Can you think of anything else that can be louder than sound?
There was once a man who walked the halls of an Federal agency in Washington, D.C. He was sort of a peacock kind of man. Known for his skillful golf games (zero handicap); he was just the man who delivered the daily mail to each office station and chauffered the agency head. In our minds, we would think, “here comes Tex.” We could smell him before he even opened the glass doors into our corridors. He would apply some more of the smelly concoction during his lunch hour. Have you ever met such a person?
“Peacocking” is a slang word that means dressing for attention, just like the manner in which Peacocks use their feathers to get a mate. But, when peacocking with perfume or cologne is used throughout the workday, it is something else. It may even be viewed as passive-aggressive behavior.
There was a time when it was indeed high fashion in clothing to lather up with some fragrance, especially when Coco Chanel reached her height in fame with her signature scent Chanel No. 5 along with her jewellery, dress couture, and handbags. She was defined as “Couturier and perfumer.” Coco was the genius French fashion designer of the couture who liberated women from the constraints of “corseted silhoutte” and who popularized the sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard of style in the post- World War I era.
Even the royals of Europe did not succeeded in bringing a “breath of freshness” to the filth that was their bodies and in their chateaux during the 16th and 17th centuries. Even their doctors did not know to advise to bathe on a regular basis for hygiene. But that is hygiene..clean water and soap. Well, they also used fresh flowers for example. A case in point, Maria Antionette, the last queen of Franch, bathed once a month baths. It was a glamorous ritual since the royal coffer was almost empty. The bathtub water was scented and filled with sweet pine nuts, blanched sweet almonds, marsh mallow root, lilly bulbs and a candy paste of rare plants. These floral undertones, however, lasted for the first three days. After that, body odor took over. It wasn’t until the onset of 20th century that the technology of fragrance took hold, artificial fragrance that is.
By 1920, chemists were able to create new compounds. When Chanel’s master perfumer, Ernest Beaux, presented her with samples of scented compositions, he presented not just two but 10 compositions. She chosed No. 5, thus the moniker we have come to know. In true marketing flair, she said, “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.” But it did not bring good luck to the masses over time. The technology of chemicals that altered natural flora became too much for the human body. They became what we call here “chemical cocktails,” a mixture of toxic chemicals, in some cases known as “fragrance,” found in one too many consumer products that promote many health risks. Toxic overload is key to this discussion.
So when Joe or Mary are drenched in a scent that you are attracted to or have an aversion to, what do you do? Do you let Joe and/or Mary know their perfume or cologne have some of the following properties? Do you direct them to the bathroom or water closet to wipe off the excess?
• 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxics and sensitizers – capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace, Report by the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986. (Report 99-827)
• Central Nervous System disorders (brain and spine) include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
• Chloroform was found in tests of fabric softeners: EPA’s 1991 study.
• An FDA analysis (1968-1972) of 138 compounds used in cosmetics that most frequently involved adverse reactions, identified five chemicals (alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, limonene and linalool) that are among the 20 most commonly used in the 31 fragrance products tested by the EPA in 1991!
• Thirty-three million Americans suffer from sinusitis (inflammation or infection of sinus passages).
• Ten million Americans have asthma. Asthma and asthma deaths have increased over 30% in the past 10 years.
• Headaches cost $50 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses and 157 million lost work days in 1991. “Focus on Fragrance and Health,” by Louise Kosta, The Human Ecologist, Fall 1992.
Think about it, please. Even if the scent may or may not be offensive, realize that not all people share your enthusiasm to smell nice with your preferred scent. Prefer to smell simply clean. If you want to attract a mate, it would be nice to find out first if he or she likes synthetic fragrance around them.
Less is More
The cardinal rule of perfume at work is that a little goes a long way. If you choose to wear perfume – and your office allows it – use it sparingly. Save heavy, musky and sexy scents for after work; light floral and citrus scents are best for the office. A light spritz on your wrists or behind your ears is sufficient. You may also spray a mist in front of you and walk through it to disperse the scent. Ideally, others should only be able to smell your perfume if they come within a couple of feet. If coworkers can smell you before you enter a room or after you leave, step away from the perfume bottle.
You applied perfume before work, but now you can’t smell it. Or perhaps you hit that Korean joint for lunch, and now all you smell is kimchi. Resist the urge to reapply your perfume. Over time, our noses become used to smells. Even if you can’t smell your fragrance anymore, others still can. Spraying on more can make your once-subtle scent overpowering.
Telling someone she’s wearing too much perfume can be excruciatingly awkward. If your great aunt Sally wears too much Chanel No. 5, you may let her slide. But at work, you can – and should – speak up, especially if the scent is preventing you from getting your work done.
Avoid bluntly telling your coworker she stinks. Instead, gently say you like her perfume, but you are really sensitive to scents and would appreciate it if she could wear less. Most people will comply because they don’t realize they are using too much. If your coworker refuses to stop bathing in her perfume, you may need to get your boss or human resources involved.
Fragrance allergies are a serious concern in the workplace, and many employers have opted for a fragrance-free environment to keep employees healthy. Before you spritz on that delicious-smelling scent your husband bought you for your birthday, check your company’s policies. If perfume is banned, you’ll have to save the scent for the weekend.