How to Tell Someone You Are Sensitive to Their Fragrance

I’m so excited to introduce to you Juanita Ecker.  I encourage you to visit her web-site to learn more about Juanita and her services.  I’m really appreciative to Juanita for writing this article, because I’m sensitive to fragrances!

By Juanita Ecker

My husband and I have recently become good friends with a couple whom we met through Joe’s golf outings. The four of us enjoy going out to dinner, but at first I struggled with one issue: fragrance.

The first time we all went out, the wife wore perfume. I noticed it right away as I am scent-sensitive—perfumes, colognes, and other products with a strong smell bother me. When we left to go to dinner, the men sat in the front of the car while the women were in the back seat.

Sitting side by side, I was overwhelmed by the smell of her perfume! It’s not that it was an unpleasant smell—it was very pretty. Still, I am very sensitive to chemicals and it was uncomfortable, like being around a smoker if you don’t smoke. Even so, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to offend her. Plus, it was the first time we had met, and I didn’t want to make a bad first impression.

The second and third time we went out to dinner, I was in the exact same position. I began to react to her perfume. My nose ran, I got a headache, and I had a chemical taste in my mouth. I needed to tell her of my predicament!

But how? When someone is told their fragrance is too strong, they tend to equate it with being told that they smell bad. This causes embarrassment and offense.

Alternatively, people may see scent sensitivity as the sufferer’s problem. Why should they have to change their beauty routine to make life easier for someone with an allergy?

I think the best solution is to just bring it up in an informal way. For instance, you could compliment the person’s fragrance, or ask which brand they wear. When they respond, you can say, “It’s nice. I wish I could wear perfume, but I get an allergic reaction. Even my husband has to skip cologne!”

Notice that I used the phrase “allergic reaction” rather than “sensitive.” Many people suffer from allergies of one form or another, and phrasing it this way may make them more sympathetic. The word “sensitive” can sometimes convey a whiney tone, and people may not realize the physical ailments that you suffer as a result.

Naturally, people will be curious about the extent of your reaction, and if they are wearing scents that are too strong. I would say, “You’re fine, but if I have to keep my distance or my nose starts running, please don’t be offended!” Or you could suggest traveling in separate cars. Always be willing to make sacrifices on your part so that people don’t feel like you’re over-dramatizing the situation or putting them out. And having an understanding with your spouse or close friends can also help. For instance, if you are feeling overwhelmed, your spouse can offer to sit closest to the person with the strong perfume, or suggest a quick stroll outside to get some fresh air.

With a little tact and the willingness to make some concessions, you can come clean about your sensitivity to fragrances. Don’t let your health suffer just because you’re worried about speaking up!

Juanita Ecker

Professional Image Management

“We specialize in turning your company’s diamonds in the rough into tomorrow’s business leaders.”

(518) 279-9388 (Eastern Time)






  1. I totally understand this article. I too am sensitive to loud perfumes and colognes. I like mild scents. Thanks so much for showing me how to deal with this issue in a graceful way

  2. graceandcharm says:

    Hi LaTersa,

    You are more than welcome. Unless a person has a sensitivity I don’t think people really understand. My husband tells me all the time I have the most sensitive nose:)

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