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Body Spray vs Cologne: What’s The Difference?

Many people use “cologne” as a generic term for men’s fragrances, a usage stemming from fragrance houses marketing “cologne” to men and “perfume” to women. However, the difference is often more subtle.

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Some refer to colognes with the more precise meaning of a scented formulation containing 2 to 5% essential oils, mostly citrus, plus alcohol and water, suitable for men or women.

Cologne Bottle

However, when contrasting cologne vs body spray, the chief point of comparison is not the details of the scent but instead the concentration.

Most sprays have very little (if any) essential oil but more alcohol and water and a lot of propellant gases. As a result, they are cheaper but also weaker, with lower sillage and longevity.

The term body spray is also subject to confusion: most people use it for the mass market, artificially-scented products in canisters, but it is sometimes applied to very dilute perfume (eau fraiche or body mist) in a spritz bottle.

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

Body Spray vs Cologne Comparison at a Glance

Here’s a quick rundown of body spray versus cologne.

Best for Post-Workout Spritzing: Body Spray

PROS: Low cost

CONS: Generally far from subtle scents; contain harmful chemicals

  • Launched: Axe launched in 1983; Old Spice body spray was released around this period, too
  • Sillage: Generally moderate
  • Longevity: 1 to 2 hours
  • Scent potency/ Appropriate for: High potency initially, but dwindles rapidly. Appropriate for after a workout if you have nothing better

Best for Intimate Dates or Business Meetings: Cologne

PROS: Natural scents; some are quite inexpensive

CONS: Low potency, longevity, and sillage (compared to eau de toilette, parfum, or eau de parfum; compares favorably with body spray)

  • Launched: Eau de Cologne was first developed in 1709 by Johann (Giovanni) Maria Farina. Mäurer & Wirtz have produced Original Eau de Cologne 4711 in Köln since 1792, putting it among the oldest continually-produced fragrances.
  • Sillage: Typically intimate
  • Longevity: 2 to 3 hours; slightly longer if applied to pulse points
  • Scent potency/ Appropriate for: Low potency. Timeless, fresh scents make cologne ideal for anything from professional settings to intimate dates but not for larger events
  • Price:
    • $ Cremo Bourbon & Oak Cologne Spray; TokyoMilk Novacaine Parfum No.85
    • $$ Ralph Lauren Polo Black; Paco Rabanne Lady Million
    • $$$ Terre d’Hermès; Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium
    • $$$$ Prada Luna Rossa Ocean; Acqua di Parma Bergamotto di Calabria

What are the Main Differences Between Body Spray and Cologne?

Cologne originally referred to Cologne water (eau de Cologne or Kölnisch Wasser), a scent mix developed in the German city of Cologne (Köln), based on a blend of citrus essential oils, and used by men and women.

It is the oldest style of perfume still in existence.

Design of Colognes

Thanks to the original colognes being between 2 and 5% essential oils, the term eau de Cologne is sometimes used more broadly to refer to any fragrance mix with this percentage of essential oils.

Perfumer making a cologne

Whether citrus-based or not, fragrance mixes like this, especially on your pulse points, will enhance your natural smell for several hours.

Can you use body spray and cologne together? Of course! Many of the best fragrances are marriages of multiple scents. Here’s what body spray brings to the party.

Design of Body Sprays

These sprays are designed to be sprayed on regularly to keep you feeling fresh. You can spray them in the air, onto your clothes, or on your bed as well, which isn’t advisable with cologne.

Nivea Body Spray

Some sprays also contain deodorants to reduce sweat smells; active, sporty individuals may wish to use these, or even antiperspirant body sprays, which reduce how much you sweat.

Body Spray vs Deodorant

Deodorants come in a pressurized canister, with butane, isobutane, and propane acting as propellants, and instead of essential oils, use a mix of synthetic fragrances that can trigger dermatitis and asthma, disrupt hormones, and lead to cancer or heart disease. Aluminum in body sprays is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. 

If the “body spray” you are considering is an eau fraiche spritz from a reputable fragrance house, that’s a different matter. It still won’t have the longevity or sillage of cologne, but it won’t harm you either.

Longevity

Although neither is particularly lasting, colognes have considerably better longevity than body spray; the latter tends to be overpoweringly pungent initially but fades rapidly.

man applying dior cologne

You will have to reapply cologne a couple of times a day, whereas body spray is the kind of product you find yourself spraying multiple times a day.

Sillage

Body sprays initially have an edge over colognes for sillage but may fade before they make an impression.

Meanwhile, the subtle trail of citrus freshness and spring dew left by cologne is timelessly stylish.

Pricing

On the face of it, body spray has the edge in pricing.

However, if we look at how often you need to spray it, it isn’t really a saving, particularly compared with a fairly inexpensive but beautifully timeless cologne such as 4711.

How to Choose Between Body Spray and Cologne

When deciding between these two fragrance products, factors to consider include:

  • How good the scent is
  • Whether you could see it becoming your signature scent
  • The impression it will make on others
  • How long you want it to last
  • How much you have to pay
  • Potential adverse health outcomes

How to Use Body Spray

We would recommend that you use body spray if the product in question is an eau fraiche in a spritz bottle – simply spray it as a mist and walk through it.

You can combine it with colognes for a subtle, heady scent.

Which Is Better?

If you want a classic scent that conveys competence and style without being overpowering, cologne is the way to go; it easily surpasses body spray.

Fernweh Editions Candles

man using body spray

However, body sprays are affordable and, especially if they don’t include deodorant, are a simple way to keep yourself smelling fresh every day.

The Last Word

It may take a while to find a cologne to suit you, but keep looking. A good cologne is a great asset in your fragrance arsenal.

Writer

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.