Fragrance Allergy: When perfumes, cosmetics or detergents cause allergies

Fragrance Allergy: When perfumes, cosmetics or detergents cause allergies

If you’ve just applied your favorite perfume, it smells wonderful as always – but at some point, it itches and you notice that your skin feels strange. If you are unlucky, it is a fragrance allergy. There are a few things you should know about this.

What are fragrances?

Fragrances – you’ll probably think of perfume right away. But they’re just everywhere: in cosmetics, room sprays, toilet paper, food, and many other things. The point is that things, or we too, smell better.

It is in your deodorant as well as in detergent or fabric softener. Unfortunately, some of us are allergic to fragrances.

In total, we know about 3000 different fragrances. Some of them are completely harmless, others can cause cancer and still, others may lead to an allergic reaction in some people, such as skin irritation.

The fragrances are produced in a wide variety of ways. Some are of natural origin and consist of plant, animal, or fossil substances. Others, however, are made synthetically.

Fragrance allergy: When the skin defends itself against fragrances

It doesn’t feel good, but above all, it feels unfair: you have used your favorite perfume or your long-standing detergent as always – but suddenly a skin comes up and is irritated.

This is really nasty, especially because it is now difficult to find out which fragrance is responsible for the skin irritation. A dermatologist carries out the appropriate patch test.

According to the Apotheken Umschau, one to two percent of the population in Germany is affected by a fragrance allergy. Overall, women get sick more often.

Fragrance allergy is a type 4 contact allergy and is the most common of this type in men. In women, however, nickel allergy occurs more often, which is probably due to the fact that they wear jewelry more often than men.

A type 4 allergy does not occur immediately. Their appearance is delayed because the skin only becomes sensitized to the fragrance after a while. This can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. Once this has happened, it shows an allergic reaction to the actually harmless substance on contact.

Fragrance allergy: symptoms and duration of sensitization

If the skin comes into contact with the allergen, various symptoms appear on the skin :

  • Redness
  • itching
  • swelling
  • eczema
  • Scaling
  • Vesicles
  • Quaddeln

In the case of perfume, for example, it mainly affects the throat and perhaps the fingers, while an allergic reaction to a fragrance in laundry detergents causes irritated skin all over the body.

It can range from simple reddening of the skin on short contact to eczema if the allergen is on the skin for a longer period of time. This is often very swollen and does not recede at first. Flaking of the skin can also occur.

A visit to the doctor is then inevitable. The eczema is treated with a cream that often contains cortisone and disappears over the course of several days or weeks.

Sometimes other complaints can also occur:

  • a headache
  • nausea
  • Circulatory problems
  • shortness of breath
  • Asthma

If you have a fragrance allergy, you will usually keep it until the end of your life – in other words, if your skin is allergic to a component of your washing powder or favorite perfume, you should not use it in the future. However, an allergy test can help you to continue using such products.

Critical fragrances that often trigger allergic reactions

So that you have an overview of which fragrances are particularly likely to trigger a fragrance allergy, we have listed a few. These must be stated at least in cosmetics and the like from a concentration of 0.01%, but not on everyday items such as room sprays or scented candles.

Since the contents on cosmetics are in English, we have listed the English and then the German term in brackets.

  • Cinnamal (Zimtaldehyd)
  • Eugenol (Eugenol)
  • Evernia prunastri Extract (Eichenmoos-Extrakt)
  • Hydroxycitronellal (Hydroxycitronellal)
  • Isoeugenol (Isoeugenol)

Further fragrances that have been classified as declarable by the EU :

  • Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone (α-Isomethylionon)
  • Amyl Cinnamal (Amylzimtaldehyd)
  • Amylcinnamyl Alcohol (Amylzimtalkohol)
  • Anise Alcohol (Anisalkohol)
  • Benzyl Alcohol (Benzylalkohol)
  • Benzyl Benzoate (Benzoesäure)
  • Benzyl Cinnamate (Zimtsäure)
  • Benzyl Salicylate (Salicylic Acid)
  • Butylphenyl Methylproponial/Lilial (Butylphenylmethylproponial/Lilial)
  • Cinnamyl Alcohol (Zimtalkohol)
  • Citral (Citral)
  • Citronellol (Citronellol)
  • Coumarin (Cumarin)
  • Evernia Furfuracea Extract (Baummoos-Extract)
  • Farnesol (Farnesol)
  • Geraniol (Geraniol)
  • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboyaldehyd (Hydroxyisohexyl-3-Cyclohexencarbaldehyd)
  • Linalool (Linalool)
  • Hexyl Cinnamal (Hexylzimtaldehyd)
  • Limonene (Limonene)
  • Methyl 2-Octinoate (2-Octinsäure)

Ricarda Rutter

*Ricarda Rutter is a Ten News reporter. She’s an award-winning and Walkley nominated journalist. She has worked at the SBS, ABC, and Triple R.Rutter is a mother and a wife.