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“I feel like I can’t smell my perfume anymore, which is so frustrating because I love it! (And don’t worry, I haven’t lost my sense of smell in general…)” —Katherine, Toronto

A lot of grooming is billed as self-care these days: daily acts that we perform because we say that they make us feel good. Many of the half-truths we tell ourselves have been whipped away over the past few months, like a frustrated parent ripping the duvet off a sleeping teenager. (Leave me alone, Mom!) Why? Well, during the period of pandemic-induced isolation most of us simply stopped doing whatever routines we’d been doing solely for others. I, for one, stopped blowing out my naturally curly hair and (obviously?) stopped wearing heels or painting my nails. I realized those were things I did for other people’s pleasure. They really only made me feel good when I got compliments and was able to bask in the warm glow of societal approval. (If you get genuine joy from the process of applying nail polish or flat-ironing, that’s wonderful—but it never hurts to question our motivations.)

The act of applying perfume is a little different from most acts of preening, however—as evidenced by the fact that a lot of people didn’t stop wearing perfume during the pandemic. Canadian-born French-trained perfume master Isabelle Michaud of niche, award-winning brand Monsillage says, in fact, that her sales have increased. “People find a lot of comfort in their scents. In times of doubt or fear, you can reach for something that’s comforting, that’s steady, that brings you into your own little cocoon,” says Michaud. “That’s the difference between fragrance and, say, makeup. Fragrance is a living thing. It’s always with you and it evolves on your skin. It kind of becomes like a friend.” (A companion we aren’t always able to indulge in during in our “normal” lives, since many workplaces are designated as scent-free zones. Being able to wear a bold or risky perfume choice might be one of the only perks for those who find themselves largely confined to their home.)

So should you be concerned that you can’t you smell the perfume that’s supposed to be serving as a sensorial security blanket? “It’s perfectly normal!” says Michaud, explaining that there are two likely reasons. First, our sense of smell evolved partially in order to help us identify odours that might be connected to danger or, say, food. That’s why new smells are so discernable: Your brain is focused on determining whether it’s signaling something important. Once your brain is able to categorize the odour, “the scent of your perfume gets put on the backburner.” It might take a week or more, but it’s a natural process.

In that case, you should focus on switching up your fragrance by rotating through a few favourites, or even alternating between a day and a night scent. (Bonus points for those who can remember that it’s scent-switching time. I can’t aspire to that level of routine at this point.)

If you’re a true fragrance lover, embracing variety will allow you to meet and mingle with myriad mood-shaping alternatives. “Happy scents are a lovely way to start your day since they they’re fresh and vibrant. They can be very punchy; they can wake you up and elevate your mood,” says Michaud. Take, for instance, the impossibly fresh perfume she crafted as a riff on celery, which delivers invigorating bright green, crisp, watery notes.

If you’re looking to get cozy and chill, then reach for a comforting scent. “Wearing sweet, ambery, woody and spicy notes is almost like carrying a little fireplace mood around with you,” she explains.

Now, there may be another reason you can’t smell your perfume anymore: It may simply be that it’s evaporating too quickly. How can you find out if that’s happening? Use this very scientific method: Just ask someone from your household to smell you a few hours after you’ve spritzed on your favourite scent. (What is the point of having friends or family if you can’t, on occasion, ask them to smell you without explanation?) If they can’t discern your scent either, then there are a few easy course corrections you can take. The first—and easiest—I’m going to assume you’ve tried: simply add another spritz. (“Spritz in four places: up and down and two across,” says Michaud.)

Beyond that, the composition of the scent itself might be the issue: Light fragrances composed of volatile notes—like citrus—simply don’t last as long. Those are the notes that “blast off from your skin” at first but then dissipate quickly. “Choosing a perfume with deeper notes that’s more concentrated, like a perfume instead of an eau de toilette, might help,” says Michaud. “You can also spray a little bit to your clothes as well, since scent can often last longer on cloth.” (And then when you hang your clothes at the end of the day, “you sometimes just catch a glimpse of your fragrance and it’s a beautiful feeling after a big day.” (But make sure to spot-test before you spray, since some perfumes can stain fabrics.)

Misting your scent on freshly hydrated skin is also key, says Michaud. “Right after your shower or bath, apply a fragrance-free hydrating cream and then put your fragrance on. It’ll soak in and stick longer,” she explains.

Honestly, as we head toward the finish line of 2020, I’m looking for every ounce of stamina and staying power that I can muster—and I’m happy to follow any advice that suggests comforting baths as a useful measure.

 

Shop the advice

Isabelle Michaud has loved fragrance since she was a child. Here are some of her go-to scents

 

MonsillageMonsillage Pays Dogon Eau de Parfum, $135, monsillage.com

$135 at Monsillage

“I think this is a deep and interesting perfume that’s perfect for this time of year.”

 

Mona Di OrioMona Di Orio Myrrh Casati, $272, raffaello-network.com

$272 at raffaello-network

“I wear this when I want something more introspective.”

 

Eau de Toilette L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu Eau de Toilette, $207, artisanparfumeur.com

$207 at L’Artisan Parfumeur

“I always come back to this scent when I want some comfort.”

 

Sisley Paris Sisley Paris Eau de Campagne Eau de Toilette, $136, saksfifthavenue.com

$136 at Saks Fifth Avenue

“I wear this when I want something very fresh on my skin.”

 

CartierCartier La Panthère Parfum, $174, cartier.com

$174 at Cartier

“I love this perfume if I want to feel like a femme fatale.”

 





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