From the Editor’s Desk: Perfume Myths Debunked

© Gil Segev 2015

© Gil Segev 2015

     If researching two to three beauty posts every week has taught me anything, it’s that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear and read. Oftentimes the truth about cosmetics is hidden behind fancy words that are meant to confuse you, and it can take a real sleuth to figure out what’s real and what’s marketing baloney.

     I’ve put together a non-exhaustive list of some of the most common claims marketers will tell you about perfume, so that you can make better decisions as an informed consumer.

  1. Natural, my behind: in America the legal definition for the word ‘natural’ in relation to cosmetics (including perfumes) is that at the product in question can contain up to 30% synthetic ingredients. So, if you are trying to keep artificial chemicals out of your house and body then be wary of ‘natural’ labels, because they are not entirely true. Carefully read the ingredients list to figure out exactly what ‘natural’ is to each brand. If the first ingredients are unfamiliar to you, it is safe to say the product is not 100% natural. This doesn’t apply to the word ‘organic,’ which is in fact highly regulated, but definitely does for the nearly meaningless terms ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘non-toxic1.’
  2. For men only? I doubt it: the term Eau de Cologne originally referred to a 1709 product made in Cologne, Germany2. Today it is the term used to describe a certain concentration of perfume oils in a fine fragrance. So why do we associate it with men’s fragrances in particular? I blame popular media, but in reality many women’s fragrances come in eau de cologne concentration, and are definitely suitable for the feminine consumer.
  3. Unisexual revolution: while we’re on the topic, just because a company’s marketing department says that a product is intended for men or for women doesn’t mean you have to abide by their rules. I say wear whichever fragrance you want, without concern for the labels. The only reason for this nuisance is it makes for easier marketing to the masses, and has nothing to do with the composition inside (many traditionally feminine fragrances are actually quite masculine, and vice versa). This also applies for age categories; if you’re 60 and want to smell like Britney’s latest, by all means do so!
  4. Bean there, done that: if you shop at a typical department store then you’ve likely seen bowls of coffee beans next to perfumes on the beauty counter. Why? They tell you it’s to ‘reset’ your nose between scents, but the reality is that it simply overwhelms your senses and makes you feel numb. Instead, smell the inside of your elbow to calibrate your nose to your natural scent and then continue shopping, my fragrant friend.
  5. Forever and ever: our favorite perfumes have a tendency of getting discontinued, don’t they? From Escada’s annual releases to the never-ending flacons from the house of Klein, it’s hard not to stockpile our loves, especially when helpful attendants tell you to. But beware: perfume doesn’t last forever. Depending on the conditions you keep it in, an opened bottle will last you between 3-4 years. If it changes color, scent, or becomes sticky – toss it!
  6. Paper dreams: despite salespeople urging you to ‘buy now!’ (for that bonus gift, I bet), buying a fragrance based on how it smells on a paper blotter at the store is the equivalent of blind-buying it online; you don’t truly know what it smells like! Simply spray on your pulse points to see how it reacts to your skin. If you like it, great: ask for a sample vial to take home and continue testing over several days. If you still love it afterwards, find the cheapest place to buy and know you’re getting exactly what you wanted.
  7. Rub, rub, rub your wrists gently down the stream: perfume is traditionally made of a carrier (typically alcohol) and scent molecules; don’t go breaking them apart by rubbing your wrists after application! Gently dabbing them together will be enough, and the resulting heat will help the scent to disperse. This goes along with other application myths, such as walking through a cloud of perfume; there’s no benefits to be had, and all you’re doing is wasting precious scent and putting more money in the manufacturer’s pocket when you go to repurchase.

     Were you surprised by any of the myths I debunked for you today? I hope you found my tips helpful. Let me know what other ridiculous myths perfumes salespeople and marketers have tried to use on you! And finally, remember to always take everything you find with a grain of salt… and a cocktail, if you can!


1Harper’s Bazaar: #Beautyschool: The Real Difference Between Natural, Organic and Non-Toxic Beauty Products

2Birchbox: The 7 Most Important Dates in the History of Men’s Cologne


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