Home » Massage » The Massage Client’s Guide to Perfume and Other Smelly Things
  • The Massage Client’s Guide to Perfume and Other Smelly Things

    Smelly thingsThere are a lot of smelly things out there, and smelly things can cause a lot of unhappiness… just ask anyone who’s been around when the local skunk has been upset. And that smell’s spread out over the entire neighborhood. When you work in  a small room all day, smelly things can be an even bigger problem.

    But smelly is subjective… What one person finds smelly and disgusting, another person might thoroughly enjoy. For instance, some people love the smell of patchouli while others have a visceral hatred of its scent. Those who love it can’t fathom how anyone could dislike the lovely smell, while those who hate it can’t imagine how someone could enjoy that awful stench.

    Short of outlawing anything with an odor, there are a few things you can do in regards to all things “smelly” that will make the massage room a more pleasant place for everyone.

    Perfume /Cologne

    There are two main considerations where perfume and cologne are concerned.

    First, there’s the fragrance itself, the amount of fragrance, and any lingering scent that may be left by said fragrance. We’ve all walked into someone’s perfume vapor trail and found ourselves furiously waving our hands around to try to get a breath of fresh air. Sometimes it’s so strong you can actually taste it. Yuck! Put yourself in a small massage treatment room and not only is there no immediate escape, the linger and taste factors are astronomically high. Now, imagine 5 different perfumes and colognes all mingling in a small space. It’s a noxious thought, isn’t it? For this reason, please do NOT apply your perfume or cologne while IN the treatment room.

    Second, there are other clients to consider. While it’s just good manners to not be the person who leaves a vapor trail of something the next client may not like, there’s also their health to consider. Synthetic fragrances are a known migraine trigger and migraines often lead to light, sound, and olfactory (smell) sensitivities. That’s a double whammy for a migraineur… A migraine client smells the lingering perfume of the previous client which triggers a migraine, which causes them to become hypersensitive to odors, which causes their migraine to worsen in response to the perfume that triggered it. Yikes! They came in to feel better! It should come as no surprise that many massage therapists, including myself, specialize in helping clients who suffer with migraines and chronic tension headaches (which are often made worse by unpleasant smells as well.) This means that, in my office anyway, there’s a decent likelihood that the client following you will be a headache/migraine sufferer. If you’ve ever seen someone in the throes a migraine and you have any compassion at all, you know you don’t want to trigger that.

    Cigarette Smoke

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that folks who don’t smoke generally can’t stand the smell of cigarettes and can smell it on smokers’ clothes, hair, and skin long after the smokers themselves can no longer smell it. This means that non-smoking clients can smell it on their (smoker) therapist’s skin and clothes, and non-smoking therapists can smell it on the skin, hair, and clothes of their clients who smoke.

    If you’re a non-smoking client, you have a right to be massaged in a smoke free environment by a therapist who doesn’t smell of cigarette smoke, if that’s your desire. While you can’t force your therapist to stop smoking, you have two options. You can 1) find another therapist if the smell bothers you, or 2) put a small amount of scented lotion under your nose before the massage to mask the smell.

    If you’re a client who smokes please know that the smell lingers on the sheets, the blanket, and in the air. While the sheets and blanket will be changed before the next client, the sheets may remain in the room, depending on the amount of space your therapist has. This means that the smoky sheets may be adding a cigarette smell to the air for the rest of the day. To that end, all we ask is that you 1) don’t chain smoke several cigarettes in quick succession in an enclosed space or do anything else that will concentrate the smell on your skin, hair, and clothes, and 2) don’t smoke a cigarette immediately before entering the office.

    Coffee/Garlic/Onion breath

    In my opinion some of the best lunches (and dinners for that matter) contain obscene amounts of garlic and/or onion. If you come into my office apologizing for your garlic breath, I’ll tell you it’s no biggie… It’s even likely that I’ll offer to forgive your garlic breath if you agree to forgive mine.

    Now I would never actually knowingly give a massage with garlic or onion breath, which is why if you’re my first appointment after lunch you’ll often catch me with an Altoid in my mouth. I also have an Altoid after eating kim chee or any other food that has a strong odor.

    Now I would never, ever tell you to forego your favorite lunch just because it’s more odiferous than many would deem to be polite… even if it’s fish or sauerkraut. (Wouldn’t that be the pot calling the kettle black?) Instead, I would simply suggest that if you do eat or drink (coffee, I’m looking at you) something that will linger on your breath before getting a massage, that you do the polite thing and pop a mint on your way to the appointment.


    Nobody wants to have B.O. (I hope), but yet it happens. Sometimes it’s kinda noticeable but only if your arm is raised; sometimes it’s bit worse but nothing a little peppermint essential oil won’t cover up; and other times it’s positively gag worthy.

    Please, for the love of all that’s holy, give your pits a good sniff in the restroom prior to your massage if you 1) don’t wear deodorant, 2) wear all natural deodorant (no judgement, I’ve tried every brand sold in my town and none are quite as effective as I would like), 3) have recently worked out, even if you showered afterward, or 4) have just come from doing manual labor. If you smell anything off under there, please use a couple of the paper towels to wash and dry them. Thank you.


    It happens to the best of us. It even happens during a massage, especially if you’re relaxed. Sometimes it smells, sometimes it doesn’t. You might be embarrassed if it happens to you, but please don’t be. That’s not to say you should gas up before a session, though. In fact, please don’t. Passing gas during a session on occasion is no big deal, but if there’s a food or beverage that consistently gives you great volumes of very smelly gas, please refrain from ingesting it for a day or two prior to your next massage.

2 Responsesso far.

  1. What a stinky blog post! 😉 But I couldn’t help offering a trick I learned from the East Indian culture: fennel seeds. Chew a pinch of them and you may banish any smelly lunch items lingering on your breath, such as garlic, fish, or onions. Love garlic. Love ballroom dancing. Happy to know this trick!
    P.S. You can swallow or spit out. They contain phyto-estrogen, so choose accordingly.

  2. Stinky, for sure. LOL. I’m aware of fennel seeds, but I can’t stand the taste and I’m not too fond of the smell as they’re being chewed, either… too much like licorice. Ick. There’s that pesky personal taste thing again. (pun intended)