You’ve got a good cologne for nights on the town. But even subtle colognes can feel heavy handed—or downright overpowering—if you’re headed to work, the coffee shop, or other weekday hangouts.
The same could be said of heavy scents worn on first dates.
“Wearing too much fragrance can be repelling,” says Julia Zangrilli, founder and owner-perfumer at Brooklyn’s NOVA fragrance house. Especially before someone gets to know you, a strong cologne can come off as insecure, gauche, or a sign of overcompensating, she says.
In these situations, an aftershave is your best bet. Aftershaves tend to be fresher and lighter than colognes, and they communicate your sex appeal in a whisper—rather than a bullhorn shout. “Especially if you’re in enclosed spaces in close contact with others”—think a subway car, or a conference room—“aftershaves have a softer effect than strong colognes,” Zangrilli says. “They’re a no-brainer way to ensure you smell great without going overboard.”
The Ultimate Shave:
Here are seven aftershaves that you can wear with confidence, knowing each provides just the right amount of fragrance. Bonus: “Because aftershave products are so soothing to the skin, you can re-apply at lunch for added skin conditioning and to refresh your scent,” Zangrilli says.
Owen & Fred You Dirty Dog Aftershave
Let’s start with the scent, which is about as uncluttered and fresh as it gets. It packs the right amount of eucalyptus—a scent that, like menthol, “adds a little sex appeal without being over the top,” Zangrilli says. Aloe and shea butter hydrate your skin, and it’s also free of all parabens and phthalates—commonly used fragrance chemicals that have been linked with health issues, including degraded sperm quality.
$14.95, Buy It Here
Ogallala Bay Rum Aftershave
Bay rum has been closing deals since your father was in diapers. It worked for your grandfather. It worked for your dad. And it’ll work for you. This is as throw-back as it gets, and that’s a good thing. If you have sensitive skin, this isn’t the best option for you. It contains some witch hazel to tone your skin, but not many of the soothing agents sported by modern aftershaves. But if you have a burly mug and you’re interested in a man’s-man fragrance that isn’t overpowering, this is your aftershave.
$22.25, Buy It Here
The Art of Shaving Lemon Aftershave Balm
Zangrilli says “any and all citrus notes” smell both clean and refreshing, which mean they’re ideal for everyday wear. Grape seed extract and shea butter hydrate and firm your skin, while glycerin helps lock in moisture. This is probably the lightest fragrance among the options on this list. Use it if you want your partner—or the coworker sharing your cab to the airport—to smell you, but no one else. (To make a stronger statement, the new Kingsmen-inspired bourbon aftershave is another good buy from Art of Shaving.)
$40, Buy It Here
Midnight & Two “The Cabin” Aftershave Balm
Made from essential oils distilled from sandalwood, vetiver, and lavender, the scent of this aftershave balm is comfortingly warm and inviting. It’s also ultra-nourishing for your skin, and features organic Aloe Vera juice, witch hazel, and rose to leave your skin hydrated and cool.
$28.03, Buy It Here
Musgo Real Aftershave Balm
This Portuguese aftershave is retro in all the right ways. Masculine but refined, its fragrance features notes of oak moss—the word musgo is Portuguese for moss—which Zangrilli calls a “classic, old-school” scent, but in subtler doses than the stronger products in the Musgo Real line. It also includes Echinacea and witch hazel to soothe and soften your skin after shaving.
$36.07, Buy It Here
Portland General Store Whiskey After-Shave Splash
It’s made with sea kelp extract and algae to boost hydration and soothe razor-inflamed skin. But the whiskey-rubbed fragrance of this “splash” is what sets it apart. It does smell like whiskey, but in a way that’s understated and masculine—not like you just stepped out of a bar after a bender. It also lasts an absurdly long time; even with daily use, one 4-ounce bottle should last you at least six months.
$18, Buy It Here
Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Aftershave
Almost anything from Taylor of Old Bond Street—or TOBS, as it’s known among shaving junkies—is going to serve you well. But while some of TOBS’s line is on the stronger side, this soothing aftershave gel provides just the right amount of natural sandalwood and cedar fragrance. This gel’s combination of allantoin and witch hazel conditions and refreshes your skin. Just don’t go nuts. A dime’ll do you.
$19.35, Buy It Here