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Despite my chemical sensitivities, I love perfume and perfumed products.

I should clarify. SOME perfume. I can't walk into Bed Bath and Beyond or a Yankee Candle Store for love or money (at least, not without getting a massive migraine if I forget to breathe exclusively through my mouth), and I tend to steer clear of the candle aisle at my local craft and home stores.

(It's the candles, it must be; I don't know what they put in them, but it's nasty.)


But I can't get enough of the "White Lilac" scent of my laundry soap, and I have multiple bottles of perfume that I occasionally even wear. I love any and all apple/spice room sprays, and have been known to use them liberally the day after making something like split pea soup.

(Day-old split pea soup cooking smell is redolent of a room full of small dogs with digestive issues, at least to me. Cooking fish still smells worse, though. One is the sulfur, the other is... fish. No matter how yummy the fish - and crackly-skinned broiled fish is teh YUM - it smells like ass in short order.)

I have, through mad experimentation, found a number of perfumes I can actually wear without wanting to die, and most of them are by Caswell-Massey. Their pure flower essences (especially honeysuckle) are gorgeous, and as long as I am extremely sparing with the spray (spray barest burst of perfume into air; allow to settle a little, then spin through fast), I can get away with them. I can't wear anything at all with musk - it turns rancid on my skin (even the real stuff), and synthetic musk = instant vomiting migraine.

Cheap perfumes rely far too much on musk to get their point across. And people who wear perfume regularly put way too much on, producing an effect reminiscent of body marinade a la "Chantilly". I can frequently trail people by the heavy scent they leave on the air behind them. If I can smell where you were standing five minutes ago, you're wearing too much.

Does anyone remember "Chantilly"? It was very big in the '60s, and had a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s. It's one nasty, nasty perfume that produces, along with the migraine, instant memories of the mall, big hair, and too much blue eyeshadow.

(I did eventually throw out the blue eyshadow, but not before buying blue eyeliner and blue mascara. What can I say? It was the '80s, and I had a poodle perm.)

(We will draw a discreet curtain over my wardrobe of neon sweats and Stevie Nicks-type swirly Indian skirts.  Some of the vintage stuff was nice, but that's no excuse.)

I was terribly pleased when Bob found a company that makes Climat, my mother's favourite perfume. It was discontinued some time in the 1970s, and I remember she had one tiny bottle left that she nursed for years - it was the one thing I was never allowed to touch on her dressing table. My mother then tried several perfumes, and settled on Joy, which on her, smells like hyacinths. On me, it smells like dead and rotting hyacinths, thanks to the presence of musk.

For a while, I wore Amarige, which on me, smells exactly like a fuzzy navel, heavy on the peach. I still have a bottle, and I will sometimes spritz a teeny bit on, especially when I want to feel grown-up (it's one of the more expensive perfumes I have). Normally, I'll just dust with a perfumed talcum powder, and I am a sucker for anything lavender.

The perfume I wore all through my teenage years was Blue Grass - advertised as "Fresh as the Kentucky Hills", though it smells nothing like grass.

(A good thing, since the Demeter fragrance company puts out a perfume called "Grass", and it smells revolting. Nothing at all like fresh-mown grass - more like compost. Their "Gin and Tonic" isn't bad, though.)

I recently broke down and got a bottle of "Blue Grass" from the Vermont Country Store, since I was waxing nostalgic, and I wondered if it really smelled as good as I remember. Fortunately, it does - but it's pretty specific for my mood, and not an all-purpose scent, like some of my florals. I am wearing it today, on complete impulse, but like Amarige, it makes me feel grown-up (Lord knows, pretty much nothing else does).

I've never been particularly susceptible to perfume advertising - my requirements for how a perfume smells override any gorgeous advertising featuring Elizabeth Hurley in a wedding dress - but I have found some specific bottle designs rather tempting. Nina Ricci's "Nina" perfume (yes, the one that the Twilight marketers ripped off for their cheap and nasty stank) bottle is delightful, designed by Lalique, and I was seriously tempted, but it's kinda pricey for the bottle (I do not care in the least for the scent - though I do quite like L'air du Temps). I admit, I am a sucker for a good bottle design. Caswell-Massey doesn't do much with theirs, but they're pretty low-priced (under $30), so I just keep them in the box, which usually has beautiful graphics. Amarige has a lovely simple design, but "Blue Grass" is an absolute failure on the design front - cheap-looking, with a very late 1960s sensibility.

