A quick guide to perfume etiquette in the workplace

Do you wear scent to work? If so, read this quick guide to perfume etiquette in the workplace.

Now before you wonder whether you’ve stumbled back into the Victorian days without realising (who needs an etiquette guide to wearing perfume?!!), we should perhaps give some context to this advice.

As innocuous as spraying on a bit of scent may seem, wearing perfume at work is actually banned in some workplaces, including the US Census Bureau, and government offices in the city of Detroit. And several workplaces in the UK are apparently considering forbidding the wearing of perfume.

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Why? It’s not just because some sensitive-nosed colleagues may object to your sweet smell. There are people who genuinely suffer from serious reactions when exposed to aerosols and perfume. And others who find over-use antisocial and distracting.

A quick guide to perfume etiquette in the workplace

So, whether you want to be considerate to your colleagues, or are keen to avoid the wearing of perfume coming onto the radar of your HR department, here’s a quick guide to considerate perfume etiquette in the workplace.

1) Remember that less is more

We’re used to the concept of ‘less is more’, and never was this more appropriate than with the wearing of perfume. Whether you’re partial to a warm, floral scent (like Amouage Ubar, which you can buy now), or prefer a fresher, zestier aroma, try to avoid showering in it. A light spritz of perfume on your neck and wrists is more than enough; there’s no need to douse your clothes, jacket and handbag too.

The point of perfume is to leave a delicate scent as you pass someone by, not to overpower colleagues across the other side of the office.

2) Don’t re-apply it

Just because you can’t smell your perfume by lunch time doesn’t mean others still can’t. Over time we’re unable to smell our own scent – however much we have applied.

So while you may think your perfume has worn off, resist the temptation to re-apply it. By applying more, you’ll just make the smell more pungent and overpowering, ruining the subtle scent you had. (And making you very unpopular with the colleagues unfortunate enough to sit near you.)

3) Be aware if you’re wearing too much

This is a tricky one. We’ve already established that you can’t usually smell yourself – so how do you know if you’re wearing too much? Well if you can smell yourself several hours after applying your scent, it’s a good sign you’re wearing too much.

It’s unlikely, if your colleagues are polite, that they’ll voluntarily tell you they can’t breathe in your presence. But if you notice people moving away from you or opening windows when you walk in the room, it’s good sign you’re possibly a bit heavy handed with your scent. (Either that or you need to shower more frequently.)

If you suspect you may need to tone down your perfume use, ask a colleague you trust, and reassure them you won’t be offended by the truth. And if they are honest with you, thank them.

Wear perfume to work with confidence

We hope this quick guide to perfume etiquette in the workplace has been helpful. By following the advice in it, you can enjoy wearing your favourite scent to work with confidence – and not risk offending colleagues or triggering a potential ban!

Photos by Thien Dang and Cleo Vermij