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18 Scents for People Who Hate Perfume

Do most fragrances make you queasy or give you a headache? We searched high and low for scents that'll please even the pickiest noses
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Culturally, women are taught to love perfume. A pink, vanity-top spritz bottle is a classic feminine image. The scent that the bottle holds, however, may not be so universally appealing. While most of us love spritzing our way through the department-store counters, there is a minority of women who can't stand perfume.

"Most perfumes are so overpowering, they give me a headache," says 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

There's a reason the word "fresh" appears twice in this fragrance's name. With notes of vanilla, grass, grapefruit, warm orange and sweet cucumber, this bright spring day of a scent has all the makings of a great perfume for perfume-haters. It's crisp and refreshing, but with enough interesting notes to help it stand out from other "fresh" fragrances. For more precise control of application, opt for the rollerball, $22.

L'Occitane kills it when it comes to easy-to-love scents. Soft, floral and less concentrated than parfums, Eau Ravissante became the official Total Beauty office perfume when we discovered that everyone loved it (and no one wanted to see it go home with another editor).

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.

We know, not everyone is on board with vanilla-scented stuff -- but many of Lavanila's fragrances feature vanilla as more of a backdrop to the other notes. This vanilla-lemon combo is light and tart. (Translation: It won't trigger flashbacks to Victoria's Secret vanilla body spray). Even better -- all of Lavanila's scents are free of parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, silicones, propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, sulfates and aluminum. This is huge for people with perfume allergies. Though it's not a guarantee you won't have a reaction, it does cut down the likelihood, since reactions often have more to do with the combination of chemicals than the actual scent.

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Clean Original Eau de Toilette, Air Eau de Parfum and Cool Cotton Eau de Parfum, $69 each
These scents are perfect if you want a light fragrance that doesn't smell like perfume. Clean's Original eau de toilette was inspired by soap, and it smells like you just stepped out of the shower (even if you spray it after a day at the office). If you're into the idea of smelling clean and fresh, but want to move beyond soap, the line's Air and Cool Cotton eau de parfums leave you smelling like mountain air and fresh laundry, respectively.

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.

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