a fragrant question
June 30, 2017 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I want to smell good, but I don't smell of anything. I use shower gel, eau de toilette etc but it doesn't stick to my skin.

I know people - we all do - who smell lovely. They smell of clean laundry or of lovely perfume or whatever. I always wear clean clothes, which I wash with scented fabric conditioner, I shower every morning and use scented shower gel, but I don't smell of anything. When I apply perfume, it doesn't last beyond a couple of hours. Is there a trick to this? Is it all a matter of body chemistry? I would love to smell really nice.
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some people prefer to apply fragrances to their clothing rather than skin for this reason. But really the key to smelling nice all day is reapplication. Get one of these nifty refillable portable sprayers, fill with your fragrance, and pop it in your bag.

Also keep in mind that your nose/brain eventually stops registering fragrances after a certain period of being exposed to them. You may not think you smell your perfume, but others near you probably can. This is one of the reasons one occasionally walks past a gentleman who smells like an entire bottle of aftershave--frustrated with how quickly the scent seems to fade, said gentleman applies way too much and goes about his merry way.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:39 AM on June 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

First thing: have you asked anyone else how you smell? I only ask because if someone who uses fabric conditioner visits my house, I can smell it for hours. It's usually overpowering. We do become habituated to our own smells, and those of our home, and usually don't notice them.
posted by pipeski at 8:40 AM on June 30, 2017 [27 favorites]

Smelling like nothing _is_ lovely. There are many people who wish they could!

If you don't have a strong scent of your own, then you can choose from a huge variety of things to wear or have around you. Here's one example: fragrance necklaces. (Please be considerate with them, though, and don't wear them in crowded places, the workplace, etc.)
posted by amtho at 8:53 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ask someone else how you smell. Your nose will get used to the smells and not register them.
posted by bunderful at 9:12 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Put fragrance on your hair. It will last there.
posted by jgirl at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Given what you're doing already, I'd be shocked if you don't already smell obviously like your scented products. I think it's likely that you've gone nose blind to it (a completely normal phenomenon where your brain tunes out your perception of smells that you're constantly exposed to). You should only have a noticeable smell to people that you're very physically close to. For example, smelling nice to someone who is hugging you or is positioned very close to you. Anything more that that can be very disturbing to people around you. If you miss smelling yourself, switching products around so that you're wearing new scents can temporarily foil noise blindness. Just don't start wearing more, especially when it comes to eau de toilette or cologne.
posted by quince at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Go fragrance free for all your products except one, that way you actually have dominant smell instead of a mix of smells. And yes to spraying it in the hair.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:27 PM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going to suggest that what you try is an oil based fragrance rather than a perfume with an alcohol or volatile hydrocarbon carrier. You can find essential oils that are tested and approved as safe to apply directly to your skin for use as perfume, or if you live in a large enough city, actually find blended perfumes that use oil or wax as the base that encloses the scent. Oil based perfumes should last much longer after you apply them than something with an alcohol base, because the alcohol evaporates quickly - it's meant to do so; the manufacturers of cheap perfumes would love you to keep re-spraying it lavishly. A good quality perfume would never be bonded to a cheap carrier like that. If you can smell someone when you are standing three feet away you know they are wearing something made out of oil refinery waste products. A good quality perfume is suppose to work with your own scent and be strongest next to your skin where it lingers.

Most fragrances that people wear nowadays is diffused by a chemical carrier. If you buy your perfume at drugstore the chemical carrier mixed with the perfume is usually an inexpensive carcinogenic volatile hydrocarbon which has been bonded with the nice smelling stuff. As the chemical evaporates and dissipates into the environment it carries the smell with it. Otherwise no one would be able to tell that you smell nice without shoving their nose in close to your skin where you had dabbed the perfume.

There is one particular chemical carrier that to me smells strong, and makes me think "Gack, insecticide!" and drowns out the scent of any perfume that it may be bonded with, but for about 95% of the population has no scent whatsoever. Fortunately for me it is now very rarely used anymore, but I still smell it from time to time, and it is used in some brands of scented laundry detergent.

Unfortunately perfumes are not labeled with ingredients, so not only do you have to guess what is in a product, by sniffing it and asking your near ones to sniff it for you, but even then because of the different way we perceive scents they are going to experience it differently from you anyway. This is one reason why traditionally so many perfumes were made from blends. If seven or eight different blends were used, different people might only perceive six or seven of the different elements but they would still get the same over all effect as each other, whereas if you just used ambergris instead of a blend, there would be a couple of people who would smell nothing except the putrid note.

If your perfume is made with grain alcohol - that is, the kind that is not poisonous - it can be dabbed on the gums. This will give you perfume breath, and make talking to you a heady experience!
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

OP is asking for advice on maintaining a scent, not whether or not to wear one.

I like to layer the same scent to give it more power; like a lotion and body spray of the same brand.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:42 AM on July 1, 2017

[One deleted. Please answer the question or just skip it.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:20 AM on July 1, 2017

if you want to enjoy a fragrance yourself, spritz it on a gauzy scarf. if you don't wear scarves but do carry a bag, tie it around the bag's handle or stuff it in an open compartment. this will let you enjoy it without losing track of what it smells like to passers by and how strongly. you can keep it right by your face all day or put it away for a while and bring it back. it does not blend with your body chemistry this way, so it has a more anonymous feel, but it also gives you a way to 'wear' perfumes that you love but that don't work on you. and smells tend to last longer or at least for a more consistent length of time on fabric. you get less depth but more purity.

(I love perfume both as a thing and as a concept and I wish more people wore it and fewer people wore scented deodorant and used dryer sheets. but in spite of my radical nose-positivity I still believe the rule about how people should be able to smell you if they are invited into your intimate space, like close enough to shake your hand or give you a kiss but from no further away, is a good one. getting up people's noses is a very personal thing to do.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:00 PM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I probably should have made clear in the question that I have no intention of being smell-able to anyone who is further away than kissing/hugging distance... It's more that I like to be able to get a whiff of my own scent every so often. Thanks for the helpful answers.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:28 AM on July 2, 2017

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