Perfume at the Office – Yay or Nay?

perfume-for-workI know readers have discussed this a bunch in the comments, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a full post on it. Reader S’s question is about perfume:

I take a lot of care in selecting my clothing/hairstyle/makeup, and making sure that they are office appropriate. Are there rules about office-appropriate perfume as well?

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I believe the common wisdom among the commenters is that perfume should not be worn at the office. I might caveat that a bit: coworkers should not be able to smell your perfume on you unless they are, for some reason, very very very close to you.  None of this “you enter a conference room and everyone smells you before they see you,” or “the two other people on the elevator sneezed when you got on.”

Personally, at the moment, I don’t wear much perfume — I got out of the habit a few summers ago when, in my old apartment, I would wake up every day with one or two new mosquito bites, and my husband never got bit.  I suspected it had something to do with my perfume, so I stopped wearing it. (And still got bit.  We were glad to move, to say the least!)  Now I mostly wear them on the weekend, and even then only if I think about it, although I still travel with my favorite solid perfume. (I’ve posted my year-round favorite above: CHANEL COCO EAU DE PARFUM CLASSIC BOTTLE SPRAY, available at Nordstrom for $115, but I also used to also love wearing some men’s colognes — Acqua Di Parma Colonia Assoluta in the summer, Original Vetiver Cologne by Creed Eau De Parfums in the winter.  (Yeah: I obviously have a perfume “personality” of spicy/exotic or whatnot.))

Let’s take a poll, though:

perfume-for-work

If you do want to wear perfume, though, some tips:

  • Buy the most concentrated version of the stuff — usually parfum, not “eau de toilette.”  The less concentrated the perfume is, the faster it wears off (and the more it smells of alcohol) — which may make some ladies think they need to wear a TON of it to make it last.
  • Apply it judiciously — for the office, I would advise to not apply directly to more than than one pulse point — do not add it to your wrists, your neck, the back of your knees and your cleavage all at the same time!  Lately, on the rare days that I do wear it to the office, I just spritz the air in front of me and “walk into it,” hoping it falls on enough of my hair and clothes to last the day.

Readers, what other tips do you have?  What is your favorite perfume, and how do you wear it, if at all, to the office?

Comments

  1. AttiredAttorney :

    Like makeup, tastefully applied perfume or scent of any kind (scented body lotions can by just as strong and overpowering as perfume IMO) helps me feel feminine and put together. However, I follow the “one pulse point” rule or sometimes just use an Eau de Toilette which has a lower scent concentration. I also don’t mix scents, so right now I’m using an unscented shampoo and body lotion, and a light perfume.

    Thankfully, no one I work with has allergies, so I’m also not faced with that hurdle.

    • Johanna_D :

      That was going to be my point. I am highly sensitive to smells, especially perfumes. Just 2 minutes of the smell makes me have flu-like symptoms. Although an excessive amount of perfume at the office is, most of us can agree, inappropriate, how do you go about telling somebody that his/her perfume is making you sick?
      I find myself in that dilemma very often with co-workers, but when it is my clients wearing a perfume, I can’t do anything about it!

      • I am also highly sensitive and if it’s someone I know, I will flat out tell them. I am generally not allergic to all perfumes, but rather to cheaper ones that may have chemical/synthetic ingredients; scents made with real perfume oils are generally fine. I have asked my friends not to wear specific scents to my house (e.g. ‘Hi Mary, can you not wear the perfume you were wearing on Tuesday when you come to dinner at my place? It was a nice scent but it triggered my allergies.’) and they don’t mind at all. I do the same with coworkers and it’s fine.

        If it’s clients, however, it is a bit tricky. I think the best approach is to go through the office manager and have some sort of general notice to guests in your office. In my doctor’s office, there is a sign in the waiting room and in each exam room saying that a staff member has severe allergies and patients are requested not to wear perfume, body spray, or scented lotion when visiting the doctor’s office. It’s unobtrusive and people are not made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if they forget and wear perfume.

    • You may think none of them have allergies, but they may just not know how to tell you. My throat starts to close up and my eyes water frequently when I’m in the same room with one of the assistants. She is a sweet older lady and I don’t feel at all comfortable telling her. I usually just suffer in silence and try to stay away.

      • So the world will stop and cater to you. It’s an allergy, it’s not like you catch polio. Get over it.

        • People don’t choose to have allergies, and they can be serious. I used to tell people to “get over it” too, and then a couple years later I had such a bad allergic reaction to feathers in a hotel room I needed to go to the ER to get shots to stop my throat from closing up. So, now I must ask “the world” to “stop and cater to” me, when I travel by asking for feather free rooms. I also get much milder symptoms when people have down-jackets, etc. I can’t stop people from wearing them, but I can control what I wear and what I do. I just ask you be a little more sensitive to people with allergies, because it’s not just a sneeze… sometimes they are life threatening.

        • Anonymous Poser :

          One of my family members is literally rendered speechless by perfume. I’m sure she finds it helpful in her work…

        • I’ll send you the bill next time I have to go to the ER for an asthma attack caused by some jerk wearing scented lotion. Not having to pay that would help me greatly to “get over it.” Thanks in advance for your help!

          • Oh come on, someone is not a jerk for wearing scenting lotion. Before this post I had no idea it was a problem for so many people.

