(First published on QUORA,
Most men have a skin chemistry that works well with woody, spicy and/or green fragrances. An authentic sandalwood base, for example, smells great on just about everyone. Oud, while very expensive, is another exotic, memorable base note.
Two caveats here: the top and middle notes will change the overall scent dramatically, so you will need to test your sample over time on your own skin. While some men do well with a citrus-style formulation (i.e. sandalwood/verbena/bergamot/lime), others will get a very masculine balance with sandalwood or oud, rose, basil, and lavender, due to their own natural musky pheromones. True oud-based formulas are usually more expensive and difficult to find. Be careful with patchouli; while it is a long-lasting base note on the less expensive end, it was so overused in the 60s and 70s that most people have a distinctive subconscious response to the aroma. Other ingredients, such as ambergris (originally the aged vomit of vulnerable sperm whales), or civet (from feline scent glands), are so rare in nature that if you see them listed, you have fancy chemistry, not the real thing.
Second caveat: if you are not prepared to pay for the real essences, which are expensive, I would recommend no scent at all–or make your own aftershave splash. Should you invest in the real thing, remember that a little bit goes a L-O-N-G way. Chemical substitutes are obviously synthetic, degrade unpredictably, and are usually too strong (you know that “Aargh, who put on so much cologne?” feeling that crinkles your nose in elevators or nauseates in airplanes?)
So if you can’t afford $150 for a bottle of cologne, never fear! Believe it or not, scientific research has repeatedly shown that women are drawn to the clean scent of “underarm odor.” We’re not talking about stressed-out, no-sleep, hangover BO, just your natural daily scent. Stress produces sweat-byproducts very appealing to bacteria, so your daily meditation helps in more ways than you might imagine.
Experimenting with your own signature fragrances gives you a unique and enjoyable avocation, while improving your palate and sensitivity for tasting wines, coffee beans, teas and tisanes. Try soaking bay leaves, peppercorns, and lavender blossoms in unflavored vodka for a few days, strain, add several drops of jojoba oil, a tablespoon of witch hazel, then a few drops of one or two essential oils that appeal to you. Top off with enough water so the finished solution is just lightly scented, and pour into a spray bottle. Use your imagination and get to know the scent of “you.” Try soaking real cinnamon bark and grated nutmeg. Try a tip from a rosemary shrub topped off with lavender essential oil. Find 100% pure, undiluted, preferably organic essential oil of sandalwood, dilute, and smell how it changes during the day. If you are still getting open eyes and dilated nostrils from people nearby (who make no effort to back off!), you have a winner. Simple is better.
Another option is authentic Caribbean Bay Rum (the real stuff is simple: read the list of ingredients). It’s a perennial favorite for a reason!
Enjoy, and have fun! Just don’t stress about it. Remember, a high-quality natural soap will leave its scent residue on your skin, and many people find that the most pleasing aroma of all.