As a woman I believe that cosmetics and accessories are meant to enhance our feminine assets, not distort them. Lately I’ve been pondering many of the fads and innovations in “beauty” that can unfortunately make women resemble desperate drag queens rather than touched-up versions of their own selves. I saw a news anchor the other day who is naturally attractive, but the alterations she’d made to her appearance in order to be more… trendy (?) were so unnatural I found her difficult to watch.I felt that her electrified eyelashes might start a second and third conversation.
False eyelashes that look garishly false, heavy-handed hair extensions, spray-on tans, and airbrushed makeup can make us gals look terribly artificial. Of course there are special occasions at which we want to glam things up and we want to feel confident about ourselves. But trying to be SO exaggeratedly glamorous no matter what we’re doing seems like we’re trying too hard and I’m not sure that men outside of urban New Jersey appreciate it. This is Seattle. In this latitude we generally wouldn’t have tans without salons and we do live in the outdoors part of the time, where nature gets in our hair.
Perhaps the current “beauty” trend that is the most difficult to understand is the rampant overuse of fragrance. Over the past decade I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of men and women who don’t just wear perfume and cologne, but marinate in it, as if they believe EVERYONE wants to smell them. Not only is this disgusting and can cause some people to be sick, but it shows either an obliviousness or a blatant disregard for how it affects others.
The culture I live and work in seems has long seemed to be on a downhill slide into narcissism. The Seattle area is vocal about saving the world and volunteering your time, but is terrible about common courtesy, manners, and driving. Emerald City, I’m just going to say it– a lot of the time we lack proper boundaries and eat, shop, watch movies, walk, bike, and drive as if we’re more important than everyone else. If you have trouble believing me, just get on I-5 and see how many people going under 60 miles per hour won’t move out of the passing lane.Then listen to how many complain about the traffic without acknowledging that they might be part of the problem.
You’ve heard me call out rudeness in grocery stores, like when people barge in front of you to grab something without saying excuse me. It happens all the time, and even when I speak to people, like, “am I in your way?” many ignore me and anyone with me. Marinating in perfume and cologne, in many cases, seems to be part of this same self-centered/oblivious mentality. People overdo it to get attention, wear an expensive fragrance as a status symbol, and use it as some sort of signature that will linger long after they’ve left the room. Perhaps some identify with the brand name or celebrity who’s peddling it.
Let me be blunt– as someone with celiac disease who is sensitive to alcohol-based fragrances, probably because many contain gluten– this is gut-wrenching. I don’t want to smell you from afar and I shouldn’t have to. I don’t want to be enveloped in a cloud of something that’s so cloyingly sweet it makes me nauseous or gives me a headache, forcing me to air out whatever space you were just walking through. The chemically sensitive, asthmatics, migraine sufferers, and others will attest to this too– it doesn’t make us think you’re sexy, it makes us sick.
Salesmen seem to employ this tactic more than others. I’ve often wondered why outside salespeople think that drenching themselves in cologne before trying to talk you into a new product is an effective tactic. Cologne or aftershave in moderation might go unnoticed. Piling on some horrible scent you probably don’t even notice anymore makes me want you to leave as soon as possible, not stick around to do a product demo. It can even make people dread your arrival.
Same for you ladies– exuding a bottle of something you bought for the same amount that could feed a small village for a month can be repulsive. We all want to smell clean and nice but oozing a liquid endorsed by one of a bevy of millionaire pop divas out of every pore can be hell for the people around you. It can also leave them, their belongings, and their environment smelling like you for days. Please understand that to some of us, what you might perceive as flirty and grown-up can smell like vomit. It can make our eyes water, our noses run, and for some, become a significant medical issue.
Recent scientific research has suggested a theory that women who wear too much perfume are depressed. Other articles discussing the phenomenon of marinating note that people who wear a significant amount of perfume or cologne regularly become desensitized to the smell, which seems logical. Smokers may douse themselves to conceal the smell of cigarettes which results in them smelling like too much perfume/cologne and cigarettes.
What I’m asking is that people who liberally apply fragrances take a step back and reevaluate just how much they’re wearing. Too much is not sexy no matter which edgy magazine you’re reading or which Hollywood starlet touts the benefits of uberspritzing to line their Bahamian bank account. If you see others cover their nose and mouth, step away from you, or people mention that they’re sensitive to what you’re wearing, it’s probably time to cut back. Your fragrance, like all of the other tools we use to either feel better about ourselves or impress others, should enhance, not disgust.
Ultimately it seems that we are trying too hard to sell ourselves. We’ve fallen into a trap of believing that all men want us to have perfect-looking deeply tanned skin, unmanageably long hair that requires frequent salon trips, and smell like a page in Cosmopolitan times fifty. We seem to think that men will never understand razor bumps, acne, stray hairs, thinning hair, or other normal events in the lives of normal women. We’re not the only sex who deals with those and any real man already knows that.
While I’m all for using available tools to enhance what God gave us, and maintaining some modicum of our youth, I also think it’s okay to go natural sometimes. It’s not necessary to slather/spray/spread/smear ourselves with too many layers of artificiality to convince others that we’re desirable. True beauty comes from the inside, and the right person is going to be attracted to that above all.Plus, traits we might feel we have to hide can often be the qualities that others find attractive, like laugh lines, grey hair, and curves.
Don’t get me wrong– I dig wearable fashion despite my frequent utilitarian garb and sometimes want to make a statement. Most women do. Fashion and cosmetics are a means of expressing ourselves to look good for our guys and out of self-respect. I just really wish some people would realize that they’re taking their aromatic attempts too far, causing others to be annoyed, miserable, and even ill. It can drown the workplace, overwhelm social areas, and ruin dinner parties. Ever have someone pass gas and hold you under the covers? Yep. It’s like that.
The bottom line is that too much perfume or cologne takes you from the enhanced/accessorized side of the personal care spectrum to the malodorous/overdone side. So if you’re a marinator, please do not assume that everyone enjoys your overindulgence. Dialing it back– in some cases, drastically– shows compassion for others and makes you more approachable. It also reduces the amount of chemicals that you’re ingesting and putting into the environment.
Here’s an eye opener. You can find this same information cited in a multitude of sites on the web:
The National Academy of Sciences reports that 95% of the chemicals used in fragrances today are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.
We have been brainwashed by the industry to feel we must cover up our natural scents with toxic chemicals. Many of the same chemicals in perfumes are the same chemicals that are in cigarette smoke.
Note that before the 20th century, most perfumes were made from natural ingredients, not synthetic ones. This helps to explain why natural scents like flowers and aromatherapy scents don’t faze some people who can’t handle perfume– frankly, I love fresh, vibrant smells. For this reason it’s nice that natural perfumes are making a comeback.
Helen Keller said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” She’s right, and some delicious, nature-based aromas can evoke potent memories and make us feel more alive. While that is not true for some allergy and asthma sufferers, I’m sure one thing all of us who find overuse of perfume and cologne offensive can agree on is that synthetic smells are the most distressing.
For more information, see Scent of Danger: Are There Toxic Ingredients in Perfumes and Colognes? and Does Perfume Have Hidden Health Risks?.
Like all of the other daring things we do to our bodies, these temporary vehicles we get to ride around in for a century or less, moderation is usually the best policy– especially when it comes to the petrochemicals we routinely douse ourselves with. Be an accesorizer… not a marinator.
The question that women casually shopping for perfume ask more than any other is this: “What scent drives men wild?” After years of intense research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon… -Tania Sanchez
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