            I think the problem with the comments are here are people are reacting to comments like “never wear perfume.” I love the scent of my perfume, I paid $100 for it, and I wear very little of it. I am not going to stop wearing it because theoretically, someone in the world might be allergic to it. Now if someone was to tell me it bothered them, I would stop in a heartbeat and be very careful with my lotions, etc, at work from then on.

          • @CC – the jerk I’m referring to knows I’m allergic. I had a specific jerk in mind :).

      • Unless you tell people about your allergies, they’re not going to change their behaviour patterns.

        Ie. I’m not going to stop wearing perfume – one pulse point, people have to come close to me to be able to smell it – because there *might* be someone who is allergic in my surroundings.

        If they tell me about their allergies, I would stop wearing it, but I can’t be living my life according to theoretical ideas that there *might* be someone who is allergic in my office landscape. Tell your office mates, and you can avoid the silent suffering.

        And it is possible to ask with finesse, to avoid insulting people. Better than to suffer in silence.

  2. Am I the only one who sprays my underarms (in addition to deodorant) if I think its going to be a esp stressful/warm day?

    Also I usually spritz the under arms of suits to prevent them from picking up unwanted smells btw cleanings.

    • Shoeless Jo :

      You are not the only one, although I spray only my clothes, not my actual armpits. (That way, perfume doesn’t get sweat away.)

      Also, I thought I looked old-fashioned wearing nude stockings on interviews so I switched to black nylons. Is that a no-no, too? What about those of us with pale legs and varicose veins? What about those of us who don’t like to sweat directly into our shoes? What about those of us who live in countries where there is a distinct winter?

      • I wear black hose all the time. I don’t think it’s a “rule” at all.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          I wear black opaque nylons (tights?) several times a week.

        • Same. Also, I love perfume and wear it every day, even if just grocery shopping and definitely to the office. You wake up, shower, apply deodorant, spray perfume.

          I also love scented lotions and when people stop by my office they always say it smells great.

          If you don’t like it, I really dont care. I think some people smell mothy, musty, body oderish, etc. and I deal with it. If you thitnk I smell too much like “amazing grace”, well, so be it. Those who say no to it and to black tights I think are insane.

          • It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that it makes me ill. I suppose you’re welcome not to care about others’ health, but I’m also welcome to think people should be more considerate.

      • I happily wear black nylons from the earliest whiff of autumn to whenever it gets obscenely warm in the spring. I quite like the look, and I also like the fact that I can get away with thicker nylons/tights in black, which keep my legs warmer than your basic nude nylon. But I do nonetheless feel that nude nylons are somehow more formal than black so if I am attending a particularly formal client meeting or closing I will often wear nude nylons. I would say interviews fall into this category too – firms want to see what you will look like when they put you in front of their best client, or at least that’s the way I look at it.

        • Shoeless Jo :

          Really? I always thought black looked more formal because you could actually see them. Nude are questionable if the color is a plausible actual skin tone for you.

        • I’ve always thought the opposite — black is more formal, fancier.

          • I think the difference is nylons v. tights. Black nylons scream evening wear to me (although depending on what you are wearing, nude nylons might be more appropriate). But I wear black tights (completely opaque) every day all winter long. If I am going to an interview or something else where I need to look super-professional, then I wear nude nylons because the tights seem to casual.

      • I think black nylons are fine. Just leave black fishnets, or the stockings with the little line up the back, etc., to your later hours.

        That said, I have been really into off-black for when I need to wear stockings. It looks better to me (and on me) than nude, but doesn’t have the same va-va-voom factor as “black” black hose. Not all brands have a good off-black but the ones that do, I think look fabulous and very fresh.

      • Annie8785 :

        I definitely wear black nylons pretty frequently – I think it looks more formal (of course, I’m talking sheer nylons and not opaque!) and elegant. Not all suits work with black nylons, obviously – but they’ve never struck me as something more appropriate for evening wear. I think at less formal offices they might be infrequently seen, and I don’t know that they’re particularly trendy at this moment, but they definitely aren’t unprofessional or unstylish!

      • I used to think, like Kat, that black hose looked awful. But then we had an exceptionally well-dressed intern last summer, and she looked great all the time. She routinely wore black skirts, black hose, and low black heels, with a colorful professional top. She changed my mind.

        • Actually my go-to interview hose was always black or off-black — it was numerous polls on this site that’s made me think twice about it!

          • I think black opaque tights are perfectly daytime office appropriate. It’s sheer black hose that have a strong “evening” connotation.

    • nomoretrolls :

      This has been discussed in various forms on this site several times over the last couple of years. Here’s the answer (learned from trial and experience and wisdom of fellow Corporettes): Certain Dri, available @ CVS/Walgreens type places (on some obscure lower shelf in the deodorant aisle, about $7 for a 6 mo supply) – use it once or twice a week at night, in addition to whatever deodorant/antiperspirant you normally use in the am. A little itchy, but solves all problems of pitted shirts, stress based BO, etc. Seriously. Love my Corporettes for just that secret.

    • No, I do it too. But I live in a humid, tropical place and that’s a necessity!

      I use perfume at work but it’s usually light/masculine type of stuff (think Acqua di Parma, Body Shop White Musk etc) and until I started following corporette regularly, never realised the majority (on corporette atleast) seem to be allergic to perfume.

      Maybe it’s a regional thing! Never yet met anyone at work who was allergic (sure, they could be in hiding) or who didn’t wear some kind of fragrance.

