Viewer Mail: My Office Hates My Perfume

Hello Katie,

I am Lalaine, from the Philippines. I am a graphic artist in an advertising agency, and my colleagues get irritated because of my perfume use. And I don't over spray -- I only spritz once, and the two younger guys who share my office react to it like a bad odor, covering their noses.

But my perfumes are quality, like Paris Hilton Fairy Dust and Just Me, Elizabeth Arden Pretty, and Guess for Woman. I don't know if they are just not used to women smelling okay, or if they are just stupid. Or if they just don't want to get attracted to me due to the perfume.

They cover their noses on my fruity perfumes, and then when I wear florals, they say I smell like a funeral. There is no pleasing them. Though I am not trying to attract them because they are just young boys -- I just wear perfume because I like its scent on me.

Now I wear my perfumes only when leaving the office at night or just when I’m at home. Help -- I do not want to stop using my perfumes just because of them. What would you do if you were in the same situation?



Oh Lalaine, this is like a perfume version of He’s Just Not That Into You (the movie that came from the book that came from the Sex & the City episode). So instead of the heroine twisting herself into a pretzel trying to assign a psychological M.O. for why a man isn’t calling her, you've come up with a list of reasons (social retardation, latent sexual attraction, all-encompassing stupidity) for why the guys in your office say they hate your perfume.

And while your colleagues may or may not fit your psychological profiling (personally, my money’s on social retardation), the real reason why they say they hate your perfume is...THEY HATE YOUR PERFUME.

And while I’m throwing my money around on “social retardation”, I’m willing to bet further that any perfume you might wear, whether Paris’ finest (Fairy Dust) or Paris’ finest (Chanel and Guerlain), would trigger the two stooges’ pantomime nose-pinching.

I think the main problem here is that you’re applying your perfume right in the office, in the middle of everyone’s workspace, and perfume fresh out of bottle is not fit to smelled by anyone. It needs time for the alcohol to burn off and for the scent to bloom on your skin -- and for the initial mushroom cloud of fragrance to dissipate into something more subtle and inviting.

As perfumer Geza Schoen says, “You don’t want to get on someone’s nerves with your scent. You want them to come closer and undress you instantly, because of it.”

Okay, so maybe you don’t want anyone undressing you instantly (especially those clowns at work), but you get the general idea. Do your one spritz at home, and by the time you get to the office, it’ll be “Lalaine smells so good!” not “Here comes the funeral. Again.”

This is a tricky one, though, because it’s a fine line between you enjoying the self-expression of your signature scent -- and ruining someone else’s day. In the US and Canada, there seems to be increasing intolerance for perfume in public spaces, as evidenced by news stories about people getting kicked out of restaurants or buses because of their head-clobbering, life-force-draining fragrances.

Some feel that your right to smell like Fairy Dust ends where their nose begins. My friend John put it this way:
I hate perfume, cologne, etc. Can't stand it, never could. If I can't smoke my cigar in an elevator, why can that woman burn my nose hair with that sick smelling shit (SSS) she wiped under her arms?

I really don’t have an answer to that, other than I personally think my SSS smells better than a cigar. But that’s kind of a “because I said so” response, and probably wouldn’t cut a dash with the judge at my upcoming public perfume pollution trial.

Fumies, any insights into sharing your space with fume-o-phobes?


  1. If alcohol-based sprays are driving them crazy (and not in a good way), then maybe a small dab of a perfume oil on her wrists would work. She can have easy access to sniffing herself whenever she wants, but the oil scents will stick a lot closer, so her co-workers won't have to go into hysterics when she's wearing perfume.

  2. That's a perfect suggestion, Snoot, and how foolish of me to overlook that option. Oils are a gorgeous way to experience a scent more quietly.

    Lalaine, you might try Kai or Monyette Paris oil perfumes, which are both feminine gardenia interpretations. Out of all the popular girly perfumes that Sephora offers in oil roll-ons, I recommend Kat Von D Sinner and Fresh Sugar Lychee rollerballs for you, which are on the sweeter side, but stand out from the crowd a bit. And DKNY has a Delicious Duo rollerball, which could satisfy your fruity craving.