Clearly, I'm not that much of a sucker for the bottle. Maybe I just appreciate a good design. I do have a couple of perfumes for my 1940s stuff - Evening in Paris, and Tailspin - but I have both of them for the bottle, not for the fragrance.

(You can get all kinds of old perfumes at the Vermont Country Store, including ones that really smell pretty terrible.  Clearly someone, somewhere, likes them.  They do appear to draw the line at "Chantilly", since I couldn't find it on a search, but I bet they'd offer it if someone asked.)

I do think people perfume things too much - it's awful being assaulted by heavy scents wherever I go - but I don't want to do away with perfume completely.  I like some things to have a gentle scent (though I draw the line at the new "scent-renewing" laundry soaps - ugh!), I just don't want to be overwhelmed.  I should only be able to smell someone when I lean in close.  Once upon a time, women (and men) wore one scent, and it became "their" smell; you associated it with them, and it made you think of them when you smelled it elsewhere.  Unfortunately, we've become so over-olfacted with scents from everything that it's impossible to distingush one scent from another.

I think it's this that leads to over-perfuming - to smell yourself over everything else, you have to drench yourself in pong.  Unbearable.

Of course, there's nothing that smells so good as a light soap and clean skin.  Bottle that one up and sell it - one for the men, one for the women. 

Eau de Bob - yummy.


( 69 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Apr. 9th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
There's a perfume out now, and god help me I think it's one of the "popular girls" who's scent it is, that smells like cotton candy! I LOVE the stuff, though I haven't been able to afford any yet. It's not sickly sweet, just lightly-exactly-like cotton candy.

Apr. 9th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
When I was a young teen, somehow I got my hands on a bottle of Diorissimo. It smelled exactly like lilacs in the spring. I don't know how it smelled on me, but I loved it.

I used to wear perfume. Not a lot, but I'd wear some scent everyday. Then I just kinda stopped. I couldn't smell it anymore and I didn't want to put on more so I could. So I started wearing it only when I went out or for a special ocassion. And now I don't wear any.

I find that I prefer real scents -- like the hyacinths Bob cut from our garden last weekend -- to candles or fabric softeners or air fresheners or perfume.
Apr. 9th, 2009 11:56 am (UTC)
My sweetheart would agree with you, that there's nothing better than the smell of fresh me out of the shower. :-)

I adore the way my sweetheart smells after a day of work, when I can just barely smell soap under the scent of warm man.


Great. Now...well, never mind, but it's gonna be a loooong day.
Apr. 9th, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
We seem to have pretty similar tastes in scents! Another company you may like if you're into the Caswell-Massey is L'Occitane en Provence. I love their Jasmin and Cherry Blossom is quite nice as well.

I never tried Demeter's Grass but I adore their Tomato Leaf on my husband.

My favorite 80s scent was Tatiana by Diane Von Furstenberg. And my 80s perfume nemesis? (Que ominous music) Giorgio!! I worked part time at an investment bank while in college and it seemed every secretary there wore Giorgio. Heaven forbid if you got trapped in the long elevator ride with one of them. Blegh!

Edited at 2009-04-09 12:00 pm (UTC)
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, sympathy in massive bunches!
I know they say perfume changes with everyone's unique body chemistry, but usually it still smells like what it is. I've tried some perfumes that smelled great if anyone else wore them but on me smell like compost; like vegetable peelings in the kitchen sink on a very hot day, just beginning to turn into compost; and one very memorable occasion when I tried "Norell" because my very chic boss wore it, and ended up smelling worse than halfway-to-compost, which must have been even more troublesome to my fellow commuters (homebound!) than it was to me---and I was in an agony of olfactory distress, to say nothing of being embarrassed.)

Like you, I'll have adverse reactions to certain 'notes' (bass, I think) in perfumes such as Tresor, or Dune on others: those will reduce me to debilitating nausea or vomiting in mere minutes.