      Planning to get some Jo Malone – heard good things but never tried it.

      • L from Oz :

        I love Jo Malone – I have the grapefruit, and usually put a tiny dab on either my cleavage or neck. I can barely smell it myself, so I very much doubt anyone else can.

  3. I do the “spray, delay, and walk away” method for perfume. Even for special occassions. I don’t like a heavy scent at all. My youngest daughter is particularly sensitive to smell, and while I was nursing her I couldn’t wear any perfume so I got out of the habit.

    If I have a big meeting or it’s a special date, I’ll wear a touch of perfume. But my husband says he prefers the scent of my face lotion to any perfume I may have. Since I use that all the time anyways, it makes almost no sense to use perfume (for me).

  4. Anonymous :

    I just ran into this today. I am wearing a jacket I wore to an after-hours networking event I had put some perfume on for, and also gotten hugged by many perfume-wearing women. My assistant walked into my office today, and said, “Oh no, I can smell your perfume!” I usually don’t wear any because he is EXTREMELY scent-sensitive and gets migraines easily.

    I think it’s safer not to wear any but I do sometimes give myself one light spritz of something with a very light fragrance before walking out the door in the morning. I love perfume and don’t have any problem wearing it, but definitely don’t want to cause the people around me discomfort. It’s not something that’s essential to me. (Although, I will say it does bother me a little that my assistant can’t stand perfume and yet he smokes, which I can’t stand.)

    • Johanna_D :

      That is odd! I would think you could not do both (I sure can’t).

    • Make a deal with him on smoking vs perfume.

    • Does he know you can’t stand the smoking? A lot of times smokers don’t realize they smell like it, and he probably can’t use Febreze if he gets headaches from perfume (I sure can’t). If he smokes outside it probably smells the strongest on his outerwear; ask him to hang his coat somewhere far from you.

    • Aw, I relate to your assistant – something about the chemicals used in the non-organic and less expensive perfumes (and that sadly tends to include most perfumes in Sephora / mass-produced lines) creates an almost instant visual migrane that blows up my head and ends my day until I can find 4-8 hours to sleep it off. It’s sad, because I love perfume and used to have quite the collection before the migranes started in college, some 10+ years ago. OTOH, while I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, it doesn’t trigger migranes. So no real complaints there.

      I’m a little bothered by some of the responses here – it’s why I’m so glad to have a job that’s flexible about where I work. When a colleague whips out her Bath & Bodyworks spray and douses herself, I can get up and dash to a meeting room and hopefully be fast enough to avoid a migraine and continue to work. I did explain once about the migraines in hopes that a coworker might cut back, but she seemed offended and actually increased her loud afternoon hosing down of her office every day for some time (she was extreme in her use, though – definitely not typical). It’s a hard conversation to have – “Hey, your perfume smells AMAZE and I would love it, but in the 2 minutes since you sprayed it, I’ve developed severe tunnel vision in my right eye, my left eye has no vision other than a kalidascopic flashing field of various colors, and I am stuttering as I talk to you because I’m about to lose my ability to speak without my face seizing up and my words sounding like I’m having a seizure or stroke on the left side of my face. Also? I’m presenting to my boss’s boss’s boss in about 45 minutes, so this is kind of a career-damaging situation … I’d be so incredibly appreciative if you could maybe wear less scent in the office?” – and I honestly can’t think of anyone whose going to be cool about it.

  5. academicsocialite :

    I wear a Jo Malone cologne pairing that my husband gave me most days throughout the winter (Vintage Gardenia/Nutmeg and Ginger). I love it, but find it the dry down on my skin isn’t particularly long lasting, with no more scent than a light body lotion or even shampoo. For me it’s more of a morning ritual, rather than a daylong commitment to smelling nice. I have asked friends whether they can smell it later in the day and (sadly, as it is an indulgence) the answer is usually no.

    I do find, however, that the higher-end (non drugstore) fragrances tend to drydown to be less overpowering, as long as you’re not drowning yourself in the stuff. As much as Love’s BabySoft takes me back…

    • Ha. How many of us remember Love’s Baby Soft. I guess everybody that loves Jo Malone :).

      • Oh my gosh. Loves Baby Soft. I take it back. Chloe was not my first perfume. 6th grade. First movie with a boy. Grease with John Travolta. At that time I would never have imagined I would participate in a conversation as to whether perfume was appropriate because WOMEN wear perfume. And a lot of it. I now feel really stinking old.

  6. I do sometimes. Especially days I don’t wash my hair. Is that gross? I love JoMalone perfume. I have one that has lavender in it and I have convinced my self that is is “calming.” I did wear a little sample I got once and a good friend and co-worker, who is blunt in only the way a southern woman can be, told me tha my perfume was going to make her vomit (she was pregnant at the time). Needless to say, I did not wear that again! I never put perfume on if I have a deposition or I am going to court.

    • Funny — I sometimes spray it in my hair after I blowdry and straighten it (which is rare — usually my hair is curly and air-dried), because it ends up smelling slightly charred, or just unscented (which means once I go out, it will smell like meat/cigarettes/whatever is right outside the apartment).

      I also use perfume when I *should* have taken a shower but was too lazy or hurried.

