Don’t Be A Scent Bomber – Perfume & Cologne At Work
> Check if your company has a policy about scents
Everyone in the office knows when Judy is nearby and it’s not because she’s a loud talker.
Anytime she walks by or is standing or sitting within a five cubicle radius, you can smell her. Well, not actually her but her perfume.
It’s so overpowering that it can make you gag and your eyes tear.
And if you have the unfortunate opportunity to be trapped in a meeting room with her, you’ll be in an hour long fumigation session. By the end of the meeting, every single participant will be wearing Chanel No. 5 on themselves for the rest of the day.
Judy wears her perfume like her jewelry - outwardly flashy and meant to be noticed.
At the other end of the spectrum is Dean.
He’s our in-house software engineer that works on the company’s database stuff. He totally doesn’t have the stereotypical “look” of a computer geek. He’s a tall, clean-cut guy with a lean, athletic build. He’s got plenty of secret admirers.
Most people don’t know that he wears cologne. In fact, the only reason we know is because of the fact that we had to sit right next to him, like literally shoulder-to-shoulder, as he was showing us the programming changes in the database.
When you’re that close to him, that’s when you can pick up soft subtle hints of what smells like fresh dryer sheets or like he just stepped out of the shower. It’s kind of like a cool clean scent that’s hard to describe.
If there ever was a fragrance battle between Judy and Dean, Judy would absolutely overpower and crush Dean in terms of scent strength. But, we think she loses in every other aspect.
Wearing fragrances at work is a fine and delicate act of controlling scents. Get it wrong like Judy and you’ll piss people off. But, get it right like Dean and things can work in your favor.
A Quick Primer On Fragrances And How They “Work” When You Wear Them
The use of smells and odors to mask or enhance our bodies dates all the way back to ancient times. In fact, our cave-dwelling ancestors discovered that standing around a smokey campfire really helped to mask their human odor when hunting prey.
The prey wouldn’t smell the human odor, which would instantly signal danger, but rather smoke from burning wood, a natural occurrence that wouldn’t spook the animal. This strategy is still used in hunting today.
A more relatable example is like back in the days when smoking was allowed in bars and nightclubs. After spending the night hanging out at the bar, you’d come home smelling like an ashtray. Your clothes and hair would stink like second-hand smoke.
This is how the word “perfume” was created. In Latin, the “per” means “through” and the “fume” means “smoke”. So, the roots words that makeup “perfume” essentially are “through smoke” to get a scent.
How Perfumes Spread Scents Into The Air
Today, fragrances don’t use smoke to apply the scent to the body. Instead, fragrances typically use alcohol to suspend or hold the scent molecules in a bottle until they are applied or sprayed onto your body.
Once applied, the alcohol then evaporates into the air, carrying and releasing certain scents into the air while other scents stick to your body and slowly dissipate over time.
There are three phases of this evaporation process. Each phase provides a unique scent experience. There are the initial immediate scents that we smell right away and others that linger on afterward.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, you’ll see similar descriptive terms shared with fragrances. The term most commonly used for scents is “notes” and with fragrances, there are three categories of notes:
Top Notes - these are the scents you smell right away - like when you use the tester sample at the store. These usually last anywhere from a few minutes to 15 minutes max. They dissipate quickly.
Mid Notes - these are the scents that represent the main body of the fragrance. They can last for about an hour or two.
Base Notes - these are the scents that form the foundation of the fragrance and appear slowly after the mid notes have evaporated. These scents can last up to three to four hours, some even longer.
Notes can be floral, fruity, beachy, woody, musky etc. The variety of scent notes ranges widely. A majority of notes are derived from natural sources like plants and flowers while others are man-made synthetic ones.
Types Of Fragrances
You’ve probably heard of the two most marketed categories of scents: perfumes (for women) and cologne (for men). This is often used as generic gender categories for fragrances. It’s purely a marketing thing.
The terms are actually for telling you how much of the scent concentration there is in the bottle. Here’s the list from strongest to weakest:
Parfum: 20% to 30% concentration
This is the strongest and least diluted type of scent. This kind of fragrance has about 20% to 30% concentration of scent oils in the alcohol. Because the concentration of scent oils is highest, it tends to last the longest of all types.
