Fragrances produce a pleasant smell which can help create a feeling of freshness. Depending on what type of product they are included in, scents can be found in many daily products. With so much fragrance around us, it’s valid to want answers to the question; can you be allergic to fragrance?

Yes, it is possible to get an allergic reaction after exposure to fragrance. The fragrance is made up of several different chemical components. It’s those components that give the scent its unique smell. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to some or all of these chemicals and, as such, may experience an allergic reaction when exposed to them.

You may be sensitive to fragrances if you have asthma, allergies, or autoimmune disease. Fragrance can trigger allergic reactions in some people and cause various symptoms, from mild discomfort to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Thankfully, you can take steps to avoid them and manage your symptoms.

Can Scents Trigger Allergies?

A fragrance is a broad term for any substance that gives off a pleasant odor. Fragrances are used in everything from perfumes to air fresheners, candles, and deodorants. And since aroma produces scents based on constituent ingredients, the smell can trigger a sensitive reaction and allergies.

If you’re allergic to fragrances and have sensitive skin, it’s best to avoid scents altogether. Many different ingredients in perfumes can trigger fragrance sensitivity.

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What Is A Fragrance Allergy Called?

A fragrance allergy is caused by a sensitivity to the chemicals contained in fragrances. It occurs when the immune system reacts to a substance that comes into contact with the skin. The most common allergens are fragrances and preservatives, but you can also be allergic to adhesives and metals like nickel.

Fragrance allergy

So what is it called when you’re sensitive to one of those ingredients? It’s called allergy contact dermatitis. This term refers to any skin reaction or irritation from contact with another substance, such as fragrances.

There are many different allergens capable of triggering ACD: fragrances, preservatives, dyes, colorants, perfumes, and colognes. Others include hair care products such as gel, soaps, sunscreen or toothpaste, and body wash ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS).

Suppose you experience this kind of reaction on your skin after coming into contact with something like perfume or laundry detergent containing scented oils. In that case, chances are good that you’re suffering from an allergic contact dermatitis allergy.

How Do You Deal With Fragrance Sensitivity?

There are two ways to deal with fragrance sensitivity: prevention and treatment.

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Prevention methods

These involve taking active steps to prevent the occurrence of allergic reactions or fragrance sensitivity. There are several preventive measures you can take:

1. Keep all fragrances off yourself. 

If you want to avoid fragrance sensitivity, the best thing you can do is avoid scented products by all means. If you must use a scented product, ensure it’s natural and minimize contact with your skin. For example, if your shampoo has a floral scent, try switching to one that uses essential oils instead of artificial fragrances.

2. Utilize scent-free products.

To prevent any potential allergic reactions, another option is to use products that are fragrance-free or have minimal fragrance. If you’re unsure if a product contains fragrances, read the ingredients list carefully. You can also look for products labeled as fragrance-free and those with low or no scent.

3. Avoid heavily scented environments.

In addition to avoiding heavily scented products in your day-to-day life, try to avoid highly perfumed environments. This includes malls or stores with heavy air fresheners or spray deodorizers. You can also add hotels with aromatherapy rooms and even walk past someone wearing strong perfume or cologne.

4. Ask your friends, spouse, and co-workers to avoid wearing or using heavily-fragranced products around you.

If you think you’re allergic to fragrances or you exhibit signs of fragrance sensitivity, you can ask your friends and family to avoid wearing heavily scented products around you. They can also help by using unscented products and showering before visiting you.

If someone in your life is wearing a heavy fragrance, such as perfume or cologne, and it causes a reaction on your skin or in your lungs, ask them to stay away from you until they wash the product off their skin and clothes.

5. Use protective gear like a nose mask or eyeglasses.

If your sensitivity is severe and you are unsure what ingredients or fragrance triggers the reaction, it’s best to use protective gears. You can use a mask to protect your nose, a face shield (face mask), or goggles to protect your eyes. Also, you can wear sleeves to ensure that your arms are covered.

6. Use an air purifier.

An air purifier is a device that removes dust particles and other allergens from the air. It can be a stand-alone unit or part of a whole-house system. An air purifier is an essential part of your fight against fragrance sensitivity and allergy, as it reduces the number of airborne particles in your home.

