Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What the pros nose about perfumes

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LET'S start with a big whiff of the Axe Body Spray line.

There's the body deodorizer called Dark Temptation, a chocolate-scented spray designed for a man to smell like chocolate. The thinking is chocolate-loving women will find the guy as sweet and addictive as the sweet and addictive treat.

Axe Music allows you to "tap into your inner rock star," according to the website, while the Phoenix product "takes flight in her mind" and promises to "let you be reborn every night."

What's that smell? Did someone just get reborn in here?

Despite these over-the-top sexual innuendoes that never translate into real-life scenarios, the deodorant-spray demographic -- a group that skews very young and very male -- is a dedicated bunch. So much so the school board in Brandon is working toward instituting a scent-control policy in its schools in September. It seems some kids are practically bathing in the body spray, and it's leading to problems for other students and teachers suffering through sensitive allergic thresholds.

These types of instances are increasing, one local allergist says.

"The issue would be that there are so many more man-made chemicals that kids are exposed to nowadays," said Dr. Mary Anne Hembroff, a physician at the Nature Doctors clinic in Winnipeg and president of the Manitoba Naturopathic Association.

"Anything from Febreze to shampoos to body sprays, it's a simple equation: the more exposure to chemicals the greater the likelihood of sensitivity. Body sprays can definitely trigger some physical reactions."

Unfortunately for the young men, the allergic reaction is not the intention.

Hembroff compares some allergic cases to a glass of water. The cup can only handle so much exposure to various food and environmental circumstances -- reactions that can be held in check by the body's immune system -- before it eventually spills over with the introduction of a new allergen.

Eventually, the Axe falls.

Hembroff points out body sprays are heavy in alcohol and chemical content and the negative reactions to these products, symptoms of headaches or nausea in minor cases, are merely a product of a greater allergic-susceptibility within the individual.

Some reactions are more serious than others, though.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press ran a story about a high school student in Pennsylvania who had to be rushed to the hospital after being exposed to Axe Body Spray. It wasn't known what specific chemical in the spray caused the severe allergic reaction, but the school went so far as to put out a request to the student body to stop soaking themselves in the spray.

In 2008, a 12-year-old boy from England died in hospital less than a week after collapsing at his home as a result of spraying a heavy dosage of body spray in a small bathroom. According to the coroner's report, the boy suffered cardiac arrhythmia and died from heart failure.

Ari Driver, owner of Perfume Paradise, a specialty fragrance shop in Winnipeg, feels the issue of aroma overdose boils down to this: As mass production of perfumes and colognes increased over the last 25 years, the use of pricier natural oils declined in favour of chemical-based synthetics. The processed product doesn't have the same staying power as a natural one, and people get into the habit of re-application, putting scent on top of scent.

"Within 10 to 15 minutes of applying a fragrance, you shouldn't be able to smell it because your nose becomes desensitized to it," Driver said. "And body spray does not cover up body odour. People can't smell it anymore because they keep putting more and more on."

So what common sense would Driver offer young people wanting to express themselves via smell?

"My advice: If you think it's enough, it's probably too much."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2013 A4

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