Today I'm going to share some tips on the etiquette of wearing perfume or cologne. The inappropriate use of scent on one's person is not just an office faux pas anymore. Some organizations have gone so far as to establish polices banning the use of endocrine disrupters and something called Fragrance Sensitivity is an issue addressed in the American Disability Act.
Before I get into the tips, I need to give you full disclosure. I love perfume and cologne, adore it, can't get enough of it. You will never, ever offend me by wearing too much of it. I love when someone walks past me on the sidewalk and leaves a little aromatic souvenir behind. I have a cupboard full of different scents and I actually spend time choosing them each morning, depending on my mood, outfit, plans, etc. Other women fetishize shoes or handbags but I'll walk right past those departments on my way to the fragrance counter. I love how particular scents can trigger memories. To this day, if I'm in close proximity of a particular French cologne, I'm transported to a six-month relationship I had almost a decade ago. And, if I get a whiff of the body lotion I was partial to while dealing with teenage tragedy, the pain of that time comes back to me. That's the power of scent.
But some people don't like scent, on themselves or on others, and there are some situations where one needs to exercise restraint in terms of the volume or type of scent chosen. Here are my tips for proper scent etiquette:
Don't overdo it - If more than one person tells you that you're wearing too much fragrance, you probably are and there are probably many more people who didn't have the courage to confront you. It's not your fault. Our ability to smell our own scents is diminished even while they might be screaming out to those around us. Start to use less and refrain from re-applying more than once a day.
Know when to wear it - Perfume should enhance, not detract from your image. Refrain from using strong scents or any perfume on days when you really need the focus to be on what you're saying (e.g. a job interview or a training session) and not on the musky odour emanating from your neck.
Don't trap people in a cloud of scent - Think twice about spritzing if you're going to be in close quarters with others (e.g. in an airplane or at the opera). Your aroma will envelope them in a smelly prison from which they can't escape.
Remember the two-foot rule - Like many of your unique attributes, your signature scent is supposed to be a special treat for those you allow to get close including your significant other, or others. Don't give it away for free to one and all. If someone says from across the room, "hey isn't that Escape?", chances are you've overdone it.
Apply in private - We are not chimpanzees. Like all aspects of human personal grooming, the application of perfume should take place in the privacy of your home or, if you must reapply, in the office washroom.
Consider the circumstances - Certain occasions in life call for discretion and modesty and should not be sullied by overbearing odours. These include funerals and hospitals.
Don't compete with other aromas - If you're attending an event where aroma is an important part of the experience (e.g. a wine tasting, or a gourmet meal), resist the urge to compete with the food. Believe me, you do not want to experience the wrath of a wine snob.
Cologne is not a deodorant - While it might have an immediate masking experience, wearing cologne or perfume in an attempt to cover up other, less desirable scents, such as body odour, cigarettes or alcohol can only result in disaster as all of the scents co-mingle to produce something mildly noxious.
Following these rules should put you in good stead with the general public or at least, ensure you won't be fired, dumped or avoided due to your smell. Unless, of course, you're hanging out with me. I love perfume!