Shopping for cologne is brutal. You sniff for woman pleasers until your nose burns out, and then the potions all smell the same.

So know this: Your purchase isn’t all about scent. Men who use cologne are more confident than those who don’t, according to a recent University of Liverpool study. “It’s body armor around his ego,” says Adam K. Anderson, Ph.D., who studies emotional links to scent. The smell may fade, but the effect lasts.

The same study found that when women simply see a man apply a scent, they consider him more attractive. Easy as that: Use a scent you like, and your confidence carries you.

Brand matters only in a personal way. “When you wear a scent,” says Martin Lindstrom, the author of Buyology, “you subconsciously buy the com-pany’s image and make it your own.” To help guide you, we asked 200 women what each brand makes them think of. Look to the right for their top answers.

1. Banana Republic Republic of Men 
$45; smells like clementine, herbs
“Clean, traditional”

2. Usher VIP 
$50-$65; bergamot, saffron
“Masculine, mysterious”

3. D&G l’Amoureux 
$65; spice, musk
“Stylish, sexy”

4. Zegna Colonia 
$50-$70; cedar, florals
“Rugged, virile”

5 Axe Instinct 
$5; leather, spice
“Energetic, youthful”

6 Lacoste Challenge 
$40-$60; citrus, woods
“Sporty, cool”

7. Yves Saint Laurent
La Nuit de l’Homme 

$72; woods, lavender
“Sophisticated, elegant”

What 200 Women We Polled Say About Cologne

56% Say wear it every day. . . .
. . . but never apply more than three sprays a day, say nearly 68% of women.

59% Say the cologne of an ex is still a turn-on. . . .
. . . and it can be sexy on you, too, say 63%.

99% Say you shouldn’t smell like cologne from more than a foot away. . . .
. . . and up close, it smells best on your torso, say 51%. Only 9% like it on your wrist.

Best Scents Men

Life is simpler when scientists explain things for us. Like this: Women are extra-susceptible to the emotional power of scents, according to a study in Chemical Senses. So match your cologne to your plans and improve the date, instantly.

The Coffee-and-Dessert Date
The Scent: Dolce & Gabbana The One Gentleman

This cologne has a backbone of vanilla, an essence shown to have relaxing and calming effects, reports a study by International Flavors & Fragrances that mapped moods according to scent. Plus, it’ll pair perfectly with her latte and creme brulee.
$55, ulta

The Late-Night Around-Town Date
The Scent: Chanel Bleu de Chanel or Tom Ford’s Azure Lime

The scent of citrus may make her more energetic, Japanese researchers say. If she’s a fan of Caribbean cocktails, go with the grapefruit-based Chanel. If she drinks cosmos or mimosas, try Tom Ford, which has hints of lime, orange, and lemon.
$80, chanel or $190, saksfifthavenue

The Adventure Getaway Date
The Scent: Eau d’Italie or Bulgari Man

What’s a bergamot? Doesn’t matter. Okay, it’s a kind of citrus fruit. Its scent produced positive feelings of carelessness, relaxation, and confidence in the women who smelled it, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Eau d’Italie contains bergamot but veers sweeter. Bulgari Man has it too, but smells warmer, with hints of musk and sandalwood.
$140, lafcony or $80, bloomingdales

The Road Trip Date
The Scent: The Big Pony Collection #3

It contains mint, which may help improve attention and focus, a University of Oxford study found. You’ll both keep an eye on the road and (just as important) the conversation flowing.
$50, bigponyfragrances