Fragrance designer helps COVID-19 long haulers regain sense of smell

Posted at 9:24 AM, May 18, 2021

Fragrance designer and expert Sue Phillips is credited with helping COVID-19 long haulers regain their sense of smell.

Doctors say she is like a physical therapist for the nose.

Lyss Stern isn't someone who's easily rattled.

The 47-year-old mother of three is a self-titled "mom-preuner."

She's written books, even launched a mask design kit for kids, but COVID-19 threw her.

"I lost my taste and smell. I developed tinnitus, ringing in my ears, which I still have today," Stern said. "Fatigue — insane, conjunctivitis in my eyes."

That was last March. Today, she can only taste about 10 foods.

She takes about 50 vitamins a day and is thankful for the energy she musters to walk her dog around the block.

When she heard about Phillips, she knew she had to visit the fragrance designer.

"We went through all the different perfumes, and to be frank, most I couldn't smell," Stern said.

An hour in, though, and something clicked.

"By the time we got to the end, she gave me a note to smell," Stern said. "I don't know what the smell was, but I smelled something, and I started crying because it was the first time in over a year, and I'm getting choked up again that I smelled something."

Phillips said people refer to her as a scent healer or scent whisperer. She's been in the fragrance industry for more than 40 years.

In the last month, she's helped dozens of COVID-19 long haulers.

"I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a scientist, I'm not a perfumer, I'm not a chemist," Phillips said. "I cannot guarantee results, but somehow the results have happened, and people have left my studio being able to smell and had this epiphany. It's been incredibly emotional."

She claims the therapy works because of the quality of the product.

"So, when you smell something, it directly triggers a memory and emotion, and so as I talk to clients," Phillips said. "And I say to them, 'what does this remind you of?' I ask them to reconnect if they can with their brain, and I've said smell with your brain."

Dr. Yosef Krespi, an ear, nose and throat specialist in New York City, said the entry organ — the primary organ — is the nose. That's why when doctors want to diagnose, they swab or culture the nose for a diagnosis.

He's been to Phillips' perfume lab and calls it therapeutic.

Phillips is now shipping scent healing kits and getting international interest. Krespi says it is like a training session.

"You train yourself daily," Krespi said. "Spend five minutes twice a day and keep smelling and improve your acuity of the smell sensation."