Calm Down With The Perfume And Cologne, Folks

by Annie Reneau
Originally Published: 
A woman spraying perfume on her arm
GlobalStock / Getty Images

I sit down in my airplane seat next to the window. Almost immediately, my eyes start watering, and I find it hard to take a deep breath. I open the fresh air valve on above my seat, but it doesn’t help. I realize I’m going to be trapped here for the next three hours, and I start to panic.

I have no fear of flying. This is not about the potential of plummeting to my death from 30,000 feet up.

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No, it’s this is about the plume surrounding the little old lady in the seat in front of me. By the smell of it, she bathed herself in perfume that morning, creating a five-foot radius of floral assault around her, which I can not only smell, but taste. And I’m going to be inhaling it for the duration of my flight.

I get it. I like to smell good too. I’m a fan of a nice scented lotion, and I occasionally roll on a dab or two of perfume.

But that’s it. A dab or two. Not six or seven point-blank sprays.

As a general rule, folks: If people can smell you from several feet away, it’s too much.

Men, you and your aftershave and cologne fall under this umbrella, too. If I get into an elevator you’ve been in and I can still smell you after you’ve stepped out and the doors have closed, it’s too much. If I walk by you in the grocery store, and I can still smell your cologne on my clothes after I’ve walked back to my car, you’ve overdone it.

A dab or two will do, folks. A dab or two will do.

And it’s not just the issue of offending my olfactory senses. I know several people who have severe sensitivities to fragrance. Even people with healthy respiratory systems can be sensitive to scents, but people with asthma or other respiratory conditions can have strong adverse reactions to perfumes or other scented products.

According to one study, about 30% of the population report finding scented products on others irritating, causing headaches, breathing difficulties, or other problems. And with asthma diagnoses in particular steadily rising, this isn’t an issue that’s going away anytime soon.

I know you probably think you’re being thoughtful of others by making yourself smell good, but you don’t do anyone any favors by taking it to extremes.

By the way, fellow nature lovers, the same rules apply to essential oils and natural perfumes. The lavender and peppermint are no less of an assault on the senses than synthetic fragrances. Go easy on the smelly stuff, whether it’s a cheap drugstore cologne, expensive designer perfume, or health food store body oil.

A dab or two will do, even if you think it’s not enough. We tend to get used to smells we smell often, to the point where we don’t smell them as acutely as we once did. If you wear the same perfume or cologne regularly, you may not realize how strong it smells to others. You may have become “nose numb.” This is why “a dab or two will do” is a good rule to follow. I assume if you’re regularly bathing, you don’t smell horrible without drenching yourself in fragrance. You just don’t need that much.

And if you come across a request to not wear perfume or fragranced lotions because someone has strong reactions to them, be a good sport and don’t take it personally. If you’re not bothered by scents, great. Some people are seriously, legitimately affected by them.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to walk through a department store because the perfume counter sends you into a respiratory attack every time. Imagine trying to enjoy a nice meal with family and having to request a seat far away from Aunt Edna because you can’t breathe near her. Imagine not wanting to hug an old friend because you know you’re going to end up with a headache from her Chanel No. 5.

That would suck, wouldn’t it?

Being aware and sensitive to those around us is part of living in a community, so keep in mind that for some people your sweet-smelling perfume is as offensive to their senses as acrid body odor would be. Take whatever steps necessary to keep from being stanky, but remember that perfumes and colognes are not universally beloved.

For everyone’s sake, don’t overdo it. A dab or two will do, folks.

I repeat: A dab or two will do.

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