Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

Season 3 - Episode 2: The Evocative Nature of Fragrance featuring Susan Baillely

February 23, 2023 Bold Blind Beauty
Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
Season 3 - Episode 2: The Evocative Nature of Fragrance featuring Susan Baillely
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode title and number: The Evocative Nature of Fragrance featuring Susan Baillely Season 3 - #2

Brief summary of the show:
My co-hosts, Nasreen Bhutta, Sylvia Stinson-Perez, and Dana Hinnant were ecstatic to talk with Procter & Gamble's Susan Baillely. Susan is an authority on fragrance and we could hardly wait to learn more about her and her work as she has a wealth of knowledge about perfume. And you won't want to miss Dana's Beauty Byte for perfume tips.

Susan Baillely's Bio:
Susan Baillely is a Perfumer ‘a Nose’, Senior Scientist in Research & Development, Global Beauty Care for the Procter & Gamble Company.  Susan joined P&G’s R&D organization in 1989, after graduating from the University of St. Andrews in the UK with a 1st class honors in Chemistry. Additionally, Susan is an Accessibility Leader for P&G, driving awareness and action on accessible design for the company.

Susan currently leads perfume formulation design for Personal and Skin Care products in R&D at Mason Business Center, P&G Cincinnati, USA.  Within Beauty she has also led perfume formulation design for Anti Perspirants, Deodorants and Shave Care.   She is also active in perfume development of new characters inspired by emerging global market trends.

Susan is a member of the People with Disabilities Affinity Lead Team at P&G.  She leverages her personal Low Vision experience to drive positive change for P&G’s employees and consumers worldwide. She is a Board member for Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually impaired.  She is married to Gerard, and they have 2 sons Jean-Louis and Jean-Pierre.

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Bullet points of key topics & timestamps:

0:00 | Welcome
2:12 | Susan's sight loss journey
3:41 | How do you do job while on the blindness spectrum?
5:07 | How are fragrances made?
8:31 | How is the fragrance industry adopting accessibility for consumers
11:08 | What do you like most about being a perfumer?
13:02 | Supporting Bold Blind Beauty
13:39 | What route did you take to become a perfumer?
15:16 | What are the most popular fragrances for men & women?
20:29 | Beauty Byte
22:11 | How do we choose a fragrance that works best for us?
23:35 | Do people with visual impairments have a heightened level of small than our sighted counterparts?
25:44 | What is an absolute no-no when it comes to using fragrance?
26:27 | What is the perfect amount of fragrance to use?

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Music Credit: “New Inspiration” by BasspartoutX

Thanks for listening!❤️

[00:00:00] Steph: Welcome back to another edition of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Podcast, the show that's clearing the air for more A.I.R. (Access, Inclusion, and Representation). I'm Stephanae McCoy and with me are my co-hosts :

[00:00:30] Nasreen: I'm Nasreen Bhutta

[00:00:31] Sylvia: Sylvia Stinson-Perez.

[00:00:32] Dana: And I'm Dana Hinnant.

[00:00:39] Steph: "A perfume is like a piece of clothing, a message, a way of presenting oneself a costume that differs according to the woman who wears it." ~Paloma Picasso. It's a pretty well-known fact that our sense of smell can trigger memories from long ago. But did you know this sense is the only fully developed sense a fetus has in a womb, and it's the one that is the most developed in a child until about age 10 when sight takes over?

Well, today's guest, can give us greater insight into this topic with an emphasis on fragrance. Susan Baillely is a Perfumer, Senior Scientist in Research and Development Global Beauty Care for the Procter Gamble Company. She is also a member of the people with Disabilities Affinity Lead Team at P&G.

She leverages her personal low-vision experience to drive positive change for P&G's employees and consumers worldwide. She is a board member for Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She is married to Gerard and they have two sons, Jean Louis, and Jean Pierre. Susan, welcome to Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

[00:01:52] Susan Baillely: Thank you, Steph. I'm really delighted to be here today with Bold Blind Beauty.

[00:01:57] Steph: And we are so delighted to have you specifically to talk about the topic of fragrance. So Susan, before we get into what it is that you do, can you share with our audience a little bit about your sight loss journey?

