How to battle Perfume Prohibition

How to battle Perfume Prohibition

By Adriana Ermter

To spritz, or not to spritz: that is the question. At least it has been since those with sensitive sniffers sneezed loud enough to blow the fragrance-free movement into our backyard. Yes, Halifax, Nova Scotia, we’re pointing our well-manicured fingers at you.

In the early ’90s, the maritime city’s political players labeled the fragrance-adverse with “multiple chemical disorder,” helping kick-start the Canadian trend to designate certain public areas as scent-restricted zones. Since then, government buildings, hospitals, medical centres and even offices have turned perfume-prohibited faster than you can say “Chanel No.5.”

And we’ve had to put the bottle down.

Understandably, being fogged by a cloud of second-hand Dior Poison in an elevator is not necessarily the way everyone wants to start the day. If you have to begin the day wearing another woman’s perfume, most would prefer a dousing of something bold but more less all-consuming: Balenciaga L’Essence, Creed Fleurs de Gardenia or Hermès Kelly Caleche, spring to mind.

“Fragrance should be worn so that you can enjoy the scent without it being overly aggressive,” affirms Karyn Khoury, the senior vice-president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for Estée Lauder Companies Inc. “So that it is appealing to those around you, not intrusive.”

Agreed. Yet, when the words “you smell good” are whispered in the work place, they simultaneously elicit pride and fear. Something has to give.

Ever the olfactory optimist, Khoury reassures there are solutions.

“When I want a lighter, more casual impression I just wear the body lotion or body cream of my favoured scent,” she explains. Dare to mist? One modest spritz, not two, at the base of the throat will suffice and will also ensure that you, and only you, enjoy the scent.

Nathalie Lorson, a perfumer with the Swiss fragrance and flavours company, Firmenich, recommends dashing a little parfum “behind your ears or on the hollow of your arm. You can also spray the hair.”

Avoid applying your favoured, stronger scents, such as Clinique’s floral Aromatics Elixir or Saint Laurent’s spicy Opium to the “sensual pulsation points,” like behind your knees and on your décolletage, Lorson adds. These hot spots heat up throughout the day and “increase the fragrance diffusion,” sending heady wafts zinging around the room, she says.

Picking up one of the non-perfume smelling scents currently flooding the market is another way to sidestep great auntie’s stink-eye (pun intended) at family functions.

Comme des Garcons’ Odeur 53 is a 20-year-plus tried-and-true abstract, anti-perfume meant to confound the nose. Made entirely from inorganic materials, it’s the antithesis of grandma’s rose garden—in fact, it might leave co-workers thinking you’re moonlighting as a mechanic or esthetician given its burned rubber, nail-polish notes. Albeit a stylish mechanic or esthetician. 

Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gioia Eau de Parfum Satinée for women, Jill Stuart Relax Eau de White Floral, Demeter’s Clean Skin, Oscar de la Renta’s Sargasso and Burberry’s Body Rose Gold are great choices for those looking for a lighter toilette. Not to mention that should someone ask, you can blame your scent on: the mint tea in your mug, freshly laundered clothes, that your hair is still wet from the shower, you spent the weekend at the seaside, or just the inherent and luxurious aroma of your cashmere sweater. And while you may not completely convince the hardcore bloodhounds in your group, you’ll certainly leave them wondering—maybe enough to ask where they can pick up a bottle.

Burberry Body Rose Gold, $115 (85 ml), 

Demeter Clean Skin, $20 (30 ml),

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gioia Eau de Parfum Satinée for women EDP, $62 (50 ml),   

Jill Stuart, Relax Eau de White Floral EDC, (50 ml),

Oscar de la Renta Essential Luxuries Sargasso, $150 (100 ml), 


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This article was written by

Adriana Ermter is an award-winning writer and editor. The former beauty director for FASHION magazine and editor-in-chief of Salon and of Childview magazines is a monthly columnist for Among Men Mag and has hosted beauty videos for and contributed to Men’s FASHION, Chatelaine and, Flare and, Huffington Post Canada, National Post, and She lives in Toronto with her very spoiled feline, Trixie-Belle, and a fantastically large perfume collection.