We’ve all known a “cologne guy” or “perfume girl”.
I’ve even been one. When I was first starting out on my fragrance journey, I didn’t seem to understand the concept of restraint. I sprayed with wild abandon, as if I wanted everyone within a forty block radius to know I was the smelliest guy in town.
It took a few well placed and often not-so-polite comments from discerning strangers for me to understand that I was practically gassing out my workplace. Since then, I’ve reigned my spraying regimen in and found a sweet spot that works for me.
So, how many sprays of perfume is enough?
How many sprays of perfume you need depends upon a number of different factors. The “strength” or concentration of the fragrance, the weather/season, and occasion are all important considerations when deciding how many sprays of perfume to apply. There is no standard regimen that can be applied to every person, every occasion, or every perfume.
For me, I generally spray 4-5 sprays of your average strength eau de toilette or eau de parfum. Since I spend most of my time in a working environment with kids, I don’t want to inflame anyone’s allergies or offend any sensibilities, and the only person who’s really going to be smelling the fragrances I wear is me, myself, and I.
But there are fragrances in my collection where even one spray feels excessive. And there are some where I can spray 10 or 11 times and it’ll still be gone in an hour.
Let’s break down what you’ll need to take into account before you spray on your perfume.
What is the strength or concentration of your perfume?
This is probably the most important thing to consider before you spray on your fragrance. I’ve written about perfume concentrations here, so if you want a more in-depth write up on the difference between concentrations, feel free to take a look.
The thrust of the thing is this: not all perfumes are created equal. Some are incredibly powerful, more akin to weapons of chemical warfare than anything intended for human consumption, much less pleasure. Others are like impressionist watercolors, meant to arouse the senses through suggestion and innuendo rather than brute force.
You can hardly apply a heavy oud and incense based fragrance in the same way that you would an airy white floral and citrus.
Keep this in mind before spraying willy nilly and suffocating your coworkers. Test your fragrance out at home or in-store before giving it a full proper wearing out of doors. Know what you’re getting into and what you may or may not be putting others through. This seems somewhat obvious, but as I said, not all fragrances are created equal.
Ask your friends, partner, coworkers, or even strangers (if you’re brave) if they can smell you, and if so, to what degree. Can they only smell you if they get close to you? Do you announce yourself from forty paces? Or do they pick up a persistent but elegant scent trail (which, believe me, is what you want)?
A big part of determining the strength of your perfume will come out of asking others. The major reason for this comes down to a phenomenon called anosmia.
What is “anosmia”?
You know how when you go to somebody else’s house and it has a distinct smell? And the longer that you stay in that house, the more you get used to that smell, to the point of not even being able to detect it after a while?
That’s anosmia, or at least a form of it. When used in its strictest medical sense, it actually refers to something rather more serious.
However, in the fragrance community, we tend to use the term (along with “nose blindness” or “olfactory fatigue”) to explain the simple fact that after a while, your nose will get used to a smell. No matter how deeply you dig your nose into your wrist, you won’t get the same, potent smell that you got when you first sprayed your fragrance on.
This can happen if you wear one fragrance particularly often. It can also happen when a perfume contains certain synthetic molecules, such as javanol, ISO E Super, or ambroxan, which some people can be naturally unable to smell.
And it can happen if you spray on too much of a fragrance. Your nose can easily get overwhelmed, and instead of continuously processing the scent, it just shuts down parts of your olfactory system altogether. You’ll be left wondering where your fragrance went, when in actuality the 10 sprays you soaked yourself with are radiating strongly enough to make you seem like a mini Chernobyl.
So ask around and test, test, test before choosing how many sprays to apply.
Also be aware of different perfume concentrations. An eau de cologne (EdC) is not going to be as potent as an extrait de parfum. An eau de toilette (EdT) is going to be detectable to most with 5-6 sprays, but 5-6 sprays of an eau de parfum (EdP) might be a bit too much, depending on the fragrance.
Arming yourself with this knowledge, testing the fragrance in the comfort of your own home before wearing it out, and asking others about how strong or weak your perfume is are practices that will save you from a lot of awkward “cologne guy” or “perfume girl” situations. It’ll also help you make an informed decision of how much to spray of any fragrance, not just one.
Remember, not all fragrances are created equal, and there will be some variance between practically all of them.
