When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, fragrance expert Sue Phillips saw her business dry up. She would typically spend her days creating scents for major companies like Tiffany & Co. and Lancôme, or in-person with customers at her shop in New York City.
Phillips learned to pivot, moving her fragrance events to Zoom, but in the last month she found a new way to help, using her skills in the perfume world to help COVID-19 survivors who are still missing their sense of smell find it again.
It all began after a friend sent Lyss Stern, a COVID-19 survivor, to Phillips' shop. Stern had lost her sense of smell in March 2020 and was struggling without it more than a year and a half later.
"I said to her, 'Look, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a chemist, but I know the extraordinary powers of fragrance,' " Phillips tells PEOPLE. She took Stern through a "fragrance journey," through three types of scents — top notes, the lighter fragrances; medium notes, such as florals and fruits; and deeper base notes like vanilla and woodsy scents. That last group did the trick.
"She couldn't really smell the top notes, she couldn't really identify the middle notes, but then suddenly there was a flicker in her eye, and she said, 'I can smell something. I don't know what it is, but I can smell something.' "
When Stern realized she could smell vanilla and amber scents, "she literally almost started to weep," Phillips says. "She could smell something for the first time, so she got very emotional and I got very emotional."
Did you know that you can purchase Sue Phillips Book? The Power of Perfume: How to Choose It, Wear it and Enjoy It!(Central Park South Publishing Company; $19.95) is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.