[00:02:12] Susan Baillely: I have a number of eye conditions. The one that I was born with is a macular dystrophy. Now dystrophy is a wasting away. So in the eye, this macular dystrophy affects the central part of the eye that's used for focusing. So for me, it was very difficult to do Reading, for example, reading a book was quite a chore. I remember children my age were enjoying The Famous Five and the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton.

I don't know if they, they're here also in the US I assume so. But for me it was such an effort to try to read very, very difficult. I managed the large print, you know, elementary books. But when it came to reading standard print, that was always a difficulty for me.

And the dystrophy is kind of, you know, goes through a step change. So in my twenties I was using magnifiers to help me read, and then I discovered that I was unable to read with them while I was, you know working. So that was quite a difficult situation. And then in my thirties, I actually developed severe glaucoma in my left eye, which is my purist eye because of the glaucoma.

So that affects the peripheral vision. And more laterally, I have experienced cataracts in both my eyes. I have had some surgery and so this can often be a consequence of that. But the good news is I got them out. So in summary, you know, I can see shape, but I'm not very good at seeing detail.

[00:03:41] Sylvia: So Susan, I am really interested to hear a little bit more about how you do your job before we move on to fragrance.

[00:03:51] Susan Baillely: That's a great question. When you're training to be a perfumer, you need to find a lot of different perfume materials. Our palette is fairly large, has about 4,000 odd materials, and they're in different storage places. So you have to go and find those and then stage them in the lab bench. Ready for weighing that perfume.

So for me, with low vision, it was quite tricky. I did find a little apparatus I was able to clip onto my safety glasses and flip it down. It was a high magnification as well as a handheld magnifier, and sometimes even a times 10 like jewelers loop to find those materials. Some of the bottles are very, very small and so it's very hard to read the print.

And if I was really struggling and not finding what I needed, I would ask somebody to help me. Today I'd probably call Ira or Be My Eyes that would be another solution today. Then obviously from a digital standpoint, I'm using Access Technologies I have Zoom text, but I really like the Microsoft features that are built in now for accessibility and I'm using them every day.

I also am a huge Apple fan. And I have an iPad that I use as an accessibility tool. If I'm presenting I can easily check email on that and enlarge it. And I use a lot of dictation as well.

[00:05:07] Sylvia: That is fascinating. And so you, you really kind of have led us to the next question is how are fragrances made?

And I just love, I love fragrances. And now I know from Steph's introduction, That whole thing about the smell being your keenest sense until your vision kicks in. And since mine never kicked in smell has been my big thing. So how are fragrances made Susan?

[00:05:35] Susan Baillely: So, you know, we take inspiration from, from many areas. As a perfumer we look at trends and that was mentioned. I love to look at fashion and you know design. Some of us are foodies. I also enjoy food. So you know, there's a lot of commonality between a chef and a perfumer. We're blending things together. So you look for inspiration first for an idea. It could even be an environment.

So you go to a party and it was like a lot of fun and a lot of energy, and you can translate that into a smell. There's inspiration from many things around us. Both, maybe some things we may see, we may hear, we may taste, we may smell those things. You, you come up with an idea and a concept that you want to create against.

So once you have that idea in your head, you then start building what that's going to smell like. And we work from building blocks. I'm calling them building blocks. Perfume is a construction, it's a formulation of things that are put together, a bit like building blocks. So for example, say you wanted to create a rose.

Is that rose, a spicy rose, a citrusy rose, a green rose, or maybe slightly sweet, or is it a red rose? So once you've got that concept, you then put the building blocks together to make that rose. And they also, those blocks need to work together. Something may not be as simple as the rose. It may be a woody, musky floral rose.

So they all have to work together when you put them together. And we use also some materials that bridge the blocks. It's a little bit like a musician that's creating a symphony. So you've got your violins, your woods, you know your wood instruments, you've got your oboe, your flute, your percussion, and you're kind of putting it all together and it's all got to work and blend.

Or a painter, you know, a painter's got this palette of colors, he's maybe gonna paint a landscape. And so he's pulling from that to get the right hues, the blending. Made them darker or lighter? Well, we have about 4,000 materials on our palette that we can pluck from. You know, there'll be rosy materials, there'll be citruses, there'll be musks, there'll be woods, there'll be green materials, there'll be watery materials.

