With notes of citrus, perfume can energize those who catch its light scent in the air. With hints of jasmine and sandalwood, its lingering scent can promise a night of romance.
Whether you want to convey a sense of style, boost your confidence, bring back the memory of another time or just flirt, there’s a fragrance for you.
But you have to find the right one, and know how to wear it, because scent is like a magnet — it can create a subtle attraction, but it can also repel.
“Fragrance should invite people closer to you — not encourage them to go away,” said Lyn Leigh of the Fragrance Foundation, a trade organization based in New York.
According to the Fragrance Foundation, no one should be able to smell your perfume outside of your “scent circle” — which is about an arm’s length from the body.
“If you go into a room, you don’t want your fragrance to go in before you, but you wouldn’t mind a little lingering fragrance after,” said Leigh.
Any stronger than that, and you may cause a very negative reaction.
“If I’m next to somebody with too much cologne on, it kind of makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and with some colognes I can feel like my airway tightens,” said Judy Austin of Layton.
A surgical nurse, Austin says patients sometimes complain of feeling worse after being near someone wearing fragrance.
“After they walk away, the patient will say, ‘I’m feeling nauseated,’ ” she said.
Finding a fragrance you love doesn’t guarantee everyone else will love how you wear it.
“I’ve experienced it before, and been in situations where someone’s perfume or cologne is excessive,” said Dr. Brent Burdett, with the Intermountain Allergy and Asthma Clinic in South Ogden.
“I think the public, in general, probably complains more about those things than they used to.”
Some people say they are allergic to perfumes, but Burdett says that’s not exactly the case.
“It’s not an allergy like being allergic to cats or grass,” he said. “It isn’t going to put them in the hospital, and it isn’t going to make them sick.”
By definition, an allergy is caused by something biological, he said. Perfumes are among a group of substances, like ammonia and pesticides, that just have strong irritating properties.
“It would bother virtually everyone, if you gave it in a strong enough dose,” he said. “But some people have trouble at weaker doses. ... Most of these people have some other nasal problems. They may have allergies, a sinus infection or cold, and once the nose is inflamed, congested and having problems, then these things aggravate it.”
People with a condition called vasamotor rhinitis are quite sensitive to strong odors.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Web site, perfumes can be an asthma trigger.
To apply perfume, put just a little on the skin at certain pulse points, like the neck and wrists, said Cori Harris, cosmetics and fragrances sales manager at the Ogden Dillard’s.
“A lot of people spray it all over their clothes, and that’s what usually gets to people,” she said. “If you can smell yourself all through the day, you’ve put too much on.”
Kim Schuler, manager of Bath & BodyWorks at the Newgate Mall, suggests layering coordinating scents of shower gel, body lotion and a fragrance mist or splash.
“When you combine all three light scents, you really don’t need perfume on top,” she said. “When people buy perfume, I encourage them to wear it at night. Heavier scents have more essential oils, instead of an alcohol base, and you want to save them for special occasions.”
Obsession is the only fragrance for Cristy Barrett — and, “I only wear it when I’m going out,” said the West Haven woman.
Maria Thompson of Syracuse says she changes scents with the seasons.
Schuler says some people have a “signature scent” that they always wear, and people associate it with them.
“I wore the same fragrance for 10 years,” she said. “Then I realized that when the weather changes, everything changes with it. ... Spring is time for moving away from the heavy musks of fall and winter, and going to something more citrus fruit-based.”
When choosing a new fragrance, Schuler says, be willing to experiment.
“Like fashions, some scents go out of style,” she said, using lilac as an example. “That makes you think of a grandma, and that’s not what a 20-year-old wants to smell like — you want to smell fresh and clean and flirty.”
Don’t buy perfume because you like the way it smells on a friend or a card, said Harris.
“The best way to find out if it mixes with your body chemistry is to go to the store, put it on and wander around for a while,” she said.
Added Leigh: “What you smell in the first minutes is not what’s going to happen after 10 to 15 minutes.”
About 62 million women, and 50 million men, wear fragrance in one form or another, Leigh said, but the recession is having an impact on sales.
“The tween market is doing well,” she said, noting that more young people are getting into body sprays. “I think there’s a segment of the market, from about age 18 to 28, where life changes and fragrance isn’t so much part of the story.”
Leigh admits fragrance isn’t 100 percent necessary for life, but she wouldn’t leave the house without putting a little bit on.
“It’s a pleasurable indulgence,” she said. “It just gives you a little lift, and what more could you ask for these days?”