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Elizabeth Dosoretz Headshot

My Perfume Nightmare

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Perfumes hold a special place in my heart, as I believe in the power of the perfect scent. I know people who swear by just one specific perfume; in some cases they have used the same one for the past 15 years. I'm not such a loyal customer, though I do have my favorites for day, night and post-workout. That said, I don't discriminate and I'll give any scent that appeals to me a place on my vanity.

Recently, I complimented a friend on her particular perfume and asked where she had purchased it. This friend smiled, and told me that she would "have to lie about the name and the place she had gotten the perfume." It turns out that the perfume was purchased at Target and my friend boasted that she had spent under 50 dollars on it.

This conversation was long forgotten until I found myself in a fix. I was at the gym when I realized I had forgotten to buy a holiday gift for my son's karate teacher. (Trust me, she deserves a gift.) I had enough time to stop by Target on the way to pick up my kids. I made a mental note and finished the workout. As I showered at the gym, got dressed and put on my foundation, I realized I had left my "after workout" Stella McCartney perfume at home. When I shower at the gym, I am very careful -- and slightly obsessive -- about making sure I have all my necessary post-shower belongings with me. My perfume is just as important as the bra, shoes or socks I plan to wear. I definitely did not have time to go home for the forgotten scent, so I headed out the door without perfume and feeling naked.

Once at the store, I quickly found a gift for my son's karate instructor. I then headed towards the makeup and perfume aisle. My jaw dropped at the sheer amount of fragrances available. (Plus, no annoying saleslady who insists on spraying the tester perfume for me.) I had a field day sampling every perfume (male and female) and placed a few well-priced scents in my cart. I was delighted: Not only did I find a few new scents I liked, but I also saved money! Maybe my friends were right and my expensive perfumes weren't worth the price tag.

No matter the length of my shopping list, when at Target, I always manage to buy more than I need. As I loaded the car and made room for the bags, I started to scratch my arm. Florida is notoriously hot and humid, even in the winter months. I was feeling warm and flustered. My perfume extravaganza meant that I found myself running late for my son's pickup. I ended up shoving everything in the trunk. I cranked the air way up and pointed all of the vents right towards my sweaty and flushed face. At that exact moment I realized not only how much perfume I had tested, but also what an unpleasant (and strong) scent the combination of my sweat and the perfumes was giving off. I arrived at my son's school and realized my cheeks felt hot and my eyes were starting to water. By the time I had my kids in the car, I looked horrible: my eyes were swelling and my arms and legs itched. I realized quickly that if I didn't act fast, my face, legs and arms would probably be scarred for life (thanks to the non-stop itching and scratching.)

I quickly dropped the kids off at my mom's house and dashed to the nearest emergency room. After some uncomfortable conversations with my newfound, just-as-desperate emergency room friends, I found myself face to face with a dermatologist who asked if I had done anything new or different. I was so embarrassed: I had tried on so many perfumes and lotions that morning that I had no idea which one might have caused this chaos.

Thankfully, this allergic reaction was nothing a Benadryl IV couldn't fix. I laid in the hospital cot cringing each time the door opened and the wind flew in my face and hair. The strong mix of perfume was still going strong and had started to give me a headache. (Note to perfume shoppers: these scents lasted longer than four hours.)

Apparently, my immune system is not a fan of the widely used fragrance in perfumes, geranial. Geranial gives off a sweet floral and rose odor. No doubt one of the many perfumes I had tried contained this ingredient. Nothing is without a lesson, which is that I will continue to rely on my favorite (and expensive) brands for years to come.