And so you have to pull from that. And also we need to, which is a great fit for me, recognize those blind. So this is perfect for me because I can't read the label or anything like that, so I'm like, I have to be able to identify what material it is blind as part of the training. Why blind? Well, if you've got to recognize it blind, like unidentified, you're forced to study it, right?

You're forced to smell and study and remember it, so it, it kind of locks into the brain. talked about that olfactory bulb in there, so forcing you to learn and remember it. Put it in your memory. That's why it's important to learn it blind.

[00:08:31] Nasreen: You know Susan, this is all extremely fascinating. I just love the concept of thinking that perfume is like a symphony and that I think can resonate with a lot of people.

I love the insights that I'm learning, just listening to you thus far about it in the building blocks. What I like to ask is how is the fragrance industry adopting accessibility for the end user Since you're doing it blind?

[00:08:57] Susan Baillely: I love the question and I think we have a lot of ways to go to improve accessibility of fragrance.

As you know, you know, many of us have been online shoppers and versus going in store, especially with the pandemic. And so I think fine fragrance, and that's what I mean, is a cologne that you'd spray on your body, like your signature scent that we mentioned earlier. , they do a quite a nice job of, you know, giving descriptors about the perfume.

However if you go and buy a consumer good, which is my area of responsibility, you'll have a name like maybe Spring Renewal or, and what does it mean? We don't describe it, even if it's a laundry detergent you're buying. I would love, and I've suggested this to the, the industry that we have better audio description for the products that people can buy online.

I think there's a lot of things we can do with that and really dimensionalize what someone's going to purchase, help them understand what that's going to smell like. . Now obviously if you're in store and you're buying a fine fragrance, you're probably familiar that they have these blotters paper Blotters, and that's what we used when we smell oils.

You know, as a perfumer in the lab, they spray the perfume onto those blotters and then you can let that evaporate and see how it performs with time. What did you smell initially? And then as it dries down with time so you can actually experience that in the store when you're buying a fine fragrance.

I would encourage people to, you know, look at that on their skin as well, because. , it can behave differently on different people's skins. And it may not be the same as on the paper, cuz if you think, okay, the paper is just, you know, your skin has a temperature and everybody's skin is different. So, you know, you have that ability to test it.

But I'd also recommend if you can get a small sample from the store because they're expensive, fine fragrances and you wanna make sure you have the right scent that fits for you and what you want as your signature. So getting a small sample is always, I think, a, a good advice for people.

[00:11:08] Dana: What do you like most about being a perfumer?

[00:11:13] Susan Baillely: So, you know, I've always enjoyed fragrance as a little girl growing up in Scotland, in the United Kingdom, we have very nice gardens with beautiful flowers. And my parents just so happened to be very keen on roses. So we had a huge variety of different rose bushes in the garden as well as other flowers like gardenia, lilac, et cetera.

So as a little girl, I would go actually taking the rose petals and creating rosewater with those different rose petals. So I was kind of the early, maybe the early perfumer in the making. . So I had a lot of passion for smelling and the flowers and so really translating that into where I am today.

You know, I really enjoy the creative process. So perfume is a mixture of science and art, and I'm a chemist by background, but I also have this side of me that's very into design and creative. And so I love to create something new, a new fragrance that I'm hoping is going to bring delight to people. In, in the area I'm in, it's, you know, beauty care, so I'm creating scents that are going into personal care products and skincare.

I'm gonna hope that that really brings delight and a great experience to the, to the consumer. So that's what should be enjoyable. The other piece to this is I love working with people. I love to collaborate and so perfume, perfumery is really a, a collaboration. We work with other perfumers, we work with our evaluators as well to assess the fragrances and the products.

And that whole process for me gives me a lot of energy. And I very much enjoy it.

[00:13:02] Steph: is an advocacy platform that shares uplifting stories of people navigating life while on the blindness spectrum. We sell a message of empowerment, acceptance, and hope, and we are really excited to announce that we now carry embroidered apparel and a few new fresh designs in our boutique.

When you shop our online store, you support our mission and projects like this podcast for full product details please visit

Susan, so I think you did touch on this a little bit. What route did you take to become a perfumer? Can you walk us through that?

