Are You Wearing Too Much Perfume?

Eau no, you don’t! Pro advice on how to deal with some stinky scent situations.

  • Abbie Kozolchyk

How much perfume should I wear to work?
Keep scent so light that it’s undetectable to anyone more than an arm’s length away from you in any direction—everyone has a personal “scent circle,” says Mary Ellen Lapsansky, a vice president of the New York City–based Fragrance Foundation. Finding the right amount may take some experimenting on a weekend with a trusted friend.

Does that mean I can wear it to a job interview?
Not so fast, says Jeannine Morris, the founder of the beauty blog beautysweetspot.com, who advises skipping it. “A person who is interviewing you has only a few minutes to form an impression,” she says. “Don’t risk mucking it up.”

What about at the gym?
The consensus is no. But if you must, a light, citrusy scent probably won’t make you yogini non grata. And, according to Chris Wyatt, the global education director for Jo Malone London, it may help you focus.

How do I tell someone to wear less perfume?
It depends on how well you know the person, says David Seth Moltz, a perfumer and a cocreator of the D.S. & Durga fragrances. “I’m a firm believer that advice should be given only if asked for,” says Moltz. “In general, casual acquaintances aren’t asking for your opinion.” If the culprit is a close friend or a coworker who sits near you, says Jane Hendler, an organic perfumer and the creator of the Ajne scents, try something like “I think your fragrance is lovely, but I’m very sensitive to scent. Would you mind wearing less around me?” When people wear the same fragrance for a long time, “their scent receptors can become immune to it, so they overspray,” says Hendler.

Can I give fragrance as a gift?
Yes, but since perfume is an intimate gift, it should be given only to an intimate friend (with a gift receipt). A more surefire option? A lavender–scented candle. The fragrance is usually a crowd–pleaser, says Hendler, and in this form less of a commitment.

Can caregivers and teachers wear perfume?
Not if there’s going to be skin–to–skin contact—for example, between a babysitter and an infant. “The fragrance oils can transfer to the baby’s skin,” says Adam Eastwood, a cofounder of the Los Angeles fragrance boutique Lucky Scent. Teachers can, says Moltz, “but they shouldn’t overdo it.” (See first question.)

I like my best friend’s fragrance. Is it OK to copy?
“Yes, you can,” says Moltz. “But don’t make it your signature scent.” A better bet: Choose something with similar notes and wear that.

Ready for a new signature scent? See the best perfumes.