How your scent impacts people’s impressions of you

Perfumes set

Whether it’s musk’s constant association with sex appeal or a daisy’s link to freshness, there’s no denying that certain scents draw particular comparisons in our mind.

But something you may not have considered is how your choice of perfume can have an impact on the way other people see you.

We asked the experts why your fragrance might be feeding into how you’re perceived.

The career expert

“When it comes to dressing for a job interview, it’s perfectly fine to wear your favorite fragrance, especially if it gives you that last-minute confidence boost,” says Laura Holden from employment agency Reed. 

“But whether it’s putting on too much, or choosing an overpowering scent, don’t overdo it. You’re there to showcase your skills and experience, so avoid anything that could distract the interviewer from what makes you right for the job.”

The nose aka the perfumer 

“I don’t think there are notes to avoid to make a good first impression, although lighter florals and ‘florientals’ are super-pretty and great when you’re meeting someone for the first time,” says Jo Fairley of The Perfume Society.

“It’s probably best not to drench yourself in orientals such as musk and vanilla, which are the sexiest fragrance family. 

“But go lightly. A couple of spritzes on the neck and wrists is probably enough when you’re trying to make an impression, but don’t go overboard. 

“Alternatively, spritz a scarf or the inside of a jacket for a subtler impression.”

The professor

“Scent can influence perceptions, even at a subconscious level,” says scent expert Professor Tim Jacob.

“For example, ‘sweet’ odours increase pain tolerance. Scents can be involved in various social judgments and can affect the way we perceive faces, too.

“So, a scent plays a significant role in various social interactions and can carry important biological messages. 

“For example, newborns find their mother’s nipple by smell while adults’ judgments and decisions are influenced by the body odour of others who’ve experienced specific affective states, such as fear. 

“Scent definitely has an impact on how we behave, our confidence and how others judge us.”

The psychologist

“Memories triggered by scents can feel very powerful indeed,” says psychologist Dr Meg Arroll. 

“Certain scents, especially those from childhood, can elicit strong, immediate emotions, and can even feel overwhelming in the moment. 

“For instance, walking past a stranger in the street who happens to be wearing the same fragrance of a much-loved but departed relative can cause a tsunami of memories and emotions. 

“A wealth of research shows that scent can also trigger positive autobiographical memories and even has the potential to boost mood, decrease negative feelings and halt cravings. 

“This is because there is a neuroanatomical relationship between olfaction and the neural pathways associated with emotion – these pathways are developed throughout our lives and influenced by our odor perception, genetics, gender, age, personality and life experiences.”

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