Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anosmia and Olfactive Fatigue

This article was written by: David Weymouth and posted at  This is a copy of that posting.  
I recently received an email from a Consultant who was confused about the difference between anosmia and olfactive fatigue, terms you may remember me using in a Scentsy training or in past blog posts. You may find yourself confused if you look these terms up on Wikipedia or in another online encyclopedia because they are used differently by the fragrance industry. Today I want to clear up the confusion.   
Anosmia is most commonly used as a medical term to describe an inability to perceive or detect an odor—most frequently linked to an injury, disease or a genetic defect.  However, people within the fragrance industry have been expanding upon the usage of the term to include the potential of losing the ability to perceive a particular odor due to overexposure, either temporarily or permanently.  While our usage may not align itself to the Wikipedia definition, which is medical, it does describe a condition which segments of the fragrance industry have increasingly observed. 
In contrast, the term olfactive fatigue suggests that after a brief time, anyone can simply “clear their palate” and once again perceive a fragrance.  This is frequently NOT the case—particularly if one’s exposure to a dominant fragrance note is relatively constant.  As a defense mechanism, the body actually filters those fragrances (or notes) out—primarily so that we can continue to detect mal odors (odors which serve as a warning) such as spoiled food or smoke from a fire.  As an example, some people work in a particular industry that has a fairly constant odor, and after a year or so of repeated exposure they can no longer perceive that odor even after going home, taking a shower, or going on vacation. When this happens, we (fragrance industry folk) say this person has become anosmic to an odor which differs from more temporary olfactive fatigue.
A strong example of anosmia can be found in my wife who is an admitted cinnamon-aholic.  She loves cooking with it, and she prefers warming Scentsy’s cinnamon-based fragrances year round.  In fact, she opted to warm cinnamon-dominant fragrances almost daily for two years.  That choice resulted in a couple of interesting discoveries. 
1.     She eventually thought the fragrances (in wax) had expired long before they actually had.
2.     She added additional cubes of wax when none were needed, creating an uncomfortably strong fragrance environment.
3.     Her world famous French toast started becoming infamous for being overdosed with actual cinnamon—she literally couldn’t taste it.
Even after vacations and long breaks from cinnamon, she is only just beginning to recognize it (it’s been over a year since she stopped warming it every day) either as an odor or flavor.  Had she continued to expose herself constantly to cinnamon, I question whether she would have been able to perceive cinnamon as a fragrance note or flavor ever again.
The important take away from this story is that having 7 favorite fragrances (all of which contain cinnamon) isn’t enough.  You could easily say the same thing about having 7 favorite citrus fragrances.  So if you want to avoid feeling like you can’t smell your favorite Scentsy fragrances, learn to appreciate new smells and expand your pallet into new fragrance categories.   
Hopefully this illustrates the difference in how we use these two terms in our Scentsy fragrance training and on our blog.  Still have a question about anosmia? Post it in the comments section below and I’d be happy to respond. 
Visit my blog for A Scent-a-Day with Edieanne and find out about more scents and benefits of them.