Smells and fragrances can evoke a certain mood or memory. Aromatherapy and fragrances are great for boosting spirits, or easing tension and stress. Others simply smell wonderful. From spicy and smoky, to woody and green, here are the 12 best fragrance oils for men.
Use this roundup list as inspiration if you’re looking to brainstorm ideas on how to fragrance your next batch of homemade soap, shampoo bars, DIY aftershave, or shaving cream that appeals to men.
We’ve rounded up a variety of scents that should satisfy those with XY chromosomes.
What are masculine scents?
First things first. There’s no standard definition of what constitutes a so-called “masculine” scent as men and their preferences come in all stripes. But most would agree that a traditional manly fragrance is light on the florals.
A few words come to mind when thinking of scents many men gravitate towards. Earthy. Woodsy. Tobacco. Pine. Refreshing. Spicy.
Key differences between fragrance oils and essential oils
While many people use these terms loosely, there are key differences between fragrance oils (FO) and essential oils (EO). Let’s take a closer look.
- Synthetic: FOs are made of synthetic compounds derived in a lab. Some fragrances contain a blend of natural compounds and resins. Each FO is made of dozens of chemical fragrance ingredients.
- No therapeutic benefits: FOs do NOT offer any healing or therapeutic benefits. We simply use them for their aromatic properties. On the flip side, this makes them safe for most people (unless someone has fragrance sensitivities).
- Less expensive: Fragrance oils are the more affordable option. You can buy a large bottle of your favorite aroma at a fraction of the cost of EOs.
- Longer lasting: As FOs are non-volatile, their scents often last longer in cold process soap. However, some FOs can affect your soap batch (accelerate trace).
- More variety: The sky’s the limit with the variety of fragrances you can choose from. You’ll find ones like Beach and Driftwood, or Hipster Coffee Shop.
- Natural: Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, or roots of natural botanicals. Most are steam distilled. If you’re looking to go the au naturel route, EOs are for you.
- Therapeutic benefits: The volatile oils in essential oils come with unique properties and are used in aromatherapy to soothe, uplift, or energize, depending on the natural oil. We do not recommend some essential oils if you have certain health conditions, so please do your due diligence.
- More expensive: As EOs are derived from natural plants and flowers, the cost per bottle is more.
- Less selection: You won’t find a vanilla essential oil, for example, but you’ll find a vanilla fragrance oil. You’ll find vanilla extracts or absolutes, but not a pure vanilla EO. Same goes for other scents such as coffee or “fresh rain.”
How to use this guide on best fragrance oils for men
I’ve organized masculine fragrances into different categories:
- Earthy and spicy
- Citrus and herbaceous
Since there are hundreds of fragrance oils to choose from, each with their own unique name depending on the manufacturer, I’ve chosen to focus on the keyword, or main fragrance notes to look up, rather than a specific product.
I’ve focused on explaining essential oil properties. If any of the essential oils sound appealing to you, you could find a fragrance oil similar to it.
Into the woods: best woodland-inspired scents for men
Beyond the stereotype of a manly lumberjack, woodland notes evoke calming and invigorating notes that are great for adding to strong aftershaves, or cleansing and refreshing bath soaps.
For woody fragrance oils for men, look for aroma notes or words such as: oak, woodland, wintergreen, or pine.
1) Cedarwood essential oil
There are various types of cedarwood, each with their own distinct fragrance. Cedarwood EO acts as a mid to bottom note.
Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) has a sharp, strong woody scent.
Virginia Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and Texas Cedarwood (Juniperus mexicana) offer a more mellow version of the woods. Virginia cedarwood is typically the least expensive as it’s a byproduct of pencil sawdust.
While the variety from Virginia is distilled from sawdust, the Atlas and Texas species come from small branches and needles.
Cedarwood properties: Used to stimulate courage and clarity. Cedarwood contains antiseptic properties which soothe itchy, irritated, or sensitive skin. It’s also great at managing oily skin.
How to use: Blends well with most other woody scents, citrus/lemongrass, and frankincense. Cedarwood works great with peppermint/spearmint.
2) Fir balsam essential oil
Fir balsam (Abies balsamea) has a refreshingly clean coniferous scent which is distilled from the needles. Use as a middle note when you’re looking for a strong scent.
Fir balsam properties: Refreshing and invigorating. Fir EO has antiseptic properties great for skin care.
How to use: Use with other woodsy scents including cedarwood, pine or spruce. Balsam fir pairs well with the sweetness of lavender and the earthiness of rosemary.
3) Juniper berry essential oil
A modern scent that appeals to both men and women, juniper essential oil (Juniperus communis) smells crisp, yet sweet with a resinous scent similar to pine. It offers a medium aroma perfect for middle notes.
Juniper properties: Relaxing, yet uplifting. Juniper has antiseptic properties great for soothing irritated skin.
How to use: Juniper blends well with bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, eucalyptus, marjoram, rosemary, sandalwood, and vetiver.