  7. Wish that I could wear perfume, but because I inevitably get headaches, it’s much appreciated when people use a subtle touch (like the poster above said, a light spritz should be fine). In contrast, I always know when one of our assistants is preparing for a night out when around 5 p.m., perfume wafts across the hall and into my office…

  8. I am allergic to most perfumes. The worst thing in the world for me is being in an elevator with somebody who is heavily- or even moderately-scented. In those situations, I generally have to duck out on not-my-floor to escape it. Before you spray or apply otherwise, please consider others and keep it to a very absolute minimum if you feel that it’s necessary at all.

    • Umm, I have to smell smokers every day which disgusts me. WHy should I not apply a scent that bothers you? I feel this is a very selfish way to approach life.

      • i'm nobody :

        asking others to be sensitive to a medical condition is not selfish.

      • It doesn’t “disgust” me; it physically makes me ill. This is not selfish.

        Noticeable scents have no place in a professional environment.

        • 80% of women and men disagree. I think people claiming a scent makes them ill, which is not a medical condition I have to bother with in the ADA so I think it doesn’t matter. I think it just gives you a headache like loud,complainy people I work with do.

          • Excuse me? An allergic reaction to anything is a medical condition. Thank god I don’t work with inconsiderate people like you.

          • I get sinus headaches, runny nose and sinus congestion from overperfumed people (or even scented lotions). It’s painful. I wind up taking aleve with pseudoephedrine – not even fresh air helps.

          • And I get a headache and nautious from the smell of (1) BO, (2) smokers, and (3) moth balls. Grow up, toughen up, and deal with it. The world does not have to cater to your every whim.

        • Agreed. I always thought wearing perfume was against most company’s dress code policies. I’m surprised so many corporettes wear it….but I suppose law firms don’t have these rules?

      • You’re funny! If I get an allergic response to your perfume, I’m “very selfish.” However, you are not selfish for wearing scent when you know that it gives me swollen throat, migraine, inability to breathe.

        And, as to smoking, although I don’t smoke, I don’t get migraine or allergic response when I’m around smokers. (Don’t like it tho.)

        Love the You’re Rude, I’m Not, rule.

  9. I wear either Champs Elysees or Coco eau de parfum every day, two smallish spritzes behind each ear. By the time I get to work it’s dissipated enough to be subtle.

    • ballerina girl :

      Or you’re just used to it. I always assumed that my perfume was still there (for others) but that I’d just adjusted to it after a little while.

      • I also wear Champs Elysees – have since college. Its a very classic scent in my opinion, and while “present” not overly strong.
        I’ve also noticed that “Stella” seems to be a default ‘work’ scent for a lot of women my age (early 30′s) as it is fairly light and unobtrusive while not as girly as the fruity perfumes that seemed to be all the rage lately.
        My “going out” scent is Tom Ford’s black orchid. No way that would be appropriate for me at work!

  10. I am extremely sensitive to smells and am prone to migraines. This combination can be miserable in an office with perfume wearers. Heavy perfume is obviously the worst to deal with but it doesn’t always take a lot to trigger a migraine.
    I have been put in the very awkward positition of having to ask someone to stop wearing perfume to the office and believe me, it isn’t an easy thing to do. Most of the time if you mention it, people are accommodating but I once had a woman refuse to stop wearing it because the perfume was a gift from her husband. I had to run the complaint through HR and they eventually moved her office. It got pretty ridiculous.
    If perfume was just an annoyance, I could live with it. And some scents are just obnoxious (think microwave popcorn, fish in the office, etc.) but it can seriously affect my ability to work. So my advice is leave the perfume at home especially since most frequent perfume wearers aren’t necessarily aware of how strong it can be to those around them because they are so accustomed to the smell. I can see where it adds something when one is going out at night but I really don’t see that it has a place in an office.

    • Divaliscious11 :

      While I certainly am empathetic to your issues, I find it a little off-putting that there would be an expectation of everyone else having to modify their behavior (foods, fragrance etc…) to accommodate you.

      • At least for some people with migraines, tolerating the smell and dealing with the resulting migraine isn’t an option. If a migraine sets in for me, I am out of commission for the rest of the day. I’ve also not had much success finding something that can shut a migraine down without making me sick. It may be different for other people.

        Luckily for me, no one in my office is a perfume user. But, if someone were, I know that I would either need that person to modify his or her behavior, or my office would need to move.

      • Johanna_D :

        Regarding the foods, I agree, but fragrance, in my opinion, is pretty serious. You can’t work smelling perfume all day because you are sick virtually everyday.

      • my point may have been muddled with food. I’m saying some smells are just off-putting and annoying. Others cause actual physical reactions that make it difficult to impossible to work – naseua and migraines. And the only time I have ever requested the accommodation was an extreme one.

      • If anon-ny was my employee, and her reaction to perfume was so bad that she couldn’t work, then I would stop wearing perfume. I don’t find that offensive at all, anon-ny. I appreciate you speaking up.

      • This. I never hear smokers bother about me getting choked up/breathless (neither in a good way) when they open their mouth to speak to me and I get hit by a wave of stinky breath!

    • I am one of those people who is extremely sensitive to scents, and it is a huge quality of life issue.

      pro tip: I keep a cocoa butter stick (to sniff haha) or alcohol wipes in my purse to clear my head and stave off migraines.

      As for the office, if someone’s perfume use is decreasing employee productivity, I see that as a company issue which should be addressed. Sounds like your company found a decent compromise.

