Too Much Perfume? Fragrance Etiquette Tips Everyone Should Know

It was a lovely Sunday morning to walk the dog around the live-oak shaded expanses of Local U. I was enjoying the September air, the lovely morning light, and the scent of newly mowed grass, when, as often happens, a runner bounded past.

I heard him coming up behind me and moved to one side of the trail so he wouldn’t have to break stride. Then, as I watched him go by, I received an unexpected souvenir of his passing. The scent trail he left in his wake was remarkable, not only for its strength, but also for its staying power. This was a still and humid day, the type of weather when any cologne tends to hang in the air, and this guy had doused himself in some cologne in near head-exploding quantity. When he was a hundred yards in front of me I was still engulfed in his lingering cologne.

It was one of the best scents I had ever inhaled and wanted to know the source immediately even though cologne was a popular brand and a leading figure when it came to perfumes, which is what hooked me and I immediately thought of buying one for myself.

It is a phenomenon I have come to think of as the ton-of-bricks sillage (if you recognize yourself read on because there may be health related explanation). I don’t know if the guy had bathed in Axe body spray or Calvin Kline. Either way the effect was like being hit by an olfactory sledgehammer- not pleasant. Which kind of defeats the purpose of wearing a perfume or cologne: that you want to smell good.

Not induce vomiting or severe allergic reactions. Factor in the dog whose olfactory sense is a hundred times better than mine and the effect of his overwhelming cologne was not just vulgar, but an act of animal cruelty as well. And this has happened often enough lately that I think the subject of perfume etiquette should be discussed.

Now, I’m not against perfume. I like it and have often enjoyed someone’s cologne or perfume when I’ve caught a hint of it as they pass. Many fragrance experts site the two feet rule. Fragrance is an intimate thing, something you share with people with whom you have close contact. Your sillage, or trail of scent, should be subtle, intriguing. Never cloying or overpowering.

There are a few things to keep in mind when wearing perfume or cologne that will ensure that you’re really enhancing your appeal rather than detracting from it.

First of all, if more than one person has told you you wear too much perfume you do. People don’t like to offer criticism that could be taken personally and will do almost anything to avoid it. But, like smoking, excessive perfume or cologne effects the air everyone has to breath and some people have chemical sensitivities or allergies. Your extreme perfume or cologne use can make others physically ill.

A federal court in Michigan is currently hearing a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act that alleges excessive perfume application has caused a planning department employee health problems. Multiple chemical sensitivity is starting to get a lot of attention. It may be tied to such ailments as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, so this subject isn’t going away. If perfume wearers don’t regulate their own behavior they (or rather we) may end up like smokers- banned from indoor public places.

It would be a shame to end up at that point, though. Perfume is a wonderful, sensual experience when worn correctly. Coco Chanel considered it so important she once said, “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.”

One thing to look into if you can identify yourself as a possible perfumed menace is this: it may indicate you have a nutritional deficiency that could be effecting you in other ways. It’s also an easy deficiency to fix if you know about it. American College of Nutrition researchers presented a study in 2007 which found that people who over-applied perfume had dramatic deficiencies in zinc. Zinc deficiency has long been known to impact taste and smell, but it also negatively impacts the immune system and brain function. And it’s cheap and easy to supplement. The research found that when the over perfumers began to take zinc they changed their perfume application habits on thier own.

Another thing to keep in mind with perfume or cologne application is that you, because you’re surrounded by the scent, stop smelling it long before it wears off. You should wait a few hours minimum before you reapply your perfume or cologne. Actually the more you apply the more it tends to knock out your own sense of smell so that you can no longer judge how you smell. If you need to recalibrate your perfume or cologne application, ask a friend if he she can smell your scent.

The bottom line is that we all have to breath, so we should all try to be conscientious about scents and engage in good perfume etiquette.