Fragrances have increasingly become a marketing tool. They are omnipresent and that is not a blessing for everyone.
Everyone smells different
Oversensitivity to smells is something very personal. Just as one is more likely to suffer from sound or light, fragrances are also stimuli that can literally work on the nerves. Some people have a very keen sense of smell, while others hardly notice that they forgot to put the garbage outside.
Hormones also play an important role. When I was pregnant I smelled everything in stereo. I hardly wore any perfume then. So I can imagine that not everyone is pleased with ‘loud’ perfumes or fragranced rooms. I myself can’t bear the cheap rose perfume that’s being used in certain car parks. And I can’t linger too long in a certain clothing shop because of the obtrusive signature scent they use. After an overly perfumed table companion spoiled my dining pleasure, I wrote this post about perfume etiquette. There are some do’s and don’ts when you use perfume.
However, those who suffer from smells have a problem of a different order. This is almost always part of a broader context of chemical hypersensitivity. In countries without a big perfume culture (like the Scandinavian countries, United States, …), the call for perfume-free zones is becoming louder and louder. And although I am a big perfume lover, I can imagine that it must be problematic for those who get headaches, rashes or even breathing problems from the slightest hint of perfume.
Everything is perfumed these days, from cleansing wipes to car parks. It’s only logical that this overload of odours can cause problems in the long run. That is why I am a huge advocate of using perfume in a conscious, moderate fashion. For example, I don’t use perfumed detergents. I replace fabric softener with a dash of vinegar (does not leave a scent and is better for textile fibres) and will never buy fragranced toilet paper and sanitary towels. And I also prefer my cosmetics odourless. When I use perfume I do so consciously. Nothing makes me unhappier than unsophisticated fragrances. Less but better!
A matter of taste
But even without having problems, bear in mind that not everybody will share your taste in perfume. So tone it down and wear perfume in a more intimate way, so that only people who come really close to you can enjoy your scent. I myself like to put perfume on my belly. When the scent warms up it reaches my nose, but I don’t bother other people. Modest use of perfume is also a matter of perfume etiquette.
Tips for sensitive types
Do you quickly get headaches or other discomforts of smell but still like to smell good? Then there are a few tips I can give you.
- Choose light fragrances, such as citrus or fresh herbal fragrances. This type of perfume contains more head notes, which evaporate quickly. Perfumes with a lot of base notes (such as oriental or woody scents) linger much longer and are much more present.
- Choose short perfume formulas with fewer ingredients. The more substances in a perfume, the higher the risk of reactions. Nowadays, perfumes are formulated in a much more minimalistic way than, for example, vintage perfumes. Some perfume brands are known for their minimalistic style, such as Escentric Molecules, Jo Malone and the Hermès fragrances developed by Jean-Claude Ellena.
- Experiment with other perfume forms, such as solid, oil or body products. After all, they contain no alcohol, which reduces diffusion.