I can wear musk, which on my skin smells very light and delicate, rather floral. I remember Chantilly and used to wear it: didn't smell like Chantilly but it did smell very nice.
Otherwise my skin just eats perfume: pour the stuff on, and in less than sixty seconds you wouldn't know there was any in the room.

Sort of a post-script: I understand some perfumes are intended to be worn outdoors, where they have more "room" to waft and disperse, so they're made much stronger, the better to be enjoyed...outdoors. And it seems many people don't know this and wear them indoors.
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
I have serious, serious problems with many floral scents, particularly gardenias. This means I have problems with many scented candles, because so many seem to be "gardenia."

It can get very bad at SCA events if people haven't bothered to source scentless candles.
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
Many of the event spaces here in Ontario seem to have gone to a no-flame policy, so many people are switching to the fake pillar candles.
(no subject) - thornbury - Apr. 9th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
What bothers me the most is that people seem to think that if they can't smell their perfume midway through the day (and this is usually after drenching themselves with it in the morning), they'll "refresh" it, thereby making the rest of us run for fresh air because they now reek from 5 feet away.

As someone who's still dealing with health issues brought on from constant chemical exposure (both perfume and construction-related ones- long story) several years ago, I'd be quite happy if perfume was banned. Way too many people seem to equate lots of smell with being better, when in fact, everyone is holding their noses behind them because they can't stand the smell. Sigh.
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
Amber resins, and perfumes with an amber base, such as "Obsession" for women, gives me a migraine... And the problem is that I can have a reaction even by riding in an elevator after someone wearing it has been there and gone.
That crap _lingers_. And walking into a store selling incense... URK.
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:50 pm (UTC)
"Once upon a time, women (and men) wore one scent, and it became "their" smell; you associated it with them, and it made you think of them when you smelled it elsewhere."

Oh Yes. My ex-boyfriend tried out his "Escape" by Calvin Klein to see if I would like it. I loved the way it smelled on him. He gave it to me (we were long-distance for a while) so I could think of him when I smelled it.

I think the best part was that I could wear it too, since the undertones came out more feminine with my skin.

However, there have been times at school when I have smelled this cologne, in MASSIVE quantities on the unwashed neanderthal men on campus. Ughhhh. Not pleasant.
Apr. 9th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
Signature Scents
I dated a fellow in college whose roommate wore Drakkar Noir. Hmm, no, let me rephrase. He used enough Drakkar Noir to club women into insensibility. Thank goodness he spent a lot of time at the library studying.

I was really impressed that even the *plastic* telephone handset in their apartment smelled like Drakkar.
Apr. 9th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
My Grandmother wore "Joy" it was her scent.
My Mother wore "Blue Grass" it was her favorite.
I'm not so much into the florals... for me a scent has to be spicy and my favorite, though lost now was one called "White Musk" it was a lovely light barely there musk with grass and woody notes. I used to love "Poison" until I discovered a boy friend wearing it... yeah, enough said.
But for me to wear perfume is rarer than a blue moon, my father has such terrible allergies to most scents that I grew up in a primarily scent free home. And let me tell you, high school was hell. Sitting in a class room full of girls who reeked of perfume was torture. I still hate it when people marinate themselves in scent. A scent should be an intimate expression not a mugging.
Apr. 9th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
A scent should be an intimate expression not a mugging.

I'm a scent-free girl myself due to allergies, and really hate it when I can track someone down the hall, or worse yet have to breathe shallowly when talking to someone drenched in perfume. blech!
(no subject) - msmcknittington - Apr. 9th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 9th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
I have fallen in love with the Black Pheonix ALchemy scents. My biggest problem that I have discovered is that anything with any amount of Sandalwood in it eventually morphs into just Sandalwood. Kinda depressing when I wanted roses and patcholi scent as well.. :)
Apr. 9th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, I *love* BPAL. Dangerous site with all those inexpensive "try it" versions they have!
(no subject) - ladypyrate - Apr. 9th, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grian_ruadh - Apr. 9th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladypyrate - Apr. 9th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blaze2242 - Apr. 9th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - luveday - Apr. 9th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladypyrate - Apr. 10th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kittyblue - Apr. 10th, 2009 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
might morphin' power fragrances - elizaravenhair - Apr. 15th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 9th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC)
I've had people look at me daft when I say please don't come near me with perfume on or give perfume to me as gifts. Like you, its instant migraine whenever I smell perfumes or go into the "smelly department" of a store (take a deep breath and run!).

