I've been kicking this article around for months, trying to find just the right approach. I am resigned to the idea that there is really no way to do this gently and instill the proper emphasis.
There is an etiquette of body scent. Its not really complicated. Here are a few simple rules to guide you.
Don't stink. This rule could be the only rule, it's certainly the cardinal rule. This does not only apply to your natural human being stink (which can actually be put to good use sometimes, but those times are kind of infrequent and special case scenarios), but it also applies to the abuse of scented products: if you are walking around in a cloud of perfumes, you stink. I should not be able to smell you when I walk past you in a burger joint (yes, this happened). It should not be a good feeling to have a stranger walk up to you and tell you that you smell good; this means they can smell you, at a distance. Conversely, it should be a very good feeling to have someone with whom you have just shared an embrace to tell you that you smell good. The very essence of body scent is that it should be reserved for those you welcome into your personal space. Your personal space should not encompass the room.
Rule Number Two
Do be conscious. You really ought to know if you stink or not. Sometimes it hard to tell. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. From the "too much cologne" camp, I have heard the cry: "but I like to smell myself". Do you? Do you really? Other than the obvious response of: "maybe you ought to be doing that in private", there is perhaps the less snarky, but possibly rude response, of: "but I don't want to smell you". Subtlety is an art; learn it, practice it, live it.
You really should know what you smell like. But that requires examination, not an omnipresent observation. You want to know that you don't stink, but you also want to know that you smell good (which is, of course, somewhat subjective and what "good" is will be different at different times and under different circumstances; also see the note above about that natural human stink). Part of knowing that you smell good is knowing what scents work on you, because we are all different with different body chemistries and what smells good on me is not necessarily going to smell good on you. Never buy a scent based entirely on brand, popularity or marketing ploy; where the rubber meets the road is where the scent rides the skin.
That's it. No, really. Two rules. You can see any other number of articles (like this one, which is actually pretty good despite all the product placement and the fact that its just trying to hard to impress you; or this one, which has a lot of the same information and no product placement and opens with a wonderful little anecdote that apply demonstrates rule number one) on the vagaries of where and how to apply (though for god's sake, please don't indulge the 'never rub' folks; I've been working with scent for many years, I had never come come across this concept of "killing the note" until just recently; yes, some types of scent are not meant to be rubbed, but others are, so please explain to me how this "killing the note" works? Don't rub your alcohol based scent into your skin. Were you really doing that? Do you spray or splash it onto your hands and then apply it to your jaw/throat? Go right ahead, that's fine and actually kind of recommended. If your scent is based in a solid or oil, you pretty much have no choice but to rub it onto your body. And remember, roll-ons are for deodorant, at best.)
There's another "rule", like the no rubbing rule, that a lot of these other articles like to promote that is also utter hogwash: don't give body scent as a gift. Hogwash. It can be the perfect gift if it is chosen properly and the audience is correct. Just like the underwear commercial, you really shouldn't be making a gift of body scent to someone you are not intimate with (intimacy does not equal sexual activity). But if you are intimates, you certainly know what they like, and you may know what works for them. Stick to scents you know they like, or learn about that scent and find something similar (but different). Its not an easy thing, but that's why you do it: the best gifts are not easy, are unexpected.
Before I go, you may be wondering where I get the authority to be writing a post like this, and well you should. Don't just take random advice, know your sources. So, my pedigree if you will: I have been making my own incense, colognes, body oils, massage oils, solid perfumes, etc, for over twenty years. I've studied most of these arts seperately and in conjunction with each other. I've dabbled in aromatherapy, but I am not an aromatherapist; I prefer the term: aromacologist1.
So, yes, I may not be a professional, but I am an amateur with many years of experience and pretty good reviews from the people I've made products for. I've got two incense recipies listed here and here, so you don't just have to take my word for it.
The observant will notice that I have illustrated this article with images of Royal Copenhagen 1775 Collection colognes. I am a fan, and I heartily recommend them.
A term possibly coined by and certainly used by, the old witch who shared with me many of her practices and secrets: Annabelle, I miss you and hope you're well. This article is for you, Annabelle; and for Judy, the other witch who shared her secrets with me.