My Discoveries About the Perfume Allergy

I was out with friends the other day and the conversation turned to allergies because my little girl had recently been diagnosed as having eczema, or contact dermatitis, caused by a perfume allergy. We all agreed that it seemed that a lot more people suffered from allergies than they ever used to when we were younger. In fact I alone could immediately think of 5 people who were suffering from an allergy, or thought they were. But like my friend pointed out the symptoms of sensitivity, intolerance and allergy are often very similar so how do people know which one they have? I decided to look into perfume allergy further to get a better understanding of what causes it and what the symptoms are.

My first discovery about a perfume allergy actually surprised me. I had read that it was the introduction of a new fragrance that tended to be the cause of a perfume allergy (parfume allergi is the Danish term). In fact this relates to sensitivity and intolerance and not to allergy. The reason that a person suffers from an allergy is because their immune system has become extra sensitive and identified an everyday and harmless ingredient as a threat to our body – this is better known as an ‘allergen’. The immune system then goes into attack mode and releases histamines into our blood stream. These histamines then attach to cells and create the allergy symptoms. However the immune system needs to have come into contact with the specific allergen at least once in the past. Many people find that they have used products containing the allergen for months or years with no problem at all.


There are some very common allergens that cause a perfume allergy in the majority of sufferers. These are Anisyl Alcohol; Geraniol; Benzyl Alcohol; Cinnamaldehyde; Cinnamic Alcohol; Eugenol; and Hydroxynitralise. It is important for people who think they are suffering from a perfume allergy to visit their doctor and take part in an allergy test. The doctor will place miniscule amounts of the above allergens and other chemicals onto a patch of skin and measure how a person reacts to them. The patient may feel a little discomfort but this fades very quickly. Doctors may also want to take blood to see if a person is reacting to multiple things.

This will show if you are suffering from a perfume allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. If it is an allergy it is possible you will have to avoid the allergen for the rest of your life. However if it is intolerance or sensitivity you may be able to control it or get rid of it with treatment. Ingredients should be checked on products used. It may not have just been that expensive bottle of scent that was the trigger as shampoo, cosmetics, soaps, washing powders, air fresheners, scented candles, furniture polish and so much more may contain the allergens listed above.

One thought on “My Discoveries About the Perfume Allergy

  • May 30, 2013 at 5:27 am

    “If it is an allergy it is possible you will have to avoid the allergen for the rest of your life. However if it is intolerance or sensitivity you may be able to control it or get rid of it with treatment”

    You have this mixed up. An allergy is usually treated with allergy medication and can be cleared up, for example dermatitis. You will still have to avoid fragrances, but it can be treated. Intolerance/sensitivity means that nothing can be done, and you will have to avoid all fragrances because each exposure causes the body to become more sensitive. I went to an allergist to get tested for fragrances but because there are literally thousands of different fragrance chemicals, they could not test me for every one. It was concluded that I did NOT have an allergic response to perfume, but that I had a chemical sensitivity to it. The skin test could not detect it in that way.

    If your child has eczema exasperated by fragrance, please stop using all fragrances. When I was a child I was very allergic to fragranced laundry detergent (skin rashes) – my mother stopped using this immediately but she never gave up on fragranced sprays, candles, perfume, hair spray, etc. I did not react badly to these when I was little, but I eventually developed a fragrance sensitivity later on in life. I believe if my mother was attuned to my sensitivity and ditched her obsession with fragrances that my sensitivity would not have developed in the way it did. So a word of advice, go natural for the sake of your daughter! You might be able to avoid a full-blown perfume sensitivity.


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