The Nose Knows - Hygiene, fragrances and the milonga

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


gaylemadeira said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I only hope lots of people read this! I get migraines from scents and have had some bad nights caused by leaders wearing cologne on their neck or aftershave. I love very subtle scents and especially appreciate your comment about wearing a scented lotion instead of a perfume or cologne. One leader I dance with smells like fresh soap and it is very attractive! I look forward to your next posts about scent.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a hot topic. I wrote about it when I started the blog last year before the slew of Xmas parties. By then I had three years worth of experiences to contend with. One time I had to complain to a teacher about how stinky one of the men was in the class, he had eaten a kebab earlier and hadn't changed his shirt. It made me want to gag and I refused to dance with him. I have a really sensitive nose!

happyseaurchin said...

after any form of aerobic exercise
or after deep sleep
in fact
anything which results in deep breathing
the breath can get a little pongy
so definitely agree with the mints :)

i don't wear deoderant
nor use perfumes because of my skin condition
because of my diet i guess
i don't smell
or if i do
i am told i smell nutty)
i love the gentle scents of women
and really like the post dance scent on my clothes

what is really annoying
is when women use pheromone-laiden perfumes

that's cheating
and disturbing too

Dental Equipments said...

Hey, I big big thanks.. I really don't like men with very strong scents, with all the colognes,aftershave and stuff. It hurts my nose and it really triggers my migraine. I only like those with a fresh newly bathe scent it soothes my nose. I really like it, and i find it attractive too.

Anonymous said...

Argentines would enjoy reading this and wonder what the big deal is. Those who dance in the milongas knew along time ago that one has to bathe before dancing because tango is intimate.

In all my years dancing in the milongas of BsAs, I can't remember even one occasion when I was uncomfortable with a man because of perspiration or odor.

For the most part, Argentine men cool down before dancing. They don't want to sweat and make their partners uncomfortable. That's why many never remove their jackets. They are careful about personal hygiene and never need to change shirts. They eat after the milonga rather than before; dancing on a full stomach isn't wise for anyone, nor is garlic breath.

I use perfume sparingly: a few drops on my neck below my right ear where my partners can appreciate it. I like the scent of their cologne as well. There was a time many years ago when many (poor) Argentine men didn't have deodorant to use and soap/shampoo had to do the job. Needless to say, they weren't dancing every tanda or sweating.

Those who perspire retreat to the men's room to wipe the sweat from their brows. I see Argentine women refreshing themselves with spray and retouching their makeup after a couple hours of dancing.

Anonymous said...

I am very sensitive to smells and usually if it bothers me, I just say no the next time if I don't like a tangueros odor. However, this dancer is a close friend and I don't want to hurt his feelings. He sweats profusely and I can smell his sweat on me at the end of a milonga.I stopped practicing with him because of this.I am not one for colognes at milongas,although a little bit is nice, Maybe I could give him a nice lotion and ask him to try it exclaiming its one of my favorites. Any other suggestions on how to be diplomatic? He also has bad breath.That I can handel by giving him a mint although he refuses sometimes.

iori said...

Thank you for posting THE topic!!
Perfume on people is one thing, but now I am up against with a Milonga organizer who decided to cheap scented candles. I had nausea only after one tanda and had to leave. But the organizer would only agree to change back to other lighter scent. Burning paraffin in a closed space and working out is bad enough, but please don't let me take the sickening smell and toxin with me on my clothes, hair and in my lung!!