4) Pine essential oil
This list would not be complete without pine (Pinus sylvestris) which smells like a forest in a bottle! Distilled from small pine branches, choose this if you’re looking to add a fresh woodland aroma. Use as a strong top note.
Pine properties: Uplifting and centering. Pine has astringent and skin toning properties.
How to use: Blend with spicy or earthy notes like coriander, frankincense, or rosemary. Pairs nicely with fresh or woody scents such as eucalyptus, juniper, lavender, and tea tree. Pine packs a punch with refreshing notes like peppermint/spearmint.
5) Vetiver essential oil
A popular men’s fragrance, vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) is distilled from the roots of a grass which gives it a unique earthy, woody, and slightly ashy character. Use it as an anchor, a strong base note.
Vetiver properties: Soothing, balancing, and grounding. Promotes a good night’s sleep. Vetiver has antiseptic and antispasmodic properties.
How to use: Pair well with cedarwood, chamomile, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemongrass, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, and ylang-ylang.
Best earthy and spicy essential oils for men
Spicy notes evoke warmth, comfort and a touch of mystery. When looking for fragrance oils, look for keywords such as ash, musky, earthy, spicy, or tobacco.
Sandalwood with its earthy and exotic, sweet and spicy aroma, is one of the most popular and best fragrance oils for men. True sandalwood essential oil is very pricey as the trees are vulnerable from over-harvesting. Buy a sandalwood FO instead. It offers the same great scent at a fraction of the cost!
6) Black pepper essential oil
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) essential oil derives from black pepper seeds or dried berries. It acts as a middle note with plenty of sharp, spicy notes with sweet and woody undertones to balance it out. Black pepper smells similar to clove.
Black pepper properties: Warm, grounding, and stimulating.
How to use: Blends well with bergamot, clary sage, citrus notes, clove, coriander, fennel, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, juniper, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.
7) Cardamom essential oil
Bring on the spice with cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). It’s a sweet, yet spicy note used in many men’s colognes. It has lovely woody undertones. Use cardamom as a strong top note.
Cardamom properties: Stimulating and cleansing. Cardamom works well for mature skin (if using in DIY soaps or body products).
How to use it: Cardamom pairs nicely with bergamot, cedarwood, cinnamon bark, clove bud, and orange.
8) Frankincense essential oil
Distilled from the resin of an indigenous Middle Eastern tree, frankincense essential oil (Boswellia carterii) delivers a sharp and exotic aroma with woody and slightly smoky notes. It’s a medium aroma used as a base note. You’ll find frankincense often used in meditation or religious practices.
Frankincense properties: Warming, healing, and firming.
How to use: Works as a binder for other scents. Frankincense pairs well with other warm and spicy or herbaceous aromas, including basil, bergamot, cardamom, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon bark, clary sage, coriander, geranium, myrrh, and vanilla.
Best citrus and herbaceous essential oils for men
Some of the best fragrance oils for men are those that are refreshing and green. Here’s a roundup of scents that both men and women will appreciate.
9) Bergamot essential oil
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) straddles the line between feminine and masculine and offers a citrus scent with woody undertones, and just a hint of floral notes. Bergamot provides a middle note with medium strength.
Bergamot properties: Uplifting and reduces anxiety. It contains antiseptic, antispasmodic, and digestive properties.
How to use: Blend with other citrus scents, black pepper, frankincense, and juniper. Bergamot helps to anchor other citrus aromas.
10) Eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) or lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) is a popular fragrance in men’s body care products (and common cold medicines too!). With its distinct herbaceous aroma, eucalyptus offers a strong top note.
Eucalyptus properties: Stimulating and uplifting. Eucalyptus has antiseptic properties and reduces oiliness on skin.
How to use: The leafy notes of this EO blend nicely with basil, cedarwood, lavender, lemon, juniper, peppermint/spearmint, and tea tree oil.
11) Lemongrass essential oil
An earthier, muskier cousin to regular lemon essential oil, lemongrass oil is a lovely scent to add to a masculine blend as a strong, top note.
Lemongrass properties: Soothing and relieves stress. Helps repel insects. Lemongrass has antiseptic and astringent properties.
How to use: Great for facial products as it reduces greasy or oily skin. Lemongrass blends well with cedarwood, citrus, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and vetiver.
12) Peppermint/spearmint essential oil
Who doesn’t like the zesty clean smell of mint? Peppermint (Mentha arvensis), or spearmint (Mentha viridis) have similar properties, but spearmint is slightly sweeter. For a more “masculine” note, peppermint offers a sharper, crisper scent. Use as a strong top note.
Properties of mint: Awakening and stimulating. It also has antiseptic properties.
How to use: Use sparingly in skin care products as it can leave skin feeling tingly. Peppermint and spearmint pair well with basil, bergamot, cedarwood, citrus, eucalyptus, pine, and rosemary.
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- Grosso, Alicia (2013). The Everything Soapmaking Book, 3rd Edition. Adams Media. pp. 200–209. ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-5013-3.
- New Directions Aromatics, Essential Oils, https://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/products/essential-oils/. Accessed February 2022.