THE BLOG

The Problem With Perfume

23/09/2013 13:54 | Updated 23 November 2013

I was recently at my bank for a meeting. What struck me as I walked into the large open space, filled with a dozen or so people, was the unmistakable scent of Tom Ford Black Orchid. For those uninitiated, it's a lovely fragrance that smells like a musky, chocolaty, flower. Unusual yet compelling. It is, however, rather potent; one spray will usually suffice.

The wall of fragrance that I experienced that day was quite something; it has dispersed throughout the entire ground floor and really overpowered the senses. I went upstairs for my meeting and forgot about it. The meeting ended around half an hour later and I went back down the stairs to leave. Amazingly, the ground floor was still rather fragranced even though it was now deserted.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no anti perfume protestor; I'm a big fan of fragrances and own several myself. What irks me though are those who use enough perfume to make me wonder if what I'm breathing is more perfume than air.

I think a lot of people are under the belief that if they can't smell their own fragrance, then no one else can. I remember being sat in a waiting room next to a lady who was what can only be described as heavily fragranced. Whilst I sat there, trying to will away the smell of roses with my mind alone, I was amazed to see her reach into her handbag and produce a bottle of perfume.

I thought the fumes must've got to me, there's no way she's going to apply... Three sprays later my opinions of rose based perfumes had been irreparably damaged and I'm considering stuffing tissue up my nose. Thankfully, a few minutes later my sense of smell finally died from the sheer exhaustion of smelling the equivalent of a field of roses in each breath and I carried on with my day.

And that's where the root of the problem lies. Your nose is sensitive and after enough exposure to a certain smell it stops registering it. This is why you notice a pet loving friend's house has that distinctive aroma of wet dog when you enter but no longer notice once you've sat down for dinner. It also means you generally can't smell your own perfume after a few minutes. So don't apply more, it's definitely still there.

In my personal experience, I've noticed this effect happens especially quickly when fragrances are applied close to the nose, like on the neck. That's why I always advise anyone who's buying a new fragrance to apply a single spray to their wrist to judge how strong it is before getting trigger happy and complaining the fragrance is a bit weak whilst those around them start fainting from the fumes.

Under no circumstances do what I witnessed in my local branch of Debenhams. I was there to try some Hermès fragrances when I noticed a man sampling one of their latest offerings. After spraying it on a supplied paper test strip and appearing to like it, he took the bottle and applied what I believe was around a dozen sprays to his entire torso.

It looked like he'd done this before as he clearly had a method in place to maximize the number of sprays that could be applied. From memory, I believe he applied a couple to the neck, a couple to each wrist, a few to the t shirt and a final couple behind the neck, just to make sure. He then left the store. I remember thinking at the time 'perfume companies must love this guy; he must really get through it'. Or maybe he just applied a dose large enough to last him a few days then came back for more without ever purchasing any. We'll never know.

James Wilson is the founder of JW Stylist LTD