Just when you thought I couldn't pick a more embarrassing, personal topic than bras - I go and bring up hygiene and beauty habits. Let's face it - it's bound to come up. We're packed in like sardines, embracing one another - it's hot, there are empanadas to be had. These things happen. Some of this post comes from my dozen (or so *cough*) years in the beauty industry schlepping perfume - and some of it comes from embarrassing experiences of my own. Since this is a fairly big topic (that seems to be coming up a lot in coversation lately), I'm going to break this up into a few posts.
Part I: Fragrances (as opposed to odors)
Part II: Odors, or why you should never turn down a mint.
Part III: Tricks, tips and handy little helpers.
Part I - Perfume and Cologne
Here are the basic rules about fragrances:
Fragrance Fatigue: If you've been wearing the same fragrance regularly for awhile - you can no longer accurately gauge how strong it smells on you. I promise I'm not making that up. Your nose becomes accustomed to the scent and it becomes a "baseline". A rule of thumb, whatever amount you think you should wear for a night at the milonga - wear less.
In Your Face Part I: This one is tricky because of the aftershave issue but generally speaking, don't wear fragrances on your neck if you're going to be dancing close-embrace. Your partner is going to have their schnoz right there at your neck and if that particular fragrance isn't their cup of tea, it can make for a pretty uncomfortable dance. Pointer for ladies - your cosmetics frequently have fragrance too. I had to stop wearing my Lancome foundation and powder because the rose fragrance of the products were too strong for my husband. Just something to keep in mind.
In Your Face Part II: Gentlemen, with regards to aftershave which of course goes on the beard line, you have a choice to make. The same thing applies - your partner is going to have her nose right against your jaw. If the cologne you're wearing is not a hit with her - it could make for a pretty long tanda. My advice, get the least scented product that you can live with. Use as little as you can to do the job. That's not to say I don't appreciate a nicely scented man - I do. The problem is I may love your cologne, but the next follower may hate it. If you wear cologne, you're going to have to play the odds.
Product Layering: Have you been told about the features and benefits of layering your fragrance products to benefit your skin and prolong the wear of the scent (or some such schpeel)? Forget it. We (beauty salespeople) told you that mostly to sell you products and less because it was true. It's not a lie - it's just not entirely necessary. In the case of dancing close embrace in a steamy milonga - less is definitely more. In fact, if I use scented products at all, I use lotion or powder instead of perfume, eau de parfum or eau de toilet. And I apply it mostly to my legs and feet - nowhere close to my (or more importantly my partner's) face.
And think about all of the products you wear before going out to the milonga - deodorant, body lotion, cosmetics, hair products - and then you add cologne or perfume to the mix. When you have the choice, I strongly recommend defaulting to the least fragranced products that you can.
Smoke gets in your eyes: Smokers, and I speak from first hand experience here, dosing up on the fragrance after you have a cigarette does not cover the smell of smoke. Now you just smell like smoke and perfume. Another pitfall - depending on how long you've been smoking, you've done some (temporary) damage to your ability to smell. Which means you won't be able to adequately judge how strong your cologne is when you do put it on. So again, use less than you think you need. Obviously it would be better not to smoke at all - or at least during the milonga.
Two final thoughts
My biggest pet peeve about fragrance is when a dancer has on so much cologne that I still smell like him when we're done dancing. Or worse, if I still smell like him at the end of the night! It really doesn't matter how much I like the cologne at that point - I don't want to be wearing it. I had to wonder if every one I danced with after that dancer thought I was in the habit of wearing men's cologne! I've also danced with leaders who still smelled like the last follower they danced with. I can tell you they weren't pleased with that situation.
Using perfume or cologne does not make up for the lack of a shower. Being clean and being fragranced are not the same thing. You don't smell cleaner - you just smell stronger. I've been guilty of going from a practica, then going out to eat and going directly to the milonga - no time to clean up. I danced about half an hour and then went to "powder my nose". When I got to the ladies room and actually got a whiff of myself, well... let's just say I'm glad for deodorant towelettes. Even though I was able to clean up a little bit, I was incredibly self conscious and barely danced after that. If it had been an option, I would have just called it a night and gone home.
So look for the next installment coming soon, Part II - Odors, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Altoids