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