      • this is a great idea, never thought of that before.
        And yes, once I spoke with HR it was taken care of, it was just frustrating that it had to go up to an official level.

    • I too have an extremely sensitive sniffer (my friends call it “super schnoz”). Strong scents (perfume, cooking, subways in the summer, stinky armpits, aftershave, doggie, you name it) often make me nauseated and can also trigger headaches. I avoid people with strong smells. I don’t work with anyone stinky right now, but in grad school, I knew someone who you could smell before you saw him. It was unbearable. When I rule the world, perfume will be something only an intimate partner picks up.

      Sometimes, it is useful to have peppermint lip balm. I’ll smear some right under my nose (and dust a little powder over it to kill the shine) so that I’ll smell the minty instead.

  11. I never wear perfume to the office. I really rarely wear it at all – only when my husband and I go out without the kids, which is sadly rare!!! I do love it, but not enough to risk looking unprofessional/making people sick.

  12. I sometimes wear some – always just one sprintz on my neck that I dab at a little with my wrists. So definitely nothing heavy! My perfume of choice right now is Chanel Chance. I’ve had the same bottle for three years, so clearly I’m not a frequent or heavy user!

    I don’t really notice perfume that much and I definitely don’t wear it everyday – it just sometimes occurs to me to put on a spritz. I had a close friend in college whose migraines were triggered by perfume, but he never was affected by my habit, so I figure what I’m putting on is pretty subtle. I think the reason I like wearing perfume is that after a while, some of my dry-clean only pieces (suits, overcoats, some nice blouses) have a really light scent to them when I put them on in the morning. I used to always borrow my mom’s nice things when I had a special event in college and grad school, and her cashmeres etc. always had a really subtle hint of her perfume on them. There was always something extra special about feeling like my mom was right there! So I think I just get a bit of nostalgia when I put on something that has a hint of elegant perfume on it. (My mother hasn’t passed away or anything – I just see her very infrequently, and we don’t really pass clothes to each other anymore since we don’t live in the same city, and I’m at the point in my life where I buy my own suits/cashmere/coats!).

    • I have the same feeling of nostalgia — I remember being about 6 years old and snuggling up in my mom’s bathrobe when she was out of town because it smelled like her Shalimar perfume! Such a nice memory :)

  13. Divaliscious11 :

    I wear perfume in cycles. I only wear one of three Red Door, Cristalle by Chanel or Coco by Chanel, the first two in spring/summer/fall and the latter in winter only. But I will for months not wear any fragrance, and then feel like I want it, and will wear it.

    One pulse point, and a light touch ….

  14. I don’t wear perfume to the office, but I keep it in my desk and put it in the restroom before I leave at night. I’m often going straight out to dinner or drinks, & it makes me feel as if I’m truly going “day to night.”

  15. I sometimes dab a bit right on the back of my neck, usually something classic like Channel No. 19, or something light like Bond Scent of Peace or Bulgari Voile de Jasmine (more likely classic if I am off to work). If I am going out, I may dab some perfume on the back of my knee or on my belly button or somewhere else random — I find that it’s a nice way to have a bit of scent release as you move through out the night.

    I realize some people are sensitive to scent, and god knows I hate being stuck in an elevator with someone who bathed in the latest Kim Kardashian scent, but I think a tiny amount behind my neck, or whatever equivalent, is something only someone who is nuzzling the back of my neck is likely to smell, so that’s okay as far as I am concerned. I think that just as people need to be considerate of not overdoing it for those who are sensitive, the sensitive cannot expect everyone to go around completely scentless (if nothing else, you’ll always find that great guy with b.o.)

    • AIMS – I’m excited to try Chanel 19, because it sounds like we like the same types of scents. I love Bond SOP and Bulgari Jasmine! Have you tried Chloe? I love it!!! The original, not the new Chloe Love.

      • Love No. 19. And IMHO, here’s the trick – see old movie Network (Holly Hunter does it) – spray one or two spritzes into air in front of you, then walk through it. No direct pulse points…potentially too intense.

  16. I use one or two spritzes of Lancome Oui! (which I’ve been wearing since I was 15, I’ve never found anything that blends quite as well on me), or Marc Jacobs Rain when I want something a little different. Apparently I also have a scent personality — “water-based” scents…

    They are both light scents by design, so I don’t usually worry about it, but I would hate to think I might be causing someone an allergic fit (being extremely allergic to cigarette smoke myself). I hate entering elevators soaked in a sickeningly-sweet perfume (or being stuck next to one on an airplane)…

  17. I wish I could wear perfume at the office. I love wearing it. But, my boss has an allergy or is sensitive to it, so nobody in our area is allowed to wear it.

  18. I see other posters have already commented about perfume wearing at work potentially being a problem for co-workers with allergies and other sensitivities and I appreciate that this has become the norm in most offices as I’m someone who has had to leave meetings etc. because, generally some gentleman, has doused himself in a cloud of cologne and I’m sitting there sneezing my head off and blowing my nose every two seconds.

    I’d also like to put my two cents in for “after hours” cologne and perfume wearing. If it’s polite to not cause a medical issue for co-workers it’s also polite after hours. I have been given dirty looks by people at the theater and restaruants because someone’s cologne caused me sneezing fits and I was once quizzed incessantly about my health on an airplane. Big perfume wearers seem to think that it’s their right to wear a cloud of perfume and to castigate those with sensitivities to their cloud for sneezing in their presences. I’m not doing it to annoy you, and my sneezing, running nose, and drippy, itchy eyes will stay with me for hours after you’ve left my presence.

