always (and I mean always) check the return policy on any fragrance site you visit.
No matter where you shop, a returns policy should be considered a requirement for any online boutique. At the end of the day, if you're unhappy with your product's quality and/or condition, you are within your right to return the item for a full refund.
However, there are some that caveats determine the legitimacy of an item's return, for instance:
- How long can an item be kept before a refund is void?
- Do you have to pay the shipping on returns, and how much will this cost?
- If you open and use the cologne, does that void a return?
- Will the company allow you to exchange your product?
These are all questions you need to ask and verify from the seller. Top-quality sellers will have all of this information listed on their website in plain English.
However, if you don’t get a straight answer from their website, you should email their customer service. If they still don't give you a straight answer – don’t buy from them. It's just not worth the risk, gents.
Ordering Straight From The Company’s Website
Be aware – ordering directly from the perfume company's website is the most costly way of buying the best of men's cologne.
However, this higher price typically guarantees that your purchased fragrance is 100% legit. Fragrance houses would never sell a cheap copy of their fragrance.
Ordering From Box Stores
Box stores (stores that sell a large variety of different fragrance brands) offer a huge selection of different fragrance options.
These stores don't always offer the best prices on the market but often run some great deals on the very best men's fragrances. Remember, you can always leverage the power of web tools like Shoptagr to find great deals online for the best men's fragrances.
Usually, box stores are part of a larger chain of retailers, so it's safe to be confident in their products' legitimacy. The great thing about box stores is their variety – allowing you a broader choice when it comes to picking from the best men's fragrances.
Some good examples of box stores are:
- Nordstrom – offering tons of selection, reasonable prices, and great customer service.
- Ulta – beauty products specialists who stock the most popular designer fragrances.
- Sephora – similar to Ulta but instead offer more niche and high-end colognes.
Ordering From Fragrance Discounters
Fragrance Discounters are websites that sell real fragrances at a discounted price. They achieve this by selling their colognes from the ‘grey market' – a term used when a seller acquires and sells stock from other countries or unofficial fragrance channels.
To be honest, guys, using a fragrance discounter isn't the best option for paranoid buyers. If you're the sort of man who needs to know where his purchases come from, then discounted shopping isn't the right route for you.
For those not concerned with the origins of their purchases, discounted sellers can be a lucrative option. Discounted sellers can get expensive products for cheaper by buying in bulk. Since they save a ton of money that way, they can then pass on their savings to you as the profit margin can be greater at a lower price.
My advice is to search each discounter website for the best deal.
Pro Tip: sort by new arrivals to find the more popular colognes that may sell out quickly. Get them while they're hot, gents!
6. How To Spot And Avoid Fakes
You know the old saying, guy. ‘If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.'
Sorry to burst your bubble, but no one can discount a $250 bottle of cologne down to $30. It's just not going to happen, gents.
Discounted perfume is great – but it's important to be realistic when looking at an alleged ‘super sale.' The whole point of an online store is to make money. If a fragrance seller claims to be selling an expensive fragrance at a price that couldn't possibly bring in any real profit – it's either a fake product or a scam.
Why Don’t I Want a Fake?
In short – it’s illegal and can cause a lot of harm.
First and foremost, fake perfume brings no guarantee on the quality of ingredients. Who's to say that the cheaper alternatives they use aren't going to harm your skin or poison you?
Ultimately, there's also no guarantee that the product you're buying will smell anything like the original perfume it is trying to mimic. You work hard for your money, gents – don't waste it on phony products just to save a few bucks.
A batch code is usually stamped or printed with a dot-matrix printer. (Be careful not to confuse a batch code with a catalog number or barcode.)
To help you out, here are some examples of different batch code formats:
- 1 letter 11 digit batch codes (e.g., L1 0759086986)
- 4 digit batch codes (e.g., 1256)
- 4 character batch codes (digit, letter, 2 digits) (e.g., 1N03)
- 3 character batch codes (e.g., A42, A31)
- 4 to 10 digit batch codes (e.g., 2065, 7275)
A great way to verify the batch code of a product is to input it over at checkfresh.com.
Before purchasing any cologne, it's important to research the look and quality of the real product.
Chances are if the bottle is sloppy or a box looks blurry or cheap, it’s going to be a fake.
Companies like Creed take a lot of pride in their packaging. At the end of the day, they are selling luxury products at luxury prices. If the lettering on their packaging is sloppy or the bottle looks cheap, then they're not providing their clients with the lux experience they paid for.
Pro tip – The seller's website will feature images of their fake product. Often, criminals will only use stock photos instead of the fragrance company's official photography.
Fake fragrances typically come about as a result of the authentic product's high price. Not everyone can afford to buy cologne for $250, but everyone wants to smell like they use the very best of men's cologne.
Expensive fragrances like Creed Aventus, Tom Ford's Oud Wood, and SpiceBomb frequently appear on fake fragrance websites.
Be careful when buying those expensive brands. My advice would be to go straight to the perfumer's official website to ensure what you're buying is authentic and is the very best of men's cologne.
How To Find The Best Of Men's Cologne
Tried and tested perfume stores are where you should buy your fragrances online. Whether it be at the brand's official online store or a reputable fragrance supplier, you should always shop for fragrances at trustworthy retailers who would never scam their customers.
Today, I took you through the ultimate guide to buying men's fragrances online:
- Fragrance Fundamentals – Know The Basic
- Understanding Fragrance Families
- How To Choose ‘Your Scent'
- Online Fragrance Purchasing Options
- How To Spot And Avoid Fakes
Looking at discounters is an option, sure. Just be aware that you run the risk of buying a lower quality product when you do this. If you can't guarantee the origins of what you purchase, then there's no telling where it came from and who's benefitting from the sale. Criminal activity isn't acceptable, and who's to say you aren't helping to fund that when buying fragrances in a shady deal?
Ultimately, the most important thing is to do your research, test the product if possible, and hand your money over to companies that you know are the real deal. That's the only guaranteed way to get a good deal on the best men's fragrances.
Need to know more about the power of a strong fragrance? Check out my suggestions on the 15 most complimented men's colognes.