Treatment methods

Unlike preventive measures that protect you from fragrance sensitivity and allergy, the treatment method helps you recover from a reaction. Here are some treatment methods to help you out: 

1. Nasal antihistamine medications.

If you think you have an allergic reaction and your symptoms don’t seem to be caused by another condition, it’s essential to seek medical attention right away. Your doctor may be able to perform a skin test or blood test that will help determine what is causing your symptoms.

If the tests show that you have allergies, they can prescribe medications that block histamine production like nasal antihistamines such as cetirizine and loratadine or oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine.

2. Corticosteroid medications.

Taking corticosteroid medications can help you treat fragrance sensitivity and allergic reactions. These medications reduce inflammation in your nasal passages and skin but may cause side effects like headaches, insomnia, and even mood swings. If you’re experiencing an allergic reaction that seems to be from a fragrance allergen, applying corticosteroid cream will likely do the trick.

3. Colloidal oatmeal bath.

A colloidal oatmeal bath is another possible treatment. It’s made from finely ground oats suspended in water and can be added to your bathwater. The colloidal oatmeal helps soothe and moisturize the skin. This does not cure your sensitivity, but it can help to ease the itching and dryness.

How Do You Know If You’re Allergic to Fragrance?

When you come in contact with something that causes an allergic reaction like fragrance or nickel, your body releases chemicals called histamines that cause symptoms like redness and itching. Histamines can also cause swelling if they accumulate around swollen areas of your body like eyelids or lips due to dermatitis caused by fragrances.

Histamines may also cause rashes on parts of your body where there aren’t any open wounds; this type of rash is known as eczema or atopic dermatitis. Fragrance allergy is a common condition that affects 5%–10% of people in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

1. Take note of the occurrence.

Start by keeping a record of when your symptoms occur and whether any particular fragrances seem to trigger them. This means that when something smells bad or causes irritation, jot it down in your journal. The more data you have about what sets off your allergy, the better the chance of identifying the cause.

2. Outbreak of hives.

Hives, also called urticaria, are raised, swollen, itchy bumps that can appear anywhere on the body. Hives are caused by an allergic reaction to something you come into contact with. And if you notice hives after using your fragrance, then there is a chance that you are allergic to any ingredient in the perfume.

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3. Formation of blisters.

If you’ve ever had a mosquito bite that swells into a large, red bump and fills with fluid, you know what blisters are. They’re fluid-filled bumps that can form on the skin from burns, allergic reactions to substances like fragrances, poison ivy, bee stings, or infections.

4. Sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion.

If you experience any of the following symptoms after using your fragrance, you’re likely allergic to it:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes, nose, or throat

If your allergy symptoms occur shortly after using a product with added fragrance, try to narrow down which ingredient is causing them. Start testing different elements one at a time and see if a particular feature causes an adverse reaction.

5. Tearing and burning, and some swelling of the eyelids.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, a fragrance allergy may be a cause:

  • Redness and swelling of the eyelids are often accompanied by itching and burning.
  • Swelling, redness, and irritation of the eyes.

Conclusion

Fragrances can trigger allergic reactions, and if your allergies seem to flare up only when certain types of scents are present in your environment, you should avoid them. Suppose you have allergies or sensitivities to fragrances. In that case, it might help to prevent products with unknown aromas because you won’t know exactly what’s in them and how your skin will react accordingly.

When in doubt, see a doctor and ask for an allergy test. The sooner you identify your allergies and start treating them, the better off you’ll be.

Disclaimer: Content Research, Product Opinion & Publication Process

The articles, cosmetic tutorials, and beauty tips on SheBegan magazine are contributed by experienced fashion professionals, beauty & cosmetics experts. The team of our beauty and cosmetics professionals tests the products and then share the outcomes with proper citations and then after passing all the research & editorial checks; the content is sent live making sure there exists No Conflict of Interest. You can read about our authors, volunteers, team members and editorial board with our content review, product testing, tutorial guidance process here.

Author

Abimboye Femi is an experienced Beauty Expert. Over the years, he has developed an uncanny nose for sniffing out the perfect fragrance as well as an eye for best beatification practices. He brings to bear, his vast knowledge of research to help deliver rich contents centered on Beauty and Cosmetics.

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