Perfume and aftershave etiquette

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 February, 2011, 12:00am

We've all been there before: trapped in a room or lift with a person who's applied a little too much perfume or aftershave. If you're that culprit, spare a thought for those around you. Although wearing your favourite fragrance is a real pleasure for you, over-spritzing can be a terrible nuisance to others.

The history of perfume dates back to ancient times when it was used for both medicinal and hygienic purposes. People didn't bathe very often in those days, and a good aroma was associated with good health and hygiene. Today we use fragrances for a different purpose - to reflect our identity.

Why less is more

A perfume is designed to blend with your natural body smell to create a unique scent that is your very own 'signature'. Although perfumes aren't toxic, over-application can trigger asthmatic attacks or allergic rhinitis in some people. Their eyes water and their noses run. Some can get headaches, migraines or nausea.

If you are going to wear perfume or aftershave, you need to learn how to apply it properly so as not to annoy others. Follow these fragrance etiquette tips.

Choose your scent with care. For the sake of others, choose a fragrance that is subtle rather than an in-your-face scent that's intense and musky.

A little dab will do. Please don't spray it all over your clothes, hair or bag. For perfume, you can either dab a little on your pulse points - behind the ear lobes, the upper sides of the wrists and the right and left sides of the neck - or spray one or two spritzes into the air and walk into it.

For aftershave, put a small amount - about a quarter of a teaspoon - onto the palm of your hand and rub both hands together, then apply to your shaved areas and down your neck.

Try to apply your perfume or aftershave at least 15 minutes before you go out. This will give the alcohol some time to evaporate so the smell won't be overpowering to others.

Wait before you reapply. Our nose gets used to the scent long before other people's do. Just because you can't smell it any more doesn't mean others can't!

Scents are not deodorants. Don't even think about swapping perfume or aftershave for deodorants; your fragrance may mask an unpleasant smell for a while, but won't neutralise it like a deodorant.

Know your eau's

Eau de parfum: is made with about 15 per cent concentrated aromatic compounds suspended in oil. The remaining 85 per cent is a mix of alcohol and water. It tends to last a lot longer because of the higher amount of aromatic compounds. A dab usually lasts all day long.

Eau de toilette: is made with about 10 per cent concentrated aromatic compounds. The rest is a blend of water and alcohol, with more water than alcohol. This is less concentrated and won't last as long as eau de parfum.

Eau de cologne: is made with about 5 per cent concentrated aromatic compounds based on citrus scents. It's typically a light and fresh fragrance that was made popular by French military leader Napoleon. It is used interchangeably with eau de toilette, and both men and women can wear it.

Aftershave: contains the least aromatic compounds but has antiseptic properties. It is also moisturising and may be scented or unscented.