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The Kiehl’s Guide To Men’s Fragrances


What's The Difference Between Aftershave, Cologne, and Eau de Toilette?

Aftershave, cologne, and eau de toilette are all distinctly different ways to wear a fragrance. Here, learn about each one.

Smelling good is essential—you certainly don’t want the alternative. And for men, there are a number of ways to ensure you delight the noses of those around you. Aside from body and hair products that provide an added bonus in the form of a fragrance (like scented shampoos and lotions), there are three main product types that can help you smell good every day: aftershave, cologne, and eau de toilette. While all three have that one thing in common, they’re also different. Below, we’re explaining what each product does and how they differ from one another. Read on, so you know which to reach for.

What’s The Difference Between Aftershave and Cologne?

When it comes to aftershave vs. cologne, there’s no need for a debate. The two are actually quite different, and both can have their place in your grooming routine. Aftershave, as the name indicates, is meant to be used after shaving. It offers skin benefits, helping to calm and soothe your skin. This type of post-shave product is typically scented but not very strongly. If it contains a fragrance, about 1-2% perfume oil is standard.

Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion

At Kiehl’s, we have a few post-shave options for your skin. You can use a toner that doubles as aftershave, like Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. In addition to soothing skin after shaving, the formula with menthol and camphor helps balance oily areas. Facial Fuel Energizing Tonic For Men is another multitasking toner; it refreshes skin after shaving, leaves it looking hydrated, and visibly reduces signs of fatigue. Our final men’s aftershave option is Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief, an aftershave cream with willow herb and aloe vera that reduces feelings of irritation. It also minimizes the appearance of redness, razor burn, and razor bumps and leaves skin feeling virtually “sting-free” after shaving.

Now, onto cologne. It’s a product designed specifically to make you smell good, meaning it doesn’t offer shaving-related benefits. It’s one of the most popular fragrance options for men, offering a stronger scent than an aftershave.

Can You Use Aftershave As Cologne?

While the two aren’t one and the same, you can use a men’s aftershave in place of cologne. If you want a subtle fragrance, wear your aftershave without any cologne or other fragranced products. It will be able to shine on its own. However, the inverse doesn’t quite work. Don’t replace your aftershave with cologne, as the latter won’t be formulated to address the irritation that can come from facial hair removal.

Kiehl’s Tip: Speaking of fragrance and facial hair, we’d be remiss not to mention another way to incorporate scent into your grooming routine. Grooming Solutions Nourishing Beard Grooming Oil is a lightweight oil with a woodsy, earthy aroma. Formulated with an essential oil blend, including eucalyptus, sandalwood, and cedarwood oils, it tames and smooths coarse facial hair in addition to offering its fragrance. Massage a few drops through your beard to give it a try.

What’s The Difference Between Cologne and Eau de Toilette?

Next, we’re talking about another duo: cologne and eau de toilette. While they’re both types of fragrances, they aren’t interchangeable either. The difference lies in how strong of a fragrance each one is, which leads us to...

Is Cologne Weaker Than Eau de Toilette?

It’s a common misconception that eau de toilettes are weaker than cologne. In actuality, if you’re asking about eau de toilette vs. cologne, cologne is the weaker fragrance type. From weakest to strongest, it goes: aftershave, cologne, eau de toilette. Typically, cologne contains around 3-4% perfume oil, while an eau de toilette will contain 5-8%. Eau de parfum is up next, and parfum itself is the strongest with an average of 15-25% perfume oil. From these five options, you can choose based on how powerful you like your scent to be.

Musk Eau de Toilette Spray

For something more fragrant than an aftershave, Kiehl’s offers Musk Eau de Toilette Spray. It’s a classic, unisex scent inspired by Kiehl’s original musk oil. The eau de toilette begins with notes of bergamot nectar and orange blossom and dries down to smell like tonka nut, white patchouli, and musk.

Original Musk Oil

For the next step up in strength, try its inspiration: Original Musk Oil. Believed to have been originally created in 1921 (and reintroduced to customers in 1963), it’s a soft and clean fragrance with the same notes as the eau de toilette. For on-the-go use, opt for the rollerball variety.

Kiehl’s Tip: If you like the musk scent, you can complement it (and extend how long it lingers on your skin) with our coordinating body products. In the shower, wash up with Original Musk Bath and Shower Liquid Body Cleanser. Infused with our distinctly modern scent, it effectively cleanses and leaves skin soft and fragranced. You can also add it to a bath for a luxurious experience. After bathing, apply Original Musk Body Lotion, which absorbs quickly and superbly moisturizes, so skin is left smooth and scented.

Why Is Cologne Called “Toilet Water?”

Toilet water doesn’t sound like something you’d spritz or splash onto your skin to smell good, which raises the question of why some people refer to cologne that way. It comes from eau de toilette, which does in fact translate to “toilet water.” However, it isn’t a nod to the water in your toilet bowl. In this case, toilet means grooming. While colognes and perfumes are sometimes called toilet water, it’s not quite accurate, since, as you now know, they’re different from eau de toilettes.

Are Eau de Toilettes For Men or Women?

One last question while we’re on the topic of “toilet water:” Who should use it? As we mentioned, our Musk Eau de Toilette is unisex; anyone can use it. As for eau de toilettes in general, gender doesn’t factor into who should use them either—it’s all about how strong you want your fragrance to be. Similarly, colognes are often thought of as men’s fragrances, while perfumes might be presumed to be women’s fragrances. But again, it’s actually about what strength you want. Find the strength (and the scent) that suits you.

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