Guidelines for Wearing Fragrances

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Fragrances are all around us. They are in perfumes, soaps, shampoos and cleaning products. No matter where we go, we can be assaulted by a variety of scents, some pleasant, some not so much. For most of us, scents may make us smile or be momentarily unpleasant. But for some people, fragrances trigger a migraine or cause allergy symptoms that send us hiding in our own homes.


    While we think of wearing fragrances as a personal choice, it is one that impacts those around us. Whether standing in line or working next to another person, those around us are stuck with our choice of fragrance, even when it causes them discomfort, pain or illness. Because of this, it is important to be aware of and sensitive to those around us.

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    Guidelines for Wearing Fragrances at Work

    The following are guidelines for wearing fragrances:

    • Use scented products sparingly. A good rule of thumb is that the scent should not be detectable more than one arms length away from you. This can be hard to tell, though, so you may want to enlist the help of a friend to experiment with how much fragrance is too much.
    • Don’t reapply perfume during the day. After a little while you won’t be able to smell the scent, however, others still can. If you do wear a small amount of perfume, spray it in the air and walk under it rather than spraying it directly on your body.
    • Avoid using any chemical scents, such as air-fresheners, at your desk or around your work area. These products can give off scents for a wide area.
    • Use unscented laundry soaps and allow dry-cleaned clothes to air out before wearing them to work.
    • Use citrus and natural fragrances (still keep to the arms length rule) instead of perfumes and colognes that contain a variety of chemicals.
    • If you aren’t sure whether fragrances are acceptable in your work environment, talk with your supervisor.

    Many fresh flowers not only have a scent that is distracting or causes health problems but may trigger flare-ups of allergies. Before placing fresh cut flowers on your desk, make sure they aren’t going to cause health problems for your co-workers.


    When You Are Approached About Fragrances

    Many people feel offended if approached by a co-worker about a scent they are wearing. According to the University of Waterloo in Canada, “It is okay to feel surprised and taken aback.” [1] But, instead of becoming defensive, remember that it is not an attack on you, but rather a concern for their own health based on the scent you are wearing. Listen to your co-worker and ask questions such as:

    • Is it this particular scent or all scents that bother you?
    • Is it the amount of scent? A combination of scents (laundry detergent, soap, perfume, etc)
    • Is there certain types of scents that you find acceptable? Unacceptable? (Sometimes it is synthetic fragrances that cause the most problems but natural fragrances are acceptable)

    Keep the conversation open and friendly. The more you understand about your co-workers concerns, the better you can accommodate his or her needs. Let your co-worker know his or her health is important and you are willing to work together to come to a resolution.


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    See also:


    The Problem with Fragrances


    Fragrances in the Workplace




    [1] “Guidelines on Wearing Scented Products,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, University of Waterloo



Published On: July 23, 2013