The Grooming Manual

Why is Cheap Cologne Bad?

Why is Cheap Cologne Bad?

When you were a teen and first trying out cologne, chances are your go-to scent came from a cheap body spray or a clothing store fragrance. At the time, it probably made sense - you were young, it was inexpensive, and everyone else seemed to be wearing the same thing. 

As an adult, though, cheap cologne simply does not - and cannot - make the cut as part of your everyday routine. Here’s why. 

It Makes a Bad First Impression 

First impressions are important, and in many instances - like on a first date or during an important meeting with a new connection - they’re all you really have. In fact, a 2018 study found that, on average, you only have 27 seconds to make a good first impression. 

The study also found that smelling bad, acting arrogantly, and dressing poorly were the top three reasons why people form a bad first impression of someone. And once someone has formed a negative impression, it’s an uphill battle to change their minds. 

So having a cologne that delivers the right message - whether that be confidence, class, good taste, or something else - is important. 

People Can Tell It’s Cheap 

Now, you may be thinking: “Ok - but people can’t tell that my cologne is inexpensive, so it won’t necessarily make a bad impression.”

That’s not entirely true. 

Of your five senses, smell is most closely linked to memory and emotion. This makes a lot of sense; give anyone access to a perfume that a favorite relative wore or a scent that was prevalent in their childhood home and they’ll tell you how much it “brought them back” to that person or moment. 

Most people have smelled a variety of cheap colognes in their lives - whether it be on a classmate, in a store, or even from a tester - and they will always be able to place it if they smell it again. 

What’s more, they’ll remember the associations that come with that scent. And those associations may not be positive. 

The Scent Doesn’t Last 

If you use a cheap cologne, you’re getting exactly what you paid for. In short: the scent simply won’t last. 

Why? Generally speaking, a high-quality fragrance has:

  • Top notes: The initial scent that you smell when you first spray a cologne. The top notes provide a first impression of a fragrance and tend to evaporate within 30 minutes. 
  • Mid-notes: Otherwise known as heart notes, mid notes retain some of the top notes’ aroma while also introducing new scents to deepen the fragrance experience. Because they make up around 70% of the total scent, mid notes usually last longer than top notes.
  • Base notes: In a high-quality perfume, base notes are rich, heavy, and long-lasting. They usually kick in after about 30 minutes, and they can linger for over six hours.  

While inexpensive fragrances can imitate the top notes of higher quality or pricier colognes, that initial scent only lasts about 30 minutes. The mid-notes and base notes, which come from high-quality essential oils and aromatic florals, simply aren’t there. 

It Can Irritate Your Skin 

Fragrance is always a tricky thing to play around with. Research has shown that fragrance is one of the most common skin irritants, often causing sensitization or other negative reactions. 

And this can be true for all skin types - not just sensitive or acne-prone skin.

That said, you’re more likely to run into problems with cheap, synthetic colognes or fragrances. In fact, the term “fragrance” itself is often a cop-out used by many companies that don’t want to admit to all the chemicals that they have in their products.

This is a huge problem since these engineered scents can be packed with any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Plus, they can contain parabens, glycols, phthalates, synthetic dyes, or sulfates. 

What’s worse - these fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Yikes!

The biggest problem here? If you don’t pay attention, you might think that you’re in the clear because your skin isn’t showing obvious signs of irritation. But the reality is that the skin is really good at hiding when it’s being aggravated - so while you may not notice any concerns right away, the damage can be adding up over time. 

Even though you may not notice it right away, you’ll do your skin a favor by avoiding the cheap stuff. 

It Can Mess With Your Hormones 

This may sound overdramatic, but it’s true. According to a 2018 report, more than 1,200 fragrance chemicals currently in use have been flagged as potential or known “chemicals of concern.” These include carcinogens, chemicals that are explicitly prohibited by the EU, and endocrine disruptors - which mimic human hormones. 

These endocrine disruptors are particularly worrying for many researchers since very small doses can have considerable effects on the wearer. 

The Solution: Choose a High-Quality Cologne 

The good news? All of these concerns can be avoided if you choose a high-quality, all-natural cologne that features pure botanicals and no synthetic fragrances or endocrine disruptors. 

Accolade cologne

Our Accolade Cologne includes notes of Italian bergamot, cedarwood, sandalwood, lemon, and guaiac wood. Unlike many natural colognes, Accolade has excellent staying power, and it’s made naturally without any phthalates (a known testosterone endocrine disruptor). 

Just remember: whatever cologne you choose, read the label on the bottle and make the most informed choice you can. 


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