[00:13:47] Susan Baillely: Sure. So, you know, I was actually working in a perfume department as a consumer understanding role in a consumer understanding role. It was a global role at the time, and so being part of that department that really got me inspired and, and, you know, understanding more about perfumes and how they were made.

So the other piece to this is, you know, I'm, I'm married to a Frenchman. So when we were, you know, married, we were enjoying some wine with, with dinner and, you know, I'm quite a vocal person. And was just, I think we all are because we taken that experience a little differently to to others because of our sight loss.

So I'm talking about the wine, the, the smell of the nose of the wine, the experience in the mouth, the flavors, how it was going with the food, and then, you know, the, how it lasts in the mouth. So as I was describing the, that experience, you know, my husband said, you know, you're, you're, you're quite good at this.

 So, you know, I was kinda like, oh, well thank you. You know, , he said, you know, this may be a good opportunity for you. So that encouraged me as well to pursue you becoming a perfumer and I've thoroughly enjoyed the training program. You know, the immersion and learning all those materials. I did it fairly quickly because I was so passionate about it and I've very much enjoyed the job that I do.

[00:15:16] Sylvia: That's really cool. I, I feel like I would, I would love that too. I'm always trying to take oils and create cool things. I'm not always successful. So, Susan, what, what are the most like popular fragrances for men and women and how do we each choose what will work best for us? And you mentioned a little bit about testing, but are there any.

Strategies that we can use to, to figure out what is really gonna work well and smell really good on us.

[00:15:48] Susan Baillely: Well, that's a, a great question. I'll, I'll take the, the first part first about, you know, what are the popular sense for men and women. So let's start with the latest trends. , there's, there's two things I want to tell you.

So the first one is, right now there's this holistic trend of authenticity. And consumers are really looking for, Authenticity. So I'm gonna take a stab with Jo Malone. You may be familiar with Jo Malone. She's been very successful and she has done this because she's bringing things, fine fragrances amongst other things to the consumers that are very authentic.

So for example, she has an oud and bergamot which I recently purchased which I really like. So it's, you know, that special precious oud wood with a bergamot, which is a beautiful citrus herbaceous and citrus together. And she has wood, sea salt and sage. So you know, the consumer's expecting to smell those things and she captures that very beautifully in her fragrances.

So that is a trend right now. The other piece to this is we. A unisex trend that's going on, so women. I know are actually using Old Spice products, that's funny. And Yeah and then, you know, even that Jo Malone, the, the, the, the sea salt and sage with wood, that could be used by either. So there's this movement that people are actually using things that can go either way.

We see some male scents, even in Old Spice, that are more gourmand, which are more, you know, edible type notes that men are trying. So it's becoming a bit more blurry about what's for male and what's for female. But if I take a step back to a wee bit of the history it would be amis without talking about Chanel.

So the perfume house of Chanel, so back in the early 1920s. Chanel No. 5 was created and it was actually a mistake, by the way, by the lab . So they actually overdosed some of the ingredients and that fragrances, you know, really stood the test of time is still in the top fragrances for women in the United, you know, globally, actually, not just the United States.

So, I have to say that is amazing success story for them. But not only that, Chanel have diversified their brand very successfully. So for example, they, they launched Chanel Chance, which is a very nice lighter fragrance for women. And then more recently the, the Cocoa Man was the Ed Coco, and then they came out with Coco Mademoiselle, which is one of my favorites.

So it's one in my, in my bathroom that I have. I love it because versus the cocoa, it's softer floral seat. It's called a floriental which means it's not a full oriental, it's a more soft floral oriental, and it's very, very beautiful presentation and very well constructed fragrance. So, , that's Chanel. Another one you might like to or you may know is the Dolce Gabbana Light Blue is a very popular scent for women.

I think guys could probably wear it too. It's one of my favorites and as I'm walking around, you know, if I'm in a store. I smell it a lot. I think, oh, that person's wearing Dolce Gabbana, right? Because it's a clean musk. Sometimes we say Musk and people get kind of, don't like the sound of that and they think of this heavy thing, you know?