It’s also the most expensive because it requires the most amount of raw materials to make. For example, a single tiny little bottle of rose perfume requires over 600 roses to extract the minimum amount of essential rose oil scent. So, you don’t typically see this type in high quantities.
Eau de Parfum: 15% to 20% concentration
This is the next strongest after parfum. This is also called EDP for short and the one most people associate with “perfume” at the store.
EDP is a popular “high strength” type because it provides a good balance of long-lasting scent of about 4-6 hours while being more affordable than parfum. Typically, these are sold in smaller bottles and can still be quite pricey.
Eau de Toilette: 5% to 15% concentration
In the middle of the range, eau de toilette or EDT is one of the two most common mass-market volume category types. EDT provides about 2-3 hours of fragrance. They are sold in larger mid-sized bottles and use sprayers.
Eau de Cologne: 3% to 5% concentration
This is the other mass-market, high volume fragrance category that is widely available. Because the amount of scent concentration is lowest, the fragrance doesn’t last very long at about 1-2 hours. But, it’s also the most affordable for that very same reason. EDC is usually bottled in larger sizes.
What this all means is that the higher the concentration, the stronger it is, the longer it lasts and thus, the less of it you apply.
Check Company Policy About Wearing Scents At The Office
Before you even consider buying a bottle of perfume or cologne and wearing it to work, check with HR and see if there’s a “scent policy” for the office.
Some of today’s modern workplaces are becoming more aware and supportive of employees’ sensitivities including the use of fragrances. For some extremely sensitive people, even the slightest hint of perfume or cologne can induce headaches or nausea.
For this reason, some companies have instituted a “no scent” policy at work. Meaning, any use of fragrances whether it’s perfume, cologne or even air fresheners, is prohibited.
If that’s the case for you and your company, you can stop reading this article now.
However, most companies have not adopted a “no scent” policy. It’s not that widespread...yet. But, it’s getting there.
Until that time comes...
Respect The Shared “Airspace” At Work
We’re all in the fight together, five days a week for eight hours a day. The last thing anybody wants is to have a work environment that literally stinks.
Overpowering scents from liberal use of awful fragrances won’t do anything to impress others. It’ll do the exact opposite and make them gag and run for fresh air.
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Overpowering fragrances are like certain types of dry erase markers.
You've definitely experienced this situation before. When a new marker is being used for the first time, the intense alcohol-like solvent odor can easily fill up a meeting room and get everyone dizzy.
That’s why some dry erase markers can pose health risks.
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Limiting Your Fragrance Zone To Your Personal Space
The aim here is to keep your scent within your personal space. The general guideline we recommend is that your fragrance should only be “smellable” by you.
So, any amount of fragrance you apply shouldn’t exceed or dissipate beyond an arm’s length. You can get to this stage by following these two simple tips.
Start With A Single Application
To achieve the goal of limiting the scent to your own personal radius, start with a single spritz from the cologne bottle or one dab from the perfume bottle stopper. Apply the fragrance directly to your skin, not your clothing.
The best places to apply the fragrance are the pulse hotspots on your body. These include the inside of your wrists, around your neck, inside of your elbows and behind your knees.
A good starting point for a single application is on the center of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple.
Another is a single dab or spray on the inside of your dominant wrist and then, cross-dabbing it to your other inner wrist to half the dosage.
Don’t rub the fragrance! Dab it.
We often see people rubbing perfume or cologne on their wrists to evenly distribute and spread out the fragrance. Don’t do this.
When you rub the scent, you’re generating heat and artificially accelerating the evaporation process. It’s messing up the experience. Just apply and let dry.
For weaker EDC concentrations, you may need an additional application, but don’t apply any more than two to start with.
Apply The Scent At Home
There are a few rare folks that keep perfume or cologne at their desk drawer at work. They’ll typically apply it when they arrive at work in the morning.
This is not the way to do it. Applying it at your desk makes the top notes spread and dissipate quickly across your work area and into other people’s spaces.
Instead, apply any scents at home before you leave. Apply it as early as you can in your morning “getting ready” routine, like after you get out of the shower or the first step in getting dressed.
This will allow the fragrance to run through its initial evaporation of fast top notes that spread far and wide and settle into the mid and base notes that don’t dissipate as far.
So, by the time you get to your desk, the fragrance should be well within the mid and base note stages, which shouldn’t drift off beyond your immediate personal zone.
