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Office Etiquette

The Etiquette Of Perfume At Work

If there were to be rules of etiquette on how to wear perfume at work, what could they be?

Just the other day, I walked past a woman — I must have been at a good 4 feet distance when we swiftly crossed each other — and was ‘attacked’ by this strong smell of perfume!

It’s amazing how the right fragrance on someone can be so pleasant and how the wrong smell will be totally distracting and annoying!

So when considering wearing a perfume in a business environment, you will want to do it right. If you’re going to attend a meeting or conference, possibly for many hours in a row, maybe the answer is to not wear any perfume at all. One thing is for sure, we need to be aware that even if we love our perfume, it doesn’t mean it won’t bother people around us.

Now that being said, deciding on which fragrance is ‘work appropriate’ can be pretty tricky.

It’s so easy to get lost in the world of fragrances with its endless mix of what they call top, middle and base notes. If you’ve shopped with the hopes of finding the perfect scent for yourself, you’ll agree that it can be quite a challenge. So until you find that perfect light scent, these 7 rules on how to wear your perfume at work might be of help!


1. Apply with moderation
Apply a quick spritz of your fragrance on only one area of your body. You should also spray it from a distance of 10 to 12 inches. So that only a small quantity gets to your skin. Plus I’ve heard about this trick: spray the fragrance in front of you and walk through it.

2. Chose a light fragrance
Chose a light scented fragrance. The lower its percentage of perfume oil, the lighter it will be. The Perfume Expert gives quite detailed information about the art of perfume and provides these numbers:

  • 2-5% perfume oil: Eau de Cologne and Eau Fraîche (these are often marketed for men)
  • 4-10% perfume oil: Eau de Toilette
  • 8-15% perfume oil: Eau de Parfum
  • 15-25% perfume oil: Parfum

4. Be aware of your perfume’s life span
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to know when your perfume or eau de toilette has reached its end of life. Especially since you don’t know how long it spent on the store shelf before you bought it. Some specialists say we should get rid of our perfume after 4 to 5 years. Personally, my signal for tossing it is when the smell has started to change a little. Apparently, another sign we should toss it is when the color starts getting darker.

5. Know where and when NOT to wear it
If you’re to be sitting all day in a crowded conference room with chairs side by side, then the simple solution is to not wear any type of fragrance. The same goes for a meeting with clients or negotiation with a counterpart, where you’ll want to avoid distracting them with your perfume.

6. Chose a scent that ‘fits’ you well 
A good sign is if you cannot smell it on yourself but others compliment you on how good you smell. You’ve never gotten a compliment on your perfume? It may be a sign you need to start shopping for a new one.

7. Avoid some parts of your body 
As you may have heard, pulse points on your body are normally recommended as the best areas to spray your fragrance. The heat they develop intensifies the scent and makes it last longer. Wrists, cleavage, the inside of your elbows and behind your knees are good examples. So you might want to avoid these areas if you’re aiming for a lighter effect. Applying your fragrance on the lower part of your body is a good idea.

P.S. I will start building a list of nice light ‘work appropriate fragrances’. If you think you have one that fits that definition, share in the comment section below or write to me! (through the “About” category)

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  1. Carole

    What do you suggest we do when a colleague’s perfume smells too strong and bothers you?

  2. Martha

    Hi Carole. Indeed that’s not easy to do! I understand we are talking about a colleague who’s working close to you. I would go about it this way : “I have something a bit delicate to ask you (with a sympathetic smile–very important). PAUSE. Well you’ve been wearing perfume. PAUSE–gives a chance for the person to reply with what you’d like to hear-if not, continue. Unfortunately the smell is bothering me while I’m working, I would really appreciate it if you could stop wearing it at work. Hopefully the person will agree and you will say “thanks so much!”. Good luck!

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