    • I’m allergiuc to peanuts, very allergic. I dont tell people at the bar next to me to stop eating them per chance they accidentally touch me and I get an enormous rash. In the same line, you cant tell other people not to wear he perfume they choose.
      Same with it’s my right to own a dog in the apartment bldg. If you’re allergic, move. It’s not promblem it is my riught. Just like it’s my right to wear perfume.
      Those who dont like it only dont like it for a selfish reasons. I think you have a horrible, selfish, attitude.

      • i'm nobody :

        it’s not a matter of rights; it’s a matter of courtesy.

        and nobody has to be courteous if they don’t want to.

      • Pot, meet kettle.

      • For what it’s worth, if you asked me to stop eating bar peanuts because you could get a rash, I’d do it happily, and I’d prefer you tell me than not. Perhaps you could consider the possibility that many many people are actually trying to treat others with kindness and consideration.

        • Nah. I’m going to start wearing extra perfume for everyone on this blog who thinks they’re ENTITLED to have people stop wearing perfume.

          I get a headache from loud, whiny, annoying ladies who complain. Can I ask you to stop doing that?

          • Nobody here feels “entitled” to anything, but in a professional environment, it is expected that everybody will be considerate of one another.

            You are really something else, and I feel sorry for those who have to put up with you.

          • I don’t wear perfume because it seems like a lot of bother to me, but I’d be horrified if a scent I wore (say, my scented hand lotion) was giving someone a migrane or another kind of allergic reaction. I would want to know, so I could stop doing the thing that made him or her sick. I am just boggling that people would wish to continue a behavior that they know hurts another person, which isn’t even (at least in my eyes) terribly important or pleasurable. How hard is it to not wear perfume? Not hard…

      • Anon

        I don’t ask people not to wear perfume, and even when I’m sniffling and sneezing from someone’s cloud, I don’t say anything unless asked. If possible I will get off the elevator, or move seats to deal with someone’s perfume cloud, but it’s not always possible. I

        It is rude to be told for the duration of a 5-10 hour flight, that I shouldn’t have gotten on the flight, or to be glared at at the Theater and told that I’m disrupting the performance.

        You have a right to wear perfume, but if that Tony award winning performance you are watching from those expensive orchestra seats is disrupted by the sniffling of the otherwise quietly suffering person next to you, then that’s a natural consequence of your actions and you’ll have to accept that too.

      • The peanut allergy is a poor analogy. It’s more like if someone next to you was spraying peanut mist. Also, wearing perfume is a selfish act- you wear it because you like it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just saying.

        It’s your right to own a dog in a dog-friendly apartment. And there are plenty of non-smoking, no dog apartments for allergy sufferers. But that doesn’t mean you can bring your dog to the restaurant with you- like people do with perfume.

  19. I’ve never been a perfume wearer. My mom is one of those horribly allergic, so I never wore or was around any scents growing up, and I have mild allergies to perfume myself. Now I feel indulgent with scented conditioner or body wash.

  20. How interesting, the comments on migraines. I am a life long migraine sufferer but perfume does not affect me. But smoke does, so does lighting. If I knew I worked with someone that had a bad reaction to perfume, I would be happy to forgo it. I would hate to be the trigger for someone who gets migraines. I know what it is like to be sick all day. Fortunately, my co-workers all know about me and my bad head and are very supportive. My office is like a cave because I can’t tolerate flourescent lights.

    P.S. I wear black hose. They make me feel like my legs are skinnier. Although I seldomly wear skirts.

    • As my husband is a doctor, he’s told me that often people think their headaches are migraines when they are nothign more than a general headache. It’s sad but true, that people often complain a lot. This thread seems complete proof of that.

      • lawyerette :

        While what your husband says might be true, how can you possibly know that the women writing here fall into that category? Judgment much?

        • I don’t think it was a judgment so much as a comment that of the X number of people commenting here a good % complain of migraines, and based on statistical evidence suggesting that what some people consider migraines are actually headaches, it stands to reason that some of the commenters here are also misidentifying their headaches as migraines. Not all, but likely at least somebody.

          • This is actually funny to me. I’ve always gotten sinus headaches, particularly when the weather is changing or there are storms. (I assume they are related to barometric pressure or something.) I finally went to the doctor a few years ago, and they were very insistant on diagnosing them as migraines, even though I said several times that I didn’t think they were migraines, as they never seemed to have the classic migraine symptoms that you hear of (no aura, not really light/sound sensitive, no sudden onset).

            So, either I don’t understand what constitutes migraines, either, or the medical profession itself is classifying all serious headaches (or chronic headaches?) as migraines. Odd.

          • That was exactly my point. Statistically, 50% of women dont get migraines from other women’s perfumes. But the comments on this list would suggest such a high percentage. Also, often people complain of migraines (look around the office) yet there is not 50%of the population who actually suffer from them.

            I was not judging people, you’re attacking attitude is self evident and just rude.

        • Anonymous :

          Lwyerette, that wasn’t her point at all. As a lawyer, maybe you should look back into that “reading comprehension” thing.

