Why does it happen that the scents you detest linger the longest? My capacity to tolerate unpleasant odors has increased markedly during my perfumery training–remind me to tell you a story involving a place called “the stinky room”, but even so, I occasionally encounter fragrances that make me wrinkle my nose. Sometimes it can just be an innocuous perfume tried on the wrong day. I know as soon as the liquid dries on my skin that I’ve made the wrong choice. My throat tightens and an oppressive, sickly feeling rises up slowly from the pit of my stomach. At that point, there is nothing to do but remove the offending scent.
Rubbing wrists raw with soap and water won’t make much difference because fragrances are formulated with ingredients soluble in alcohol, rather than H2O. Following this logic, you can rub your skin with pure alcohol, but this is a harsh solution that would turn sensitive skin into a patchwork of angry red spots. Instead, here are my three favorite methods to get rid of unpleasant perfumes in a gentle and effective way. Some of them even double up as beauty treatments.
I’m a fan of Bioderma, but any makeup remover designed for waterproof cosmetics will do the trick. Saturate several cotton pads with makeup remover and apply them over the perfumed area. Leave for at least 3 minutes. If any traces of scent remain, take a fresh piece of cotton soaked with makeup remover and repeat the procedure. Rinse with water and voilà, the scent is gone.
This is a beauty treatment and perfume removal rolled into one, and I use it mostly after I come home from work saturated with a melange known as “the perfume lab smell”, or when I have tested so many fragrances that I seem to have something on every part of my body. Apply any mildly scented oil such as almond, jojoba or grape seed over your skin and give yourself a massage. If you want skin as soft as precious Indian silk, then rub it with a dry sponge or body brush. Rinse off with plenty of shower gel in the shower, apply your favorite lotion or oil. This is almost worth an encounter with an unpleasant perfume.
I learned this trick from the ever resourceful Robin of NST Perfume. Instead of washing your skin with soap, you can use a laundry detergent, and it works well. Please read Robin’s detailed explanation over at NST. As she mentions, the only problem you might encounter is that most detergents are highly scented; unless you use a non-scented product for your fabrics, you will replace one scent with another. Robin’s tips work on the most tenacious, impossible to scrub off perfumes.
Clothes, Hair and Sampling Notes
It’s a good idea to apply new perfumes to an area of bare skin where it won’t get onto your wrist watch, jewelry, or clothes. For this reason, I often test on my forearms, or in the winter when I’m not likely to walk around with bare arms, the back of my hand. If a perfume passes the first test, then I apply it more generously by spraying on the back of my neck or hair.
Scents are notorious for lingering in fabrics and hair, so if your clothes are drenched in something you don’t like, the odors can haunt you for days. Dry cleaning is one option, but another very good one is just to air out your pieces or pack them in a box with a tray of baking soda. The perfume ingredients are volatile, and they will get absorbed little by little, sparing you the expense of a dry cleaning bill. This tip works well for other unpleasant scents, be it smoke or cooking smells.
Finally, if perfume gets into your hair, you might discover that some fragrances, especially rich, musky ones, will stick around despite shampooing. A French grandmother’s tip is a vinegar rinse. Mix 1-2 Tablespoons of cider or wine vinegar into a cup of water and rinse out your shampooed and conditioned hair with this solution. You don’t have to rinse with plain water afterward. Once dried, your hair will not bear any traces of vinegary tartness and you will also enjoy the benefit of shiny locks. (If you’re mostly after the shine, then you might as well go for the deluxe version and try my rose raspberry vinegar rinse).
Perfume is made to be tried on skin, and even if you’re not sure what you might find in the bottle, I still urge you to be courageous. As you can see, a spritz of perfume is a low commitment, and you might even have some fun in the process of removing it.
What are your tricks and tips for removing the scrubbers (as perfumistas like to call offending perfumes)? What perfumes made you rush to rinse them off as soon as possible?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin