Perfume Etiquette in the Workplace

The history of perfume dates back to ancient times when it was used for both medicinal and hygienic purposes. At that time, good aromas were associated with good health – so to smell good meant you were healthy or healing.

As time went on, people would wear flowers to primarily hide body odor. Bathing was not a frequent practice back then. (Do you remember hearing about the Saturday night bath to go to church and courting on Sunday?)

Today, we hopefully practice good hygiene by bathing daily, but we still like to apply a fragrance to identify our individual personality.

If you are going to wear perfume, you need to learn how and when to appropriately apply it.

We all know someone whose physical presence has been preceded or proceeded by their fragrance. I remember walking down the halls of an Allegheny College dormitory and knew if a certain collegiate left for class before me by the presence or absence of their cologne in the hallway. This is not what anyone, especially in the business world, should be known for.

Most recently, a woman in Detroit, Michigan filed a lawsuit against her employer because she had allergies to a co-worker’s perfume. I don’t know what the courts will decide, but here are a few simple guidelines to the etiquette of wearing a fragrance in the workplace:

1. Never, never where fragrance to an interview. Scents bring back memories – some positive and some negative. What if you’re wearing the same fragrance your interviewer’s ex used to wear? Certain fragrances could also give your interviewer a headache. You can kiss that job good-bye!

2. Only aftershave or eau de cologne for men. No cologne. Save the cologne for social occasions. Choose an aftershave or eau de cologne which is light and use sparingly.

3. Only eau de parfum for women. No strongly scented perfumes. Choose a very light scent and apply sparingly. A soft floral or refreshing citrus works well. Save the heavier musk perfumes for a night out on the town with a special someone. Even then, use sparingly. You want to be alluring not annoying.

4. Do not reapply fragrance during the day. Our nose becomes used to the scent, but others will still notice it.

5. Never wear fragrance to hospitals, (people are healing), funerals, (it’s inappropriate – besides, the flowers deliver enough aroma), or dinners, (where you wish to savor and enjoy the aromas and flavors of the food and wine).

6. If in doubt, don’t wear any fragrance.

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