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PERFUME/FRAGRANCE: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Allergen…and Photo-Allergen!

Perfume, Fragrance

And boy, what common and consistent allergens! Fragrance has the dubious honor of being the 2007¬†Allergen of the Year¬†of the¬†American Contact Dermatitis Society. Fragrance is everywhere, and even natural, organic fragrances can be top allergens. If you’ve patch tested positive for fragrance, there’s quite a bit to avoid, including:

You¬†can¬†find these ingredients where you’d expect: perfume, colognes, cosmetics, hair care, hair styling, shaving, and personal hygiene products…but also where you might not, like in:

  • Paints¬†and certain industrial liquids (metal working, for example, where masking fragrances are used to offset strong smells)
  • Insect repellants
  • Laundry soaps and¬†other products
  • Room sprays and candles (some people are sensitive enough to get rashes from inhaling the delicious-smelling vapors of candles)
  • Colas, sport drinks, or other pre-packaged drinks and juices, and
  • As¬†flavors in¬†bitters, gum, candy, and even in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

Pro tip: a product that smells good probably has fragrance in it. A product that doesn’t smelly perfume-y or like flowers or fruit or flavors but smells like “nothing” might have a masking fragrance in it (also allergens). A product is more likely to be truly fragrance-free if it smells like a lab…but this doesn’t guarantee that it doesn’t contain other allergens. Read the ingredients list to be sure.

If you have a history of¬†sensitive skin, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about¬†a¬†patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

Main References: 

Regularly published reports¬†on the most common allergens by the¬†North American Contact Dermatitis Group¬†and¬†European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies¬†(based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies.¬†Remember, we are all individuals ‚ÄĒ just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis¬†but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59
2. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009
3. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.
4. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97
5. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.
6. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.
7. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.
8. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 
9. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
10. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435‚Äď454.
11.¬†Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629‚Äď633.

12. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.
13. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.
Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis Society,¬†Dermnet New Zealand, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.

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19 Comments

  1. […] Perfume is one of the most common¬†contact allergens, and that means no perfume-perfume or anything with perfume. This includes organic, natural fragrances in¬†skincare and cosmetics. Watch out: many products that say they’re unscented contain fragrances (there are regulatory loopholes). Reading¬†ingredients lists¬†may not help either as the fragrances might be listed under different names. It’s so hard to find completely fragrance-free skincare and makeup¬†that¬†almost any gift in this category is going to be welcome! Some ideas: […]

  2. […] all but¬†it’s also the most classic no-go gift for anyone allergic¬†(skin or otherwise). Perfume is one of the most common¬†contact […]

  3. […] used for disinfecting add¬†moisturizers (to try to reduce the drying action on skin) and/or fragrances (to¬†try to mask the inherent odor of alcohol). Some of these ingredients may be allergens and […]

  4. […] does not appear in published lists of top¬†contact allergens. However, most contain allergens like fragrances, dyes, “amido-amines,” and vitamin […]

  5. […] are trying a skincare product with melatonin, make sure it does not contain other allergens like fragrance, dyes, or […]

  6. […] As always, check for other allergens that may be in a skincare formulation with chia seeds, such as fragrances, dyes, or parabens.¬†And to be extra safe, if¬†you have a history of skin sensitivity and/or your […]

  7. […] and oils. Specific to allergens:¬†many¬†disinfecting bleaches contain common contact allergens like fragrances and […]

  8. […] for dogs but have a history of sensitive skin, keep Rufus away from topical allergens (like fragrance, dyes, and preservatives) in other things like¬†pet shampoos or deodorants, carpet sprays and […]

  9. […] that might also contain artificial flavors (many of which are contact allergens and/or related to fragrance) or¬†food dyes. People who¬†have patch tested positive¬†to lemon and other¬†fruits that are popular […]

  10. […] heads up: many flavors are related to fragrance. Ginger not being a current top contact allergen is more a rarity than the norm (and might not be […]

  11. […] ingredients could be making things worse. Many natural substances ‚ÄĒ such as tea tree oil, orange, fragrances, ylang-ylang, and eucalyptus ‚ÄĒ are top common […]

  12. […] American Contact Dermatitis Society named Fragrance the Allergen Of The Year of 2007 … and there are so many that they’re in groups […]

  13. […] bother them but that causes your skin to react. For example, if you patch tested positive to fragrance and your spouse or kids use shampoo, soap, or a lotion with fragrance, you might develop a reaction […]

  14. […] coconut oil (which has had reports of allergies to it), or if the oil¬†has trace amounts of fragrance¬†present in the raw material. None of this information¬†is required to be disclosed in the […]

  15. […] your allergens. It can also occur between parents and children when using products with lots of fragrance (which tends to be common in baby products) or other […]

  16. […] used for disinfecting add¬†moisturizers (to try to reduce the drying action on skin) and/or fragrances (to¬†try to mask the inherent odor of alcohol). Some of these ingredients may be allergens and […]

  17. […] parabens, MCI/MI, formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol, etc.) are top contact allergens. We do not use fragrances or masking fragrances (some are used as preservatives when claiming […]

  18. […] say “preservative-free” or “paraben-free” on the label: some of them use fragrances (most of which are also common contact allergens) to preserve the […]

  19. […] that can be problems. Our hands pick up lots of allergens and irritants such as chlorine and fragrances in disinfecting wipes and eyeglass cleaning solutions. Sweat is a great way to transfer allergen […]

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