Find An “Office” Scent That Makes You Feel Good
Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful ways that can alter our moods. Certain scents can trigger specific feelings or sensations.
The smell of firewood burning in the fireplace.
The warm clean pile of clothes from the dryer.
The sweet smell of freshly baked cookies.
These are just a few examples of how a particular smell can change our moods so easily. We can use this built-in mood modifier at work to our benefit by taking an inward approach to wearing fragrances.
An office or work scent is mainly for your pleasure not others.
So, that fragrance that you got as a gift from someone or for yourself a few years back, you know...the one that’s been sitting in the bathroom cabinet or on the dresser, might not be a good office scent.
However, if the perfume or cologne does make you feel good, go ahead and wear it to work. And when you’re feeling down or stressed out, a quick little sniff of your wrist is all you need to boost yourself up a bit.
Having a dedicated work fragrance is very much like having a favorite pair of shoes or pants. They just fit perfectly, are comfortable and look great. They make you feel good.
But unlike work clothes which are obviously for maintaining certain levels of outward appearances, fragrances at work are for your internal benefit.
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Fragrances For Work And Play
You’ve got your gym clothes, work clothes, going out clothes etc. Your wardrobe is made up of different outfits to match the occasion.
You wouldn’t wear your more revealing-n-risqué outfit to work, right?
The same goes for perfumes and colognes.
The fragrance you wear out for an evening social event is going to be very different than the one you wear to work.
Scents for “play” and “work” are quite different and it’s hard for one fragrance to work well in both worlds. It’s like shoes - one pair can’t do it all.
Generally speaking, fragrances for “play” or going out at night tend to be more aggressive, complex, punchy and sharp while those for work tend to be a bit more subdued, simple and subtle.
So, aim to wear the latter kind of scents for work than the former.
The best thing to do is to visit your local department store or retail beauty shop and check out the fragrance section. Ask for recommendations for simple and subtle scents for work and try out a few.
Alternate Idea: Essential Oils For Stress Relief
If the thought of wearing perfume or cologne is still too much. There’s an even more discreet way to get the benefits of fragrances that isn’t as widely known. It’s kind of like “scent therapy” at work.
For the same reasons why spas use lavender, eucalyptus and other soothing scents to relax clients, you can apply the same principle for yourself at work.
The same scented oils that lux spas use to help you wind down and relax can also be used at work.
Essential oils are just super concentrated forms of natural oils from plants and or flowers. The term "essential" really means that the oil contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance, not that it’s a health requirement like “essential nutrients” for your body.
Essential oils can be found at your local pharmacy, health and organic related stores, etc. and of course online.
Some of the most popular ones for stress relief include:
The best way to use essential oils for stress relief at work is to apply a tiny pinkie finger dab just under your nose for immediate relief. The scent will last about an hour or so.
The other option is to apply a small dab on the back of your hand or inside wrist like perfume and then, when you need a little relief, just hold your hand near your nose.
The beauty of using essential oils is that since it’s 100% oil without alcohol solvents, the scents don’t evaporate and fly off in all directions. It stays in close proximity.
Be Your Own Mood-Enhancing Stress-Busting Machine
Wearing perfume or cologne at work is completely different than wearing it going out for the night to mix-n-mingle.
The office isn’t a nightclub for finding your next love of your life - even though some have found romance at work.
When you’re at the office, the main focus is on getting shit done and achieving goals. And during that process, you’ll hit barriers and challenges and often get frustrated and stressed out.
It’s during these tough moments that you need to be able to pull yourself up and keep charging ahead. And having a few mental tricks in your back pocket to start the positive domino effect is key.
Having the right office fragrance that triggers happy, feel good sensations can be one of your secret tricks.
It can be the tiny little spark to get things back on track again.
It can be your very own on-demand mood booster.
It can be your stress-busting scent.
And when you discover the perfect Goldilocks portions, you can be confident that you’re not infringing upon others. It’s all for you anyways.
Using scents at work, whether it’s perfume, cologne or essential oils, is a great way for quick stress relief of daily pressures. Just be smart and mindful about it.
In other words, be like Dean and not like Judy.
Speaking of that...we’ve gotta go see him now. We “need” another update on his database project. 😉