          • Actually, in support of Non, I am a neurologist-diagnosed migraine sufferer and it does kind of drive me bonkers when everyone who gets a headache calls it a migraine – i.e. “I had a migraine this morning. I had to take asipirin!” It kind of waters down the definition for those of us who actually do. And triggers for true migraines are not well-understood, so it’s not useful to make blanket statements like, “Perfume triggers migraines.”

            So for the record, speaking as a migraine sufferer, I don’t know whether perfume triggers my migraines. I think it might be hormones, but I’m not sure. I’m just glad it’s only three or four times ayear.

            All I can ask of my coworkers is that next time I can’t see out of one eye and can’t feel the side of my face, PLEASE do not take me to the emergency room, again. That was embarrassing.

      • as a migraine sufferer, I will agree with you that people are sometimes quick to call a bad headache a migraine. But I don’t see how questioning a few people’s claims of migraines on a post about perfume (a migraine trigger for many people) is proof of that.

        • Anonymous :

          A proven migraine trigger is a strobe light. There’s no proof a perfume is. And a true migraine incapacitates you, you’d have to leave work. If it happens everyday from your assistants smel, you wouldn’t have that job. A lot of this is pure exagerration. I think many of us are sick of feeling that they have to cater to everyone’s little issue.

      • I agree with your husband. As a lifelong migraine sufferer and headache sufferer, I assure you that anything that can be treated with Midol and a nap is not a migraine.

        Something that causes you to develop an aura two weeks in advance that slow grows into seizure like symptoms in half your face, then lose vision in one eye, muscle cramps in one or all limbs, changes your entire personality so slowly you hardly realize its happened, has pain so bad you would sell your own body to make it stop, and requires prescription migraine meds and five days to cycle through is a migraine.

        And when I cannot escape people’s perfume or office lighting that causes mine, I say something. I don’t value politeness as much as my own sanity (and job).

    • What do you do in lieu of flourescent lights? I would like to not use the overhead lights in my office at all (flourescent, flickery, headache nightmares), but I haven’t figured out a good solution.

      • Fiona- A couple of things. I have taken out all of the flourescent bulbs in my overheard lights except for one (hence the cave). When my head is bad, I use a desk lamp and open the shades. Here is another GREAT tip I got from my eye doctor that has really helped. He told me that the reason flourescent lights are bad for migraines is that they flicker all the time. Your eye can’t see it, but your brain can. But rose colored lenses reduce that flicker. So I got the lenses in my glasses tinted a very light rose. You can’t tell they are tinted unless you place them on a white piece of paper. It has really helped the eye strain from both the lights and my computer screen.

      • I can’t use those in mine. Fortunately I have big windows during the day and have brought in a two desk laps and two floor lamps placed around my office and turn those on when I’m here after dark.

  21. OK. Anon-NY and those who responded. If perfume or other smells makes someone ill to the point they can’t work, and that is exactly happens when one has a migraine, would asking that co-workers not wear perfume not be an ADA issue. Ok attorneys, fight amongst yourselves.

    • ballerina girl :

      The ADA doesn’t cover all illnesses, just certain ones. I’m fairly certain migraines don’t fall under it (which isn’t to say they aren’t debilitating, my sister has very bad migraines and they’ve made her life pretty miserable for the past few years).

      I think people should be courteous–both ways. Know that your right to wear perfume doesn’t trump someone’s right to not feel like crap all day. But also know that the fact that you have a problem with perfume doesn’t mean that everyone who *might* encounter you (those people you haven’t put on notice of your condition) has to proactively stop wearing it just because a small percentage of the population has a problem with it.

    • ADA applies to disabilities that substantially limit one or more major life activities. So, if the condition is so bad that the person actually can’t work (work is a major life activity), it might be covered. But you’d have to say something, first. If you work with people so rude that they wouldn’t stop just because it bothered you, you probably have more problems than a lawsuit can solve!

  22. Face going numb. Vomitting. Loss of vision. Little did I know all these years it was just a “general headache.” I will inform my neurologist.

    • That’s a little reactionary, don’t you think? “non” is right; a lot of people who THINK they have migraines probably don’t. I say this as a migraine sufferer. If you have been DIAGNOSED with migraines (and suffer from aura and other known symptoms), then (surprise!) you’re probably not one of those people who believes they have migraines when they really don’t.

      Honestly. It was a very common thing in college for all of my friends to complain of “migraines” that were somehow cured when they took allergy medicine. Or when they actually ate food. Not judging them; in common speech, “migraine” is often defined at “really bad headache.” That’s not what’s actually going on, but just saying “I have a headache” doesn’t pack nearly the same punch as “I have a migraine.”

      This is, obviously, for good reason. Migraines involve a lot more suffering than a general headache (I lose most of my vision for a day, lose sensation in my hands, have hot and cold flashes, and then spend the rest of the next day throwing up). Headaches are usually just headaches. They can still be really bad, but there’s a huge difference. And not a lot of people are aware of that difference.

      Now calm down.

      • You are right. I was being snarky. It is easy to be snarky when one is anonymous. I have family members who claim to have “migraines” that I have always been suspicious of.