Most mainstream designer perfumes will not be that strong. Part of it could be chalked up to the sales strategy (weaker perfumes, more bottles moved), and part of it could be that in most parts of the world, super strong perfumes are (sadly) not preferred.
Middle Eastern perfume brands will usually offer much stronger stuff.
If you’re new to the fragrance world, you might be a little bit lost. Here’s a breakdown of the strength of some of the most popular designer fragrances on the market today.
|Recommended # of Sprays|
|Bleu de Chanel EDP||Average strength. 3-5 sprays.|
|Dior Sauvage EDT||Strong. 2-4 sprays sufficient.|
|Versace Eros EDP||Strong. 2-4 sprays sufficient.|
|Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Intense||Strong. 2-4 sprays sufficient.|
|Dior Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet||Average strength. 3-5 sprays.|
|YSL Black Opium Neon||Average strength. 3-5 sprays.|
What about the weather?
For me, the weather has a lot to do with what I’m going to wear. If it’s the middle of winter, I would much rather reach for something like Valentino Uomo Intense (Amazon) – dark, sweet, and strong – than say, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue (Amazon).
But I’m a collector, with more than 50 full bottles of designer, niche, and indie fragrances and hundreds of samples and decants. I have something for just about every weather pattern and occasion under the sun.
If you’re a normal person and not like me, though, you probably won’t have 50+ bottles of perfume. You might have 2 or 3, or even one. So what can you do to keep things classy in all seasons?
Let me just get out my hand dandy chart and give you an idea:
|Season & # of Sprays|
|Spring||In cooler weather, ex. ~50-70° F (10-20° C) fragrances are longer lasting but project slightly less. 4-5 sprays of average strength EdTs or EdPs should be good.|
|Summer||In hot and humid weather, ex. ~70-95° F (20-35° C), fragrances are not as long lasting but project more. 3-4 sprays, more if you’re using an average strength EdT or EdP, more if using an eau fraiche or EdC.|
|Autumn||In cooler weather, ex. ~40-60° F (5-15° C) fragrances are longer lasting but project slightly less. 4-5 sprays of average strength EdTs or EdPs should be good.|
|Winter||In truly cold weather, ex. 0-32° F (-15-0° C) and below, fragrances are not as long lasting or projecting. You can amp up your sprays in the cold. 5-6 sprays of average strength EdTs or EdPs should be fine, less if you’re using stronger stuff or an extrait.|
Again, this isn’t a blanket prescription. The strength of perfumes varies broadly, and you might want to add or take away sprays depending on the heat of your summers or the coldness of your winters.
Generally speaking, though, fragrances will not last as long in hot weather, but will project more (meaning that more people will be able to smell them, they have more “throw”). In cold weather, fragrances are longer lasting but don’t project as much.
How much you spray will also vary based on the occasion. You might not want to spray 15 times before you go to work, but rather keep things milder and more polite.
If you’re going on a first date with someone you don’t know very well, you also might want to keep things a bit more conservative until you find out how they feel about your fragrance.
In an interview, it’s preferable to wear no fragrance at all.
And if you’re going to a formal occasion, it might be best to go easy on the trigger.
If it’s an outdoor occasion though, you’re more at liberty to amp up the sprays, since you won’t be in an enclosed space.
Hanging out casually with friends is also an excuse to go a bit more hog wild. Getting groceries or running errands? Why not, spray a little bit more.
And if you’re going to a club, you need 15+ sprays just to get in!
The final word
Here’s the takeaway.
There is no secret formula or mathematical equation to determine how much perfume you apply. The strength of the perfume, the weather, the occasion, and also your own personal preference will dictate how much you wear or don’t wear.
I’m personally best served with 4-5 sprays of an average strength eau de toilette or eau de parfum.
You might prefer 2, or 7, or 20.
Some people want a nuclear powered perfume. Others want to keep things more discrete. Some people like to wear “winter” perfumes in the summer, and “summer” perfumes in the winter.
Trial and error will help you to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
Remember, scent is totally subjective. Some people hate sweet smells, while other people can’t get enough of them. Just like any of our other senses, olfaction will vary wildly from person to person. Some people can’t even stand perfumes at all.
So get out there, test, test, test, and find your sweet spot.
My advice, though? Low ball it at first.
Nobody wants to be the “cologne guy” or “perfume girl”.