But this is a lovely, clean, pure musk with a lovely, beautiful citrus, effervescent citrus sitting on that musk. And it's a beautiful fragrance. Cause it's not heavy, but it's got the musk, it's warm, but it's got this lovely citrus top. So, that's on the female side, on the male side I may mention Tom Ford as a, you know, American designer that's been very successful and he's, he's got his fragrance line and things like Lost Cherry.

And then he does a series of woods including an oud wood, but various woods. So, There again, it's this, you know, they're very authentic and I think they can be worn both by men and women. Another one that comes to mind is Fierce which has been done by Abercrombie and Fitch. If you walk into the mall, and this was, you know, for me before the pandemic, the thing that hits you as you walk in is, I'm not sure if you've experienced this, but it's that if you were by the Abercrombie area, is their fragrance Fierce.

Again, it's, it's a mosque woody, amber scent. Very signature, very distinct, and quite a powerful fragrance. So those are just some that I wanted to mention, but of course there's a huge amount of fragrances out there on the market.

[00:20:29] Dana: So here are some fun facts and tips on how to utilize fragrance. One of the earliest known factories for doing perfume was over 4,000 years ago. Off the island of Cypress. Egyptians were our original beauty influencers so it's no surprise that they were the first to incorporate fragrance in their culture. And as Susan mentioned, Chanel No. 5 is the most iconic fragrance of all time.

So here are some tips to help you utilize fragrances better. If you can do it, invest in a perfume or eau de parfum since that has the highest level of essential oils.

Proper storage is key when it comes to fragrance. I don't like to store fragrance in the bathroom where there's humidity or indirect sunlight, so try to keep it in a cool, dry place.

Fragrances have a shelf life of three to five years. Some fragrances can last longer, but that's kind of the rule of thumb for fragrance. If you want to maximize the benefits of longevity with the fragrance get it in a set, get it in lotion, shower gel, and the fragrance. And when you layer it on, the fragrance would last a lot longer, and it is best to apply fragrance after showering or bathing.

So enjoy a new scent and that's your Bold Blind Beauty Byte.

[00:22:11] Sylvia: How do we go about choosing the one that's like best for like, I like sweet smells. I, I like that, that Dolce Gabbana one. And I, I like love Prada Candy. But I like, and it sounds to me, Susan, that you like to do something I like to do. I am not someone who has a quote signature scent. I like to change it up a lot.

[00:22:30] Susan Baillely: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

[00:22:31] Sylvia: So how do we choose?

[00:22:34] Susan Baillely: I think it's really personal preference, you know you mentioned fruity, you know, do you like fruity? Do you like sweets? Like vanilla in sense include vanilla, mm-hmm. , it's very popular in the US in Europe, we see less of that, just so you know. So there's all these differences globally of what people like.

So markets are very different, but it really is up to personal preference. And then, you know, it's like, well, is it summer or wintter? Because you may choose a different scent for a season. Mm-hmm. , you may also choose a different scent for an occasion. You know, is it day wear or is it night wear? You may want a more fresh scent for the the day or something richer, maybe slightly heavier, more indulgent for the nighttime.

So it really is personal preference and I think, you know you can experience in store smelling some different ones and see, get some samples and, and test them out on your skin. Some people like to put it on their clothing as well and see what suits you and you know, hopefully you find something that you really like.

[00:23:35] Nasreen: Susan, this is just amazing information and I'm just sponging it all up. People with visual impairments, do you find that there is a level of heightened smell factor that maybe more heightened than those who don't have sight loss?

[00:23:53] Susan Baillely: So in my experience, I would say yes. Because I think what we are doing is we're leveraging our other senses more. It's not that we may have a better nose, right? But our nose is more trained because we're using it more, right? So let, let me tell you a little story, okay? So, My colleague, Sam Latif was here in the, in the US and we had been doing a lot of meetings during the day, and we went as a small group, so with another two colleagues.

There was four of us to a conservatory here in Cincinnati and. Our goal was let's go and touch and feel everything and just get that experience okay in the conservatory. So everyone's super excited about this. So we, we had two people with, you know, Sam is blind and I have low vision, and the other two folks were sighted.

So we were exploring our way through the conservatory and, what I realized was that Sam could smell the very, very low level intensity of some of the you know, plants that we, we were smelling and the other two could not. So, as a trained nose, I could smell and describe it and Sam as a, let's say an untrained nose.

