What Do You Do When Your Signature Scent Stinks For Everyone Else?

When I was in elementary school, we had a very fashionable guidance counselor who could be spotted from miles away, due to the clicking of her super-high heels on the linoleum and the overwhelming scent of her perfume.

For years I actually tried to emulate Miss Helen's heel clicking: ga-bum-click, ga-bum-click, but I couldn't pull it off without looking like Elaine Benes doing her "little kicks" dance. Her legendary perfume cloud, however, is something I've always tried to avoid, as I have distinct memories of other girls in my second grade class frowning and holding their noses and arguing that our good counselor should really be known as "Miss Smellin." Over-perfuming, I learned early enough, was a no-no: what smells good to you might be completely repulsive to the rest of the world.

Susan Carpenter of the LA Times touches on the legitimate health concerns that over-perfuming can bring up when one decides to pull a Miss Helen in an office setting, noting that allergy sufferers often have a tough time with overwhelming perfumes: "Their eyes water or their noses run when they breathe in various substances, whether it's dust, dander, pollen or perfumes, the last of which contain hundreds of different chemicals."

I'll admit that I'm a bit of a sucker for perfumes: I'm terrible at applying makeup and my nails are always bitten to the quick, so as far as easy beauty rituals go, spraying on some fancy perfume is right up my alley. Still, I try to keep my spritzes to a minimum, to avoid being "that perfume lady" who ruins everyone's life by stinking up the joint. I've walked by enough Abercrombie stores in my life to know how being on the other end of over-perfuming feels. I've also had to ditch a few beloved perfumes after my boyfriend found them a bit off-putting, as it's hard to spend a great deal of time with someone who loves you, but think you smell "a bit like a flower shop in the sewer."

However, there is something to say for owning your strong signature scent: my grandmother wore Estee Lauder Youth Dew for years and years (and when I say "wore," I mean "drenched herself in") and though I don't smell it very often anymore, occasionally I'll be in a store or on the subway with another woman who apparently loved it as much as my grandmother did, and the smell causes my eyes to water a bit, due to both allergies and memories. I guess the most appropriate thing to do, in consideration for others, is to learn to wear a strong scent without going overboard, or perhaps leaving the perfume behind when you go into the office. Or you could just be like Miss Helen, slip on your highest pair of heels, and work it for all it's worth, no matter what anybody says.

How do you deal with over-perfumers? And do you play it safe with your own signature scents?

When Perfume Becomes A Nuisance (Or A Health Issue) [LATimes]