When Perfume Attacks: What to Do When You've Put on Too Much

Photo: Getty ImagesWearing too much perfume can have dramatic consequences: It can get you fired, or suggest to the world that you are depressed. But, even if that stuff doesn't happen, it can just be flat out annoying, both to you and those around you. It's also maybe the most difficult thing in the world to remedy after the fact.

This happened to me last week, when I accidentally rolled on the wrong perfume. Instead of my light musk, I was swarmed by a fiercely intense tuberose scent that had a seemingly mile-wide wingspan.

And it was all over me — dabbed on my neck and wrists, it instantly migrated onto my sweater and clung to my hair. Repeatedly scrubbing away at my skin with cleansing towelettes, washing my hands, changing my sweater, and pulling my hair back into a bun reigned it in a little, but not nearly enough considering the amount of effort I put in. Trapped in my own invisible prison (while the innocent bystanders  around me fell into coughing fits and sneezing sessions), I turned to a group of experts and also searched the Internet like crazy for answers. The results? A few go-to remedies to help you remedy your overscenting slip-up.

From the experts ...
Mark Crames, CEO of Demeter Fragrance Library
Soap and water is your best friend: "Fragrance is carried in oil, and the molecules in a fragrance bind to the oil molecules in your skin. Just like soap cuts through dirt and grease, it will loosen the bonds of the fragrance to the skin. In a real pinch you can use rubbing alcohol; but it can irritate the skin, so use sparingly."

Kathryn Beaton, Vice President of Product Development at TOCCA
Dilute the fragrance you've applied with unscented lotion. "Pump some into your hands, rub them together and apply. Then wipe off excess and repeat if you want to further lighten the scent. If a fragrance is cloying or rich, it will take a few rounds to dull the intensity."

Lisa Hoffman, Founder and President of Lisa Hoffman Beauty
Oil up prior to washing off: "Topically apply jojoba, almond, or olive oil on your skin and let it soak for a few minutes before washing off with soap and water.”

From the Internet ...
Baking soda + water: There's a reason why people keep that friendly little yellow box in their fridge. It sucks up all all of the odors in there and serves as a natural deodorizer. Applied topically to the skin with a little water, it can help tone down a scent though it can't (at least in my experience) compelely remove it. Let it sit on the skin for a minute or two before washing off.

Unscented deodorant + unscented laundry detergent: This sounds just cumbersome, but it works really well. Roll on unscented deodorant wherever you applied perfume, let sit for a few minutes, and then wash off with a bit of unscented laundry detergent diluted with water. If nothing else, you'll smell clothesline fresh!

Rubbing alcohol is often a go-to remedy, but in a pinch you can remove clingy perfume with vodka-doused cotton balls. Though you now might initially smell like you've had a couple of martinis … so consider the situation before you try out this remedy (Prior to a party, fine. Before a meeting with your boss, probably not.)