When you finally find your perfect signature scent, the fragrance that is just so you, you may feel inclined to wear it all the time. But unfortunately, just like 5″ heels and face gloss, there is a time and place for even the loveliest perfume—and that place is not when you’re in an enclosed space with several other people who cannot escape the scent.
WHY IS WEARING PERFUME IN ENCLOSED SPACES BAD?
With an estimated 30% of Americans experiencing sensitivity to scented products, it’s not exactly wise to spritz your perfume, then subject people to it at work, on a plane, or on any other public transportation. “Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes people to have a negative reaction to fragrance, but it could be down to physiological makeup,” explains Dr. Joel Schlessinger, dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf contributor, adding that some people can smell things at a lower level due to the internal workings of their noses. And because “two hundred or more chemical components can go into an artificial fragrance,” it can be tough for folks to determine the exact scent they’re allergic to.
Lest you think this is just an issue of taste, Dr. Schlessinger has some bad news: Being around perfume or cologne can actually be dangerous for those who are allergic. “Common symptoms range from headaches, watery eyes, and sneezing to dizziness, asthma attacks, and difficulty breathing,” he warns. And these aren’t just reactions allergic people have while wearing fragrances—merely being in the presence of certain scents can lead to severe discomfort.
HOW CAN YOU MINIMIZE YOUR FRAGRANCE’S EFFECTS?
First of all, the kind thing to do is to avoid heavy perfumes. “I have had patients who are so affected by scents and perfumes that they have to avoid public spaces as a result—otherwise they will potentially need to be hospitalized,” says Dr. Schlessinger. He recommends spraying a couple spritzes in the air, then walking through it to ensure you’re not applying too much. Avoid adding more throughout the day, and definitely don’t spray it around folks without asking first.
You can also skip the perfume all together and instead opt for regular deodorant to feel fresh all day long, and Dr. Schlessinger suggests choosing a scented body wash to add a light scent that won’t linger in the air around you.
WHAT IF YOU’RE THE ALLERGIC ONE?
If it’s you who is being upset by a coworker (or anyone else) whose scent just won’t quit, here’s what the folks over at the Emily Post Institute recommend doing about it: “Make the problem about you rather than her. Say, ‘Nancy, I’ve recently become very sensitive to certain scents. While I think your perfume is lovely, it’s bothering my sinuses. Would you help me by wearing less?'” In the event she won’t put her perfume habit aside during the workday, you can head to your manager or human resources for further assistance.
To avoid the awkward talks all together, Dr. Schlessinger recommends communicating your allergy to management and fellow officemates early on.
If you really want your coworkers to love you, don’t spray your strong scents (yep, even that innocuous-seeming Cucumber Melon) in the workplace. Be kind, be courteous, and think before you spritz.