I love perfume, but I don’t wear it. I collect bottles of fragrances not because I douse myself in them daily, but because I love how beautiful the bottles look on a tray in my bedroom. I fantasize about the way I would smell if I could wear them. Sexy, sultry, exotic, fresh, confident … the list goes on. I also like nothing more than getting a whiff of my favorite scents on friends when I give them a hug or strangers when I pass them on the street. But alas, I just can’t wear a perfume without ending up a sneezy, headachy mess. It’s heart breaking.
I’ve always been scent sensitive, but it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles and got pregnant that I had to shun perfumes permanently. But today, that’s all going to change. I’ve decided I’m going to – once and for all – find a scent I can wear without having a negative physical reaction.
Before I set out on my fragrance expedition, I thought I’d do some research to figure out what I should be looking for in a scent. Should I steer clear of white flowers or synthetic juices? Go for an oil or solid perfume over a spray? You know, the big important questions.
That’s when I bumped into perfumer Sherri Sebastian at a recent event. We got to talking about fragrance sensitivity and perfumery. I knew she could get me one step closer to finding the right scent for me.
Sebastian, a classically trained perfumer, developed fragrances for Coty, Laura Mercier, Estee Lauder and other big brands. But most recently, she launched her own line of scents: Sebastian Signs. A brand dedicated to creating luxe scents that utilize sustainable and organic ingredients and therapeutic bases.
Here’s what she recommends looking for in a scent if you’re sensitive to fragrance, and how to test and wear them with success.
Tip 1: It’s not about synthetic vs. natural, it’s about which scents and ingredients are best suited to you and your sensitivities. “Believe it or not, many natural ingredients often contain ingredients that are potential allergens. From my own experience, it seems that people with sensitivities have reactions to specific types of scents regardless of whether natural or synthetic,” says Sebastian.
Tip 2: Try applying the scent to something other than your skin. “Lightly mist a piece of clothing — a scarf or sleeve of shirt — in a ventilated area … you [will] still have nuances of the scent as you move around,” she says.
Tip 3: Dilute the scent if it’s too overpowering. Do this “by adding a few drops [of an oil-based perfume] to your favorite unscented body lotion or cream. The scent will not only be diluted, but will cover your body in a light veil of your favorite scent,” says Sebastian. “This wouldn’t work with an eau de parfum or anything with alcohol, however, since from a chemistry point of view it would alter the consistency of the lotion by breaking down the emulsion that gives it a creamy consistency,” she warns.
Tip 4: When it comes to fragrance testing, start by “first spritzing and evaluating the scent on a tissue before applying to skin. If after 20 minutes there’s no reaction, try applying a small amount to your outer forearm and wait a few hours to be sure there are no reactions,” she says.
Tip 5: Read labels. It’s the only way you’ll be able to hone in on ingredients that might be causing a negative reaction. You may have to Google some of the ingredients though since there are global regulations on labeling that may make it tricky to determine what a certain ingredient is. Keep a list and when you find a scent that works or doesn’t work, you can keep track of what’s in them.
Next step: start sniffing, testing and reading labels. I’ll report back on the scent that will become my new signature. If you have one and are also scent sensitive, I’m all ears.