But in a way she had a trained nose. She was able to smell the very low level of things and describe to me so. That made me think wow you know, blind and visually impaired people. Cause we're using our noses more cuz they help us, right? We know we've maybe got the right product in our hands if we're in the shower, for example.

Or we'll smell food being prepared or whatever. We'll, we'll be more attuned to smell than, than sighted people. We're using that sense more. So it's exercised more.

[00:25:44] Dana: What is a absolute no-no when it comes to using fragrance, Susan.

[00:25:51] Susan Baillely: So if you're overpowering, you know, you're, you've got so much fragrance on that, you kind of start impacting people around you in a negative way.

It's too much for them. So, you know, I think in business you don't want to be drenched in fragrance. I know. Some high schools, for example, the, the teenage boys will be spraying themselves with some body spray , and then that, that can get bad. Cause the teen, everyone's, they can beate, they're all overwhelmed by too much fragrance in the room right? So I guess that's the one I'm thinking of as the No-no,

[00:26:27] Sylvia: I love that. And so how do you decide, like what is the perfect amount? Like I always just did two little sprays.

[00:26:36] Susan Baillely: Yeah, I mean there's, you know, everyone's a little different. I mean, you typically, with a fine fragrance, you'll spray it on your wrists or the decollage, which is the area on your neck.

Some people like to spray behind their knees, , so you know, it, it, it depends. Typically for me, I would just spray on my wrist, one or two sprays mm-hmm.  and then rub my spray on my wrist, then rub the two wrists together and that's enough . So

[00:27:05] Sylvia: You know, Susan, another thing is I someone told me if you, if your body doesn't hold fragrance, cuz some there are fragrances that my body will not, my skin just won't hold. And so they had suggested spray your hair. What do you think about that? And what about that whole fragrance won't hold to your skin?

[00:27:24] Susan Baillely: Well you know, the, the skin and the hair are kind of, they've got some commonality, but they're different. And so, you know, maybe with less, better on your hair it, it is, you know, everybody, as I was saying, everyone's skin is so different.

You know, it could be summer or winter, that can affect it as well, that your body temperature, et cetera. So you, you have to try out different things and experimenting. Typically I wouldn't want to spray it on my hair. But you know, maybe you can try and see how that works.

[00:27:54] Nasreen: Susan, this has been a most interesting, fascinating, and insightful conversation about perfume.

You have taught us a lot and also new considerations when purchasing perfume. How can people follow you or connect with you if they want to get in touch with you?

[00:28:10] Susan Baillely: I think the best way would be to look me up on LinkedIn. I think that's the easiest way. I'm not on Instagram or anything like that not yet. But you know, LinkedIn would be the best way.

[00:28:22] Nasreen: And can you please just say what your LinkedIn profile name and all that would be?

[00:28:26] Susan Baillely: Sure. So my name is Susan and my last name is Baillely. It's B-A-I-L-L-E-L-Y and that should bring me up.

[00:28:41] Nasreen: Thank you, Susan, for dropping by today to chat with us about being a perfumer on the blindness spectrum. You're an excellent role model and we're so fortunate to share just a small part of your story here at Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. 

Thanks for listening to Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. With your hostS, Stephanae McCoy, Nasreen Bhutta, Sylvia Stinson-Perez, and Dana Hinnant.

If you enjoyed this episode and you would like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post it out on your socials, or leave a rating and review. To catch all the latest for Bold Blind Beauty you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, check out our YouTube channel at Bold Blind Beauty. Thanks again for listening, and we will see you next time on another edition of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. 

Transcription provided by Descript

Susan's sight loss journey
How do you do job while on the blindness spectrum?
How are fragrances made?
How is the fragrance industry adopting accessibility for consumers?
What do you like most about being a perfumer?
Supporting Bold Blind Beauty
What route did you take to become a perfumer?
What are the most popular fragrances for men & women?
Dana's Beauty Byte
How do we choose fragrance that would work best for us?
Do people with visual impairments have a heightened level of small than sighted people?
What is an absolute no no when it comes to using fragrance?
What is the perfect amount of fragrance to use?