Opinion: Whether Your Perfume Is Floral or Musk, You Should Reconsider


Have you ever been minding your own business in a public place when somebody walks past and you are suddenly bombarded with the strong smell of their fragrance? You might not mind this fleeting scent. But maybe you get a headache from its intensity, or it’s possible that you get even worse symptoms. In our society, perfume & cologne are normalized and a key part of many people’s self care regimens. Should they be, and are we even using them properly?

If you wonder why someone is irritated by perfume, it could be because they have a sensitivity or allergy to fragrance. About 32% of people experience health symptoms from scents, which can include headaches or migraines, allergies, breathing problems, etc. Ingredients used in perfumes vary, but many chemicals that are commonly included can cause a flare-up of these symptoms. 

While on the topic of how scents affect people who smell them, what about the people themselves who wear it? Obviously, these symptoms mentioned could also affect the wearer in the same way, and possibly more severely because they are in direct contact with skin. TIME says “a good bet is that any scented cosmetic will contain phthalates,” which are chemicals that have been linked to various hormone and lung issues, as well as linked to adverse effects on pregnancies and newborn physical development.  

One also might wonder why perfume ingredients aren’t regulated or banned if they have harmful effects. It’s difficult to test chemicals and their safe exposure levels when they could be potentially dangerous to the subjects that would use them. That’s why chemicals are assumed to be safe until they are proven otherwise. Cosmetic and fragrance regulation in America is much more forgiving than in places like Europe, where they have “banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11”, according to The Guardian

Some might say that what people choose to smell like is ultimately their choice, which is completely true. Others might say that smelling like a strong cologne is better than smelling like body odor. That opinion is completely subjective. No matter how you feel about someone’s choice, you personally cannot control their spritzing habits. From my personal experience, I feel like I come into contact with many who spray away a little too much. Recently, I sat down at a 76ers game to be slammed with an aggressive cologne. I realized that it was coming from someone sitting in the row in front of me. It loomed in the air, and I got a slight headache, but there was nothing I could do about it without confrontation.

Though I personally don’t choose to make a stink about the literal stink around me, there are many who aren’t afraid to speak up if they’re uncomfortable. If you would like to stay out of any possible conflict or argument, then it might be best to monitor your perfume intake. Allure says “the first rule of fragrance is that someone ought to be close enough to kiss you before they can detect the scent,” which is obviously subjective but still relays the right idea; if you can smell it in the room when someone’s not right next to you, they’ve probably applied too much.

There is no certainty that the majority of people will change their ways of wearing fragrance just because of someone’s opinion, or because of this article. Being doused in perfume or cologne is more normalized in our modern society than it should be, with its proven possible health effects on both wearers and smellers. Though these facts should be a reason to modify your scent intake, it should also be a simple social norm to responsibly apply your fragrance of choice. The most important thing to keep in mind is how your actions affect others, even if you think you smell good.