Perfume – Friend Or Foe?

February 27, 2017

I love wearing perfume. If I forget to squirt some on I feel underdressed all day. My mum is worse always lingering in the cosmetics department having a little spray of the latest fragrance. My husband buys me exotic perfumes from all over the globe and the perfume town of Grasse is on my bucket list. I was planning to visit the newly opened Musee de Parfum on my next trip to Paris.  Yet Kate Grenville’s latest work, ‘The Case Against Fragrance’, may have me thinking again.

It was another balmy Queensland night (Is there any other kind lately?). A full house of excited readers gathered at Avid Reader, West End to hear the great Australian author, Kate Grenville, in conversation with favourite local author, Cass Moriarty.

We were asked to wear no perfume to the author talk and I was rather keen to hear what Kate had to say. In my last few years of teaching we were asked not to wear perfume so as to not upset the children with allergies. My cleaning products have changed to low or no scent products due to my sensitive skin and to counteract one of the lad’s bouts of asthma, but to give up perfume completely would be a big call. It’s one of the lovely things about being a woman.

Kate Grenville on Fragrance

Kate has been reacting to fragrance since she was a young woman. They caused headaches, sore eyes and a congested nose. At first she thought she was crazy. Didn’t everyone love perfume? Yet, by her 30’s Kate was certain of the link so began using low scent or no scent products and the fancy perfumes were given away or relegated to the bottom drawer.

Kate tells us, “A third of the population now reacts to fragrance. Each day women use 16-17 products before they even have breakfast and you have to work very hard to find products that are fragrance free.” After counting the products I used this morning I am guilty as charged.

Originally perfumes were made from crushed flower petals, but after World War Two a whole range of synthetic fragrances were developed by scientists. Some of these were completely new molecules never seen before and many of them do not break down in the environment.

Kate explains, “Fragrances can contain 150 -200 different chemicals. The industry is self regulated so there is individual testing but no-one knows how all the chemicals are reacting together.”

Kate penned this non fiction work to share her personal experience with fragrance and to promote awareness. She encourages us to think , “Is this an appropriate place to wear fragrance? In countries like the USA and Canada there are more workplaces promoting low scent or no scent policies for the comfort of their workers.”

Her advice for those with allergies to fragrance is, “Look for the simplest, most natural products. The more fragrance free products we buy the more there’ll be on the shelves.”

This non- fiction work is written in a very readable, well researched manner with anecdotes and case studies dotted throughout.

I won’t be binning my Miss Dior anytime soon but it has made me think and become more aware of the products I’m using. A third of the audience put up their hand when asked if they had adverse reactions to fragrances. I guess that was Kate Grenville’s aim in writing this book to promote awareness and discussion. It made me wonder, have any of our readers ever had a reaction to fragrance?


2 Comments on Perfume – Friend Or Foe?

  1. Hi Donna, In the book Kate says that Chanel has just changed its formula because it contained known carcinogens. I had thought that too that the expensive ones were the purest. It’s a great book for opening the discussion.

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