"Most perfumes are so overpowering, they give me a headache," says TotalBeauty.com editor-in-chief Beth Mayall. "If I wear perfume, it's almost like I can taste it all day. I think I just have a sensitive nose," she says.
But even if you count yourself among the sensitive, that doesn't mean all fragrances are off-limits, says Inkling Scents owner and perfume developer Tiffany Kirkham. You just have to know what to look for.
So what's the secret to a fragrance anyone can love? First, it needs to be light, nothing that sucker punches your senses the moment you spray it. Most people with fragrance allergies can smell things at lower levels than others, so you don't need a big dose of scent to get the effects, says Pamela Dalton, PhD, an olfactory researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
Secondly, consider the alcohol content. "Many negative reactions to fragrance are attributable to alcohol, the primary ingredient in department store fragrances," explains Kirkham.
You can tell a lot about the strength and alcohol content of a fragrance just from its name: Something labeled "perfume" will be more concentrated than an "eau de parfum" or "eau de toilette." "Eau de cologne" is the lightest and least potent version of perfume. (And the least expensive).
It also helps if it's a single-note fragrance -- these are less likely to cause reactions than a mix of multiple scents. Finally, certain notes -- citrus, clean laundry, cucumber -- are better crowd pleasers than others, due to their light scent and positive associations.
Curious? Keep reading for a definitive selection of scents you perfume-haters will actually love.
Image via Imaxtree
Thé Vert & Bigarade is a slightly spicier unisex fragrance. Inspired by the outdoors, it features Japanese green tea and Mediterranean bitter orange, layered to create a subtly outdoorsy scent.
Clean Original Eau de Toilette, Air Eau de Parfum and Cool Cotton Eau de Parfum, $69 each
Like Lavanila, Clean stays away from irritating ingredients and uses hypoallergenic formulas in all its fragrances. Again, it's important to note that the term "hypoallergenic" doesn't guarantee you won't have a reaction -- it just means the brand has done some research to make it less likely.