Nonscents

The search for an inoffensive, sensitive-friendly perfume

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By Sophie Beresiner

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Aside from the obvious (loss of hair, nausea, extreme self pity) there are many side effects to cancer treatment the movies don't tell you about. In many ways its like a faux pregnancy, from not being able to touch cured ham and soft unpasturized cheese, to feeling sick at the scent of Thierry Muglers Angel.

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In my experience my tastes changed dramatically. Tea was disgusting, water tasted sweet and I couldn't manage anything hotter than black pepper. In the same vein the foundation of my fragrance tastes was rocked.

This is a common issue for chemo patients, pregnant ladies, and anyone who is concerned with assaulting their nostrils in a daily basis. My usual spicy musk was out, but the power of perfume is hugely uplifting. So while I knew I would associate this unpleasant journey with my chemo perfume of choice forevermore, I definitely wanted some mood boosting wherever I could find it.

My new mission: find a gentle perfume that had no overwhelming notes like vanilla, or oud. Newly delicate-skin-friendly and alcohol free, even better. Plus anything is better than the lingering scent of hospital ward.

So what did my cancer journey smell like?

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Kenzo L'eau Par Kenzo, £24.65

A sort of thirst quenching scent that is like splashing my skin with water, but gently scented, lightly floral water.

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Burberry Baby Touch, £22.50

The alcohol free, flowery powdery soft stuff. Good enough for babies, definitely good enough for this more delicate version of me.

Bobbi Brown Beach, £48

Yes I'm hooked up to a drip in a chemo ward, but really I smell like I just did a hearty stroll along a windy beach. Ah, the (false) memories.

Luckily my tastes restored to factory settings once treatment was finished, which was helpful since the association of these fragrances is not one I'm looking to revisit any time soon. There is still a lingering fancy of florals, but with a peppery twist. I can now handle hot again.

Sensitive Scents

I've since learnt that most of my cancer treatment beauty learnings are useful for the sensitive-of-nostril, skin, or stomach. The more gentle perfume search is one that resonates particularly with pregnant women when their tastes are at the mercy of their hormones. The following fragrances are synthetic free, gentle on the skin and the nose, and will scent any sensitive life journey pleasantly, but not too powerfully.

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Parfums Honoré des Prés Nu Green, £53

A favourite of ELLE's Editor In Chief, and a fresh, but off-the-beaten-track scent that will offend precisely no one.

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Stella McCartney Stella Sheer, £34

The summer version of the classic Stella white floral is light enough for every season, every level of sensitivity and every colleague who will now be a delight to sit next to.

Miniature, rollerball, gently musky and interesting, perhaps the perfect every day subtle scent.

Organic Glam Oud, £119.95

As organic as fragrantly possible (in this case 100%), this is more intense than those sheer daytime options, and with Oud being such a 'thing' at the moment, the perfect gentle evening pick.

Have you got a Circle of Strength?...

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