  3. Dabbing oils sounds good and it might be that a simple switch in "delivery systems" is all Lalaine needs to do.

    Failing that, she could try wearing something incredibly understated one day - from a normal spray bottle. This would just be to eliminate the variable that it might be the style of perfume that is putting her colleagues off (though social retardation does sound like a very plausible theory to me - my own partner hates 99% of everything I wear, regardless of price point and provenance.)

    Is it practical for Lalaine to swing by a mall at lunchtime and borrow a tester of something to spray on before returning to work? Prada L'Eau Ambree or Infusion d'Iris or Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline or Green Jade or anything else in that quiet sort of vein?

    Absolutely not because I wish to encourage Lalaine to migrate to that sort of perfume permanently on their account, but simply as a "control". If some of those blokes have genuinely delicate dermatological constitutions as opposed to simply being noobs, as per our working theory, they might have problems with biggish floral or fruity numbers.

    And if, for argument's sakes, they love L'Eau Ambree, but Lalaine hates it, she should just say b******* to them, or - as a concession - go the dabbed oil and/or prior in-home application route.

  4. All very good suggestions made here. I tend to do something along the lines of FS depending on whether I have management meetings scheduled during the week. When I don't, I wear what I want, although I do avoid the huge skank-monsters or big florals. I don't think even my tolerant workgroup could handle Fracas. Nor could I for more than a short while.

    But on meeting days, I wear soft skin scents and I avoid anything too "I smell like flowers" like the plague. Or I wear iris scents. They tend not have much sillage and often colleages don't even register them as perfume.

  5. Oh, Lalaine, I feel your pain! I can't wear any fragrance to work--my coworker once went nuts over someone wearing body lotion in her office. I have to say, if your coworkers aren't sneezing like crazy or breaking out in a rash, they're just being obnoxious. (And Katie, to your friend I say, No, you can't smoke a cigar--or a cigarette--in an elevator, but you CAN come into anyone's office or home smelling like cigar or cigarette smoke. I'm sorry but that's far worse than a little perfume, and even smokers agree it doesn't smell *good.*) That said, i you really want to go the low-sillage route, in addition to oils, solids are a good idea. I think Sephora carries the Pacifica solids. Crazy Lulibelle and the Poppies (or however the hell you spell that) has cute little stick solids, and even though I really don't like solids myself, the scent range is surprisingly good. Good luck, Lalaine. Maybe we need to start our own business, where we can smell things up as much as we want.

  6. I second (third? fourth? uh, fifth?) the oils and solids route. It sounds like the problem is the way her perfume carries through the office, and mainstream spray EDT's are notorious for blasting out of the bottle and invading everyone's airspace.

    There are a lot of options at Sephora for roller-balls and solids (such as Marc Jacobs Daisy and DKNY Be Delicious), but I recently gave a roller-ball of Missoni by Missoni to my niece and she loves it: fruity and floral, but also luscious with chocolate, hazlenut and vanilla. If the guys in Lalaine's office don't like strictly fruity or floral perfumes, maybe she could go with something like Missoni by Missoni that mixes the richer gourmand notes into the equation?

    Cuz the fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right? ;)

  7. It warms my heart to see how eager y’all are to help Lalaine sneak her smells to work under the radar. It’s like the Underground Railroad, except with perfume. (How’s that for a wildly trivializing simile?)

    Lalaine’s going to love your thoughtful suggestions. She just checked in last night, and here’s what she had to say:

    “Thanks Katie -- that’s good advice. I never thought of it before. I’ll try to spray my floral perfumes before going to the office to let the perfume dissipate a little.

    Also, I have tried using softer scents and it seems to work. The boys in the office have ’no reaction’ to just-out-of-the-shower scents like Clean Shower Fresh and Bath & Body Works Rainkissed Leaves.”

  8. Katie, I love youuu! "social retardation, latent sexual attraction, all-encompassing stupidity"!

  9. Yeah nadine, I'm a regular armchair psychologist.