Emanating perfume all around you in public spaces, especially at work, is increasingly controversial. So many very vocal people passionately complain about being subjected to perfume in public places, and some strive to lead an entirely unscented existence.
I love perfume that uplifts my mood and energy and connects me to my animal nature, while at the same time it can operate on many different mental, emotional and psychological levels, like a poem. So there is a conflict of interest between me and my fellow human beings who are just trying to get through the day without being involuntarily subjected to substances and sensations or reminders of the physical world they have no wish to be exposed to, particularly at work.
If I am not to trigger a workplace ban I have to take into consideration the strong feelings such people have against perfume. Actually I think in most cases these people are more upset about being forced to inhale a perfume they personally do not like; it is mentally and physically invasive.
Commercially made perfumes by the big well known companies are exhaustively tested so as to be sure not to cause bad reactions. Obviously they have no wish to be found legally responsible for causing health problems. I seriously doubt there is any physical danger to anyone from exposure to fine perfumes. I think it is most often in the dosage and conflict with personal preferences that the trouble arises.
The overuse of the big classic department store scents with big sillage can take a lot of responsibility for this reactionary atmosphere. Their indiscriminate public use has given perfume a bad name, to the point where people are convinced their allergies are triggered by all forms of perfumes, and they don't want to think about or deal with any discernible perfume whatsoever.
Oceans of Estee Lauder Pleasures or Lancome Tresor in an enclosed space like an elevator or an office without much fresh air will give even those with healthy sinuses a sick headache or choke the most ardent fan of perfume. But even they can be skillfully used during the workday, drawing the sillage into a tighter circle around yourself by using the tiniest drop possible. Their power can then act as an enhancement of one's personal space without knocking anyone down. It's all about personal space, is it not?
The common practice in department stores and boutiques of lining up six or more sets of diffuser reeds of different home fragrances beside each other on a counter creates an overpowering and confusing atmosphere which has frightened some people into believing that perfume should be avoided at all costs. Especially when at the same time there is a lot of other promotional perfume spraying going on nearby.
I have recently read about how the heavy handed use of perfume can be a sign of depression, which causes the sense of smell to be blunted. I realize there are a certain new chemical musk molecules that get a strong negative reaction from highly sensitive people, such as perfumer Christopher Brosius, who has written eloquently about this issue in his I Hate Perfume site.
One solution is to keep a separate less "difficult" or "special" perfume wardrobe for work and crowded public places, as we do with our work clothing and persona, or alternatively, use non-chemically enhanced, natural perfumes that are oil based. In any case it is necessary to be aware of and adjust the amount used so that the throw never reaches beyond one foot or so around you. That is well within your personal space, which I believe we all have the right to do with what we wish, within reason.
Certain perfumes are considered to be more acceptable in a standard work environment. The classics, such as Chanel No. 5, or close to classics such as Annick Goutal Eau de Hadrian, or even Songes, can be fine, and certain types that are classically prettier and appealing are often considered less irritating.
I realize more and more that "regular" people are not interested in and often do not initially like the types of perfumes that those who are very involved in perfume often go for. Woods, incense, moss, leather, patchouli, balsamic or even distinctively gourmand types are not very much appreciated at work, generally speaking.
A big floral is perceived as way too much, especially tuberose, jasmine or gardenia. Green or citrus fragrances, and certain abstract compositions, in cologne or eau de toilette strength generally will not trigger confrontational objections.
Sometimes I like to have a deep inhalation of a complex and dark or heavier perfume or the equivalent of a large bunch of white flowers, even when I am in a crowded public place. When my time and space is not really my own, such perfumes can be applied to a card and kept in a book, or on a tissue in the handbag. Or I dare the tiniest drop on the wrist, if there is enough personal space around me to let it breathe out with me.
Fractal above from this nice free fractal site.