Learn to love perfume again after childbirth and after confinement
There are many things about the past eighteen months that are very similar to the postpartum period: the days merge; the lack of separation between family obligations and everything else; perpetual blind exhaustion; brain fog. But as we began the slow return to in-person socialization, another issue that plagues many women during and after childbirth resurfaced: an aversion to scent. Perhaps this is because our noses have been kind of on a forced break, spending so many months sequestered in the most controlled environments of our homes. Now that we are back in the world, the perception of smell is almost heightened, especially as we start to wear masks with less frequency. Where smells were once perceived as a sensory wave, they now come more like a large-scale assault.
During pregnancy, this elevated response to odor has a name: hyperosmia. âHyperosmia, or an enhanced sense of smell, is common and transient during the increased hormonal environment of pregnancy,â says OBGYN Alyssa Dweck, MD, expert for Bonafide, a women’s health company focused on providing natural solutions for common women’s health problems. She adds that hormonal changes around menopause can also lead to decreased sense of smell. Scientists have linked the increased smell of pregnancy to more frequent occurrences of morning sickness. I remember that a pregnant friend’s morning sickness was triggered so much by her ride on the New York subway (a place that can admittedly be an array of putrid smells to anyone) that her husband owed her. wrap a Ziploc of sliced ââlemons every morning so she can poke her nose in and stave off the inevitable waves of nausea. Sensitivities aside, some pregnant women, especially during the first trimester, will simply stop using perfume due to the potential presence of phthalates which studies have raised concerns about.
I wanted to wearing perfume when I was pregnant with my daughter. As my body transformed into something unlike mine, I reveled in any reminders of my old self. But almost everything I had worn and loved before suddenly felt cloying and intense. The same goes for most of the scents that I breathed around me: it was as if the volume of my nose had been increased to the maximum. âPregnant women are often extremely sensitive to scents in their environment, whether those scents are found on other people, or in their own beauty or household products,â says IFF perfumer Mackenzie Reilly. Two years after giving birth, most scents still seemed too much to me, so I continued to avoid everything except a few scent oils that made it throughâ¦ and then the pandemic struck. Since I was homebound more often, so was my nose. âI think all this scent freedom, an escape from work and social places where we meet and smell everyday all the time, is very difficult,â says Lyn Harris, of Perfumer H and Miller Harris. “I hear more and more people talking about how sensitive they have become to smell.” This sensitivity, much like when you are pregnant, can lead to a complete aversion to perfumes. âThis is due to being overwhelmed with smell,â Reilly adds. There is also simply a question of perception. David Moltz, perfumer and co-founder of DS & Durga, shares a recent conversation with two different customers about the same scented candle. âA customer said to me, ‘I can’t believe I bought it, I can’t smell a thing, you’re crazy,’ says Moltz. âAnd a few hours later, someone else wrote us another email saying, ‘this candle is so strong my whole house smells of it.’ The perception of strength is really in it. eye of the beholder.
When you’re ready to tiptoe back to scent after a hiatus, whether it’s due to pregnancy or simply a pandemic break, there are ways to make your olfactory re-entry easier. Consider a skin scent, or, as Moltz calls them, “the least offensive scents possible”. (DS & Durga skin scent, Crystal pistil, happens to be a bestseller for the brand.) âIf you’re trying to re-integrate scent into your life after an aversion, hormonal or otherwise, a skin scent is an accessible medium, and it feels more basic,â Reilly says. , citing sweet musky or woody scents as good examples. Instead of a prototypically complex scent with a distinct top, middle, bottom, and wake (the scent trail left by a scent), skin scents have a more intimate aura. âI see them as the ‘no makeup’ approach to perfume,â says Courtney Somer, founder of Lake & Skye.