One of the worst social faux-pas (faux-pases?) you can make is wearing too much scent. There’s nothing worse than a woman who reeks of an antique store, or a guy who was too aggressive with the Axe body spray. You don’t want to smell like a walking issue of Cosmo. Both because it’s tacky and because it’s apparently bad for your health.
New science, published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, suggests that dousing yourself in too much perfume or cologne can actually hurt you. The study surveyed 1,098 Australians about their use of scented products.
One-third of the survey participants reported having at least one health issue arising from their use of the scented products, including respiratory problems, migraines, sneezing, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea and brain fog. 8% of the people who experienced health symptoms had a severe enough reaction to miss work because of it.
It’s not just scents you wear, either. Scented products like air fresheners and deodorant can be just as bad or worse. So can cleaning solutions. A lot of common scented products that we use every day have been exposed as potentially carcinogenic anyway, and can also contribute to air pollution.
The problem may be even worse here in the United States. Anne Steinemann, Ph.D, the study’s lead author, says that about 35% of Americans experience ill health effects from exposure to scented products. Even higher than in Australia.
“This is an epidemic,” says Steinemann. “The effects can be immediate, severe, and potentially disabling.”
If you wear a perfume or a cologne that you’re suspicious of, stop using it. If you’re using a bathroom cleaner or deodorant or any other scented product that gives you weird side-effects, switch to an unscented version or stop using it altogether.
It’s actually good etiquette not to wear powerfully scented products anyway. Other people can develop side-effects from being exposed to the odor of the chemicals you’re wearing. Some workplaces and college campuses are actually instituting a “no fragrance” rule to try to make common spaces friendlier to people who are sensitive to scented products.
If you have odor issues, common sense holds sway: bathe often, wash your clothes frequently and try not to sweat. If the problem can’t be avoided, use unscented versions of the scented products that were effective for you. Smelling mildly bad is still better than having chronic migraines, or giving them to people you interact with on a daily basis.