  23. interestingly enough, i’m very sensitive to lots of smells but yet i always wear some sort of scent every day. i’ve found that it’s often the type of scent that bothers me, not just that it IS scent. as far as my personal preference, i tend to prefer to smell like fruits or such. i have a pear-scented deodorant that i’ve actually gotten compliments on (people didn’t realize it was deodorant they were smelling), or beyond that i like coconuts, pomegranate, mango, tropical fruits. i wonder if this still would be offensive to other people? now i’m quite curious as to whether it’s just more “perfume-y” sort of scents that trigger nausea and headaches in other people – i know if something is overly flowery, it will have that effect on me.

  24. I’ve heard that if you can smell yourself, then you’ve put too much perfume on because you’re nose is accustomed to the smell. Is this true?

    • Usually but only with perfumes you’re accustomed to. If I put on a new scent, I can usually smell it no matter how small the spritz.

  25. Could someone please put together a list of “office appropriate perfumes”? I’m young (mid-20′s) and have been trying to find a perfume that is office appropriate but won’t make me smell like someone’s mother. Is there a happy medium?

    • This is obviously a very subjective list & others may disagree. Some (see above) would no perfume is ever appropriate.

      For my 2 cents — I think chanel has nice office scents that are good for any occasion. Chance (esp. the Green one), Coco Mademoiselleb are both nice modern options.

      Single note scents by Jo Malone or Fresh can also be very sophisticated. I also LOVE almost anything by Bond.

      I think the key is less is more & stay away from anything overly sweet.

      • I use Chance regularly (but lightly). It is a light enough scent that you do not smell it unless you are close to the person wearing it. Be warned that it does not have much lasting power.

      • Anonymous :

        I love all Philosophy scents and think they’re appropriate anywhere, anytime.

    • I’m 27 and wear/love/and have gotten compliments on some of the Burberry perfumes. I esp. love the Burberry Weekend and London smells.

    • I think the general consensus is that there isn’t such a thing as an office appropriate perfume. Except maybe for soap – or rather, not BO. I think the key point is to not smell like anything.

      • That’s not the consensus at all. I am regularly complimented on my perfumes. Way to just overlook half the comments and only focus on the one that benefits you.

      • Anonymous :

        But the statisctics of the poll show that almost 70% of women wear perfume to the office. Just wear what you like. DOn’t listen to anonish above.

    • Sephora sells perfume samplers, with something like 10 of their most popular perfumes, so you can try a bunch of different ones, and they give you a voucher to get a full sized one of whichever you like best. Maybe that would be helpful.

      I’m also in my mid-20s and I wear Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. It’s a nice scent and not too overwhelming.

      • Ugh, while I like this scent, it is the most over-done scent out there. Totally unoriginal.

        I do like the idea of the Sephora sampler though.

    • I’m a fan of philosophy fragrances Pure Grace and Amazing Grace. They are light (Pure Grace is literally ‘soap and water clean’), and you can layer with the lotion and the spray fragrance for going out or, for daytime, the lotion or spray fragrance alone is perfectly light. Also, they certainly don’t break the bank.

    • For office wear, I think you should avoid the big, bold florals that contain tuberose and gardenia, very fruity scents, and the spicy exotic scents. And please, no patchouli or heavy musks.

      Citrus, tea based and bergamont scents can be office appropriate, or anything that is described as being fresh or clean.

      Chanel Cristalle or Dior’s Eau Sauvage are nice, light fragrances.

      • smellclean :

        Love Cristalle and Eau Savage. Also there is an old Geoffrey Beene (I think) men’s cologne – Grey Flannel? – that just one spritz of – in a gender neutral way – sort of ‘enhances’ the soap & water clean smell without being ‘perfume-y.’ Don’t even know if they still make it, b/c I became so disgusted with the too heavy (waay too heavy) scents of all the people I had to ride the elevator with for two decades in Miami, the capital of the Perfume Cloud Maximus. Don’t miss that……………..

    • I think that perfume is completely person-specific. They mix with your body chemistry and something that smells fantastic in the bottle may smell awful on. To decide what worked for me, I went to the perfume counter and Nordstrom and had an extremely helpful salesperson work with me and I walked out with 3 samples. I tried each one on a separate day to see if I could live with the scent and how it smelled immediately after going on as well as how it smelled an hour or so later. I only did a little spritz on my wrist, so I had to pretty much touch my wrist to my nose to see how it smelled. I hope that means that I don’t wear too much! Anyway, I would recommend doing something similar. You can test all the perfumes at Sephora or go to a department store and get samples. Give each a good long try to see how they work with your body chemistry.

      • This is absolutely right. I worked in a cosmetics store pre-law school, and one of the things we stressed is that you have to wear a perfume to decide if it works for you. There are a lot of factors – your body chemistry, how much you sweat, the other scents that are around you, the list goes on. Also, all of these things change, so it’s worth re-evaluating what scent you wear.

        I never recommended that someone buy a big bottle until they wore it for at least a week. It takes that long to figure out if a scent is going to work for you. It’s disappointing to buy a big bottle of a new scent only to learn that a co-worker is allergic to it and you can’t wear it at work, especially because we had a no-returns policy on opened bottles (which is why we encouraged purchasing travel sizes if it was the first time they’d worn it).

        I personally don’t wear scents because a lot of them cause me to break out in a rash. I also don’t use scented shampoos or soaps for that reason. But a light, subtle scent on someone else doesn’t bother me. It is overwhelming when someone gets off the elevator but her scent does not, or worst, that sticky combination of perfume and smoke, where it’s clear she tried to cover up the smell of smoke with perfume, but ended up just smelling overwhelmingly of both.

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