Difference between aftershave and cologne

So just what is the difference between aftershave and cologne?

Before answering the question at hand ↑, please allow me to paint a picture for you. As a gentleman, you have just concluded your shaving formalities and are busily preparing yourself for an important function. You may be escorting a delightful lady for the evening, or attending a wedding breakfast, or perhaps you are to be interviewed for an important position. However you have encountered a conundrum: you’ve sustained a cut upon your face, which occurred likely when you were shaving, and you simply have no idea what to do for the best. Also, you would clearly like to make a lasting impression whatever the occasion, but you don’t know which scent to wear.

Please permit me to guide you through this perplexing scenario.

Firstly what exactly is an “Aftershave”?

Aftershave is a liquid which a gentleman applies to his face after shaving (somewhat unsurprisingly). During the shaving process, you are effectively moving a piece of sharp metal across delicate skin, shaving off the bristles on your face and opening up the facial pores while doing so. If a gentleman has dry skin, he uses a dull razor or is perhaps not fully awake during the process, it may result in red bumps and more than a few cuts and nicks.

Aftershave assists in helping your skin pores to close after shaving, improves the look of the skin and helps prevent infection if you sustain a cut during the shaving process. Some aftershaves also contain a moisturiser to replace lost skin oils. Aftershave usually comes in a liquid form but can increasingly be found packaged as a gel, balm or lotion. The scented oil present in aftershave is of a much lower volume when compared with cologne and as such the fragrance itself will not have the same longevity. The liquid variant of aftershave will typically contain the highest amount of alcohol, which will, as most young men will attest to, sting like billy-o if you apply it directly onto broken skin. For gentlemen with an oilier complexion more prone to blackheads, liquid aftershaves will, as previously alluded to close your pores and help prevent an outbreak. For a gentleman with dry or overly sensitive skin that might be somewhat easily irritated, balms would be a far better choice. Perhaps aftershave gels might sit between the two other options.

So we know what aftershave is (the clue is, after all in the name) but what is Cologne?

We have mentioned all the other benefits of an aftershave above and beyond the fragrance, however, cologne is simply put, purely to make a gentleman smell nice. The word cologne is derived from Eau de Cologne, a perfume created in the German city of Cologne by an Italian. There is an assumption that perfume is for the fairer sex and cologne is for gentlemen, but this is a common misapprehension. Gentlemen and ladies alike can wear either one.

Colognes are triggered by the heat of the body, so should be applied to the skin at various different pulse points but certainly not on one’s clothes because the chemicals in the fragrance can cause a stain and damage the fabric fibres. If you wear jewellery, one should always apply cologne first as the chemicals may create a somewhat unpleasant milky film on your gold and silver.

Cologne has one purpose, and that is to provide you with a pleasant, memorable aroma. If you have just had a shave and have perhaps sustained a cut do not reach for the cologne! Sadly there are few things more unpleasant in social circles than an overly liberally applied cologne. A gentleman should not allow his fragrance to announce his arrival (by several minutes in some extreme cases!)

So when should you apply a cologne?

If you would like to smell better and have other people remember you by your scent, or you wish to wear a fragrance with more longevity than your regular aftershave.

But is there a time when you should not countenance the wearing of a fragrance at all?

Well, the only time you wouldn’t want to wear cologne or scented aftershave is when attending an interview for an employment position. The wearing of an overpowering fragrance might possibly distract the interviewer and have him, or her, remember you for all the wrong reasons. For an interview of any sort my advice would always be the more neutral you smell the better for it!

So would there ever be a time when you might wear both an aftershave and a cologne?

Well, you could actually wear both an aftershave and a cologne providing they are derived from the same line of fragrance. Applying cologne on top of an aftershave will layer the scent and provide far greater longevity. You would also be wise to be mindful that contemporary shampoos, conditioners, soaps and deodorant sprays or roll-ons all have a fragrance of their own so select a cologne that will not conflict with the other scents and leave you smelling like a herbaceous border on a warm summers day!