I can wear a pure Rose perfume - and only that. And there is ONLY one place I can get it: Persian Rose

I used to be able to wear lavender but now, I can only stand the flower itself - I can't cope with any lavender perfume. Lavender is supposed to be able to HELP headaches and migraines - not me it doesn't!

One scent I absolutely adore and I WISH I could find it bottled is the scent of the herb Basil!

Its the scent of summer for me!
Apr. 9th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
I admit my ignorance
Theoretically, couldn't one basically make a basil infusion using rubbing alcohol? Or press the bejeebers out of a quantity of basil to get the oils, and mix that in with a (neutral) cream...?
(no subject) - firehauke - Apr. 9th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Apr. 10th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firehauke - Apr. 10th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 9th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
The perfume I wore all through my teenage years was Blue Grass

Ditto. I *loved* Blue Grass. I think I still have a nearly empty bottle on my vanity, just for nostalgia's sake.
Apr. 9th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)
I hear you with complete eye-watering sympathy. I too have lingering olfactory PTSD from the 80's. One of my best friends in junior high used to absolutely *bathe* in Emeraude which caused me to sneeze uncontrollably. It was funny at the time, but it still sucked. In high school, the girl I sat behind in every class before lunch wore White Shoulders, only on her it took on exactly that smell of someone who's worn their bra way too many times without washing it. Gag. I thought for the longest time that she just had poor hygiene, but one day I walked past her at her locker reapplying the stuff and realized it was the perfume she was drenching herself in! I wanted to slam her head in the locker door in fair trade for the months of nausea and headaches she brought me every damned day.

I am fortunate that I am not prone to migraines, but I do seem to have a more sensitive nose than average. I can't stand most commercial perfumes because I can *smell* the chemicals and crap in their formulation underneath the scent. I can deal with essential oils and very expensive, high-quality perfumes. My "me" scent is amber and vanilla oils in a sweet almond oil base. Some alchemy happens between my skin and those oils that I've never smelled anywhere else or on anyone else. Sometimes, when it matures just perfectly on my skin, I am completely silly and take great delight in getting pure nose hits off my own wrists. ;)

And I completely agree about the yumminess of clean skin and light soap, only this is one area that always reminds me that my brain really is wired differently than a straight woman's brain. To me, sweaty men smell like a goat pen in the dog days of August at 95% humidity. Talk about eye watering! Clean men are certainly better, but sniffing them doesn't do a thing for me. Women on the other hand? Sweaty or clean, they smell like absolute heaven. It's all in the wiring. The single female exception I've found is a very dear friend of mine who has more testosterone going on (quite literally!) than any three males put together. Her sweat hits my nose like a three alarm fire at a human hair wig factory. Sweet Fancy Moses! I won't go near her fighting surcoat after a day of bashing away without a nose clip and tongs! Learned my lesson! ;)

But, alas, I digress...
Apr. 9th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
The whole time I was growing up, whenever I’d try a perfume of some sort, my mother would tell me it smelled like Raid. Every perfume affected her like that. Now, she’s found something that she actually likes, but she drenches herself in it. When she’s visiting, I can smell it all over the house from the moment she spritzes it. Luckily, I’ve begged allergies and convinced her to leave it at home.

I’m dying to try BPAL one of these days, since everybody seems to love it. I usually forget to wear the perfumes that I have. Jeff doesn’t care for them, so I don’t bother. For me, it was pregnancy that did me in to anything smelly. I used to like shaving cream scents and such, but once I was pregnant, it induced a stayawayfromme! reaction.

Here at work, the scents are usually worn by people (men) who don't regularly shower. I might have enjoyed the perfumes, but not mingling with unwashed DBA.
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