Fragrance allergies are just one of the many challenging aspects of being sensitive in today's world. Learn how fragrance sensitivity can affect your skin and your whole body, and why some fragrance free products can still cause an allergic reaction!
Fragrances are used in almost all commercial products, not only in shampoos, soaps, conditioners, and makeup, but in laundry detergents, candles, and household cleaners.
Artificial fragrance is actually one of the top five allergens in the world, and has many effects on the brain and nervous system, but most people don't notice this unless they are sensitive.
In the marketing world, scents sell and for people with fragrance allergies that is part of the problem. The better a fragrance, candle or body lotion smells, the more people are apt to buy the product.
Sometimes artificial fragrance covers up chemical scents which may be part of the ingredients of particular products.
For most people, scented products are a pleasurable experience that evokes relaxation and calm. But, for a few, scents are a major cause for headaches, hives and bouts of uncontrollable sneezing.
I am very sensitive to fragrance and it is a real problem, especially when I travel! One time we stayed at a hotel that previously had worked out well for us. This time though, we walked in to our room and the fragrance from the cleaning products was overwhelming.
We tried to air the room out and tolerate the discomfort, but finally I ended up having chest pain and trouble breathing so we had to leave and find another hotel!
Another time I was on an airplane and a gentleman came back from the bathroom absolutely covered in cologn. He must have doused himself after washing his hands, thinking he would freshen up.
The scent was so strong that I started coughing and couldn't breathe. I had to leave my seat and spend the rest of the flight at the back of the airplane!
Many people are not aware that fragrances can cause allergic reactions. My husband has run into this problem at work, when co-workers wear strong perfume. It causes him to feel sick and gives him a headache.
Unfortunately this is not a widely understood problem and so many people do not understand how painful it can be to inhale perfumes. I find that even some skin creams and shampoos that are heavily fragranced can outgas so when you are near someone who uses a strongly scented product, you can smell the perfume.
Fragrances can also linger in clothing so if you are in a room with someone who wears perfume, you may come home with the scent on your clothes.
Fragrance allergies can cause uncontrollable bouts of sneezing and while this is not socially acceptable, it is part of the body’s reaction to scent based oils and alcohols used to create that perfect fragrance.
Being allergic to fragrances is a growing problem. Many people suffer common allergic reactions like the development of welts or hives on body parts coming in contact with scents.
Itching, watery eyes and headache are also very common.
Some people experience coughing and lung irritation when they are exposed to perfumes.
One of the simplest things you can do is to start using fragrance free, unscented or hypoallergenic products. Most hypoallergenic products contain no added fragrance, but the ingredients of the products themselves may have some scent.
Nowadays more people are becoming sensitive to fragrance, so you may have more choices available than even a year ago!
These products are usually created without the artificial fragrances that cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to scents so dealing with your own home and products is quite simple.
It is not as simple as it seems to find gentle sensitive skin care products that also do not contain other irritating chemicals that can cause skin reactions for sensitive skin! I've only managed to find one brand of botanical free hypoallergenic products which contain no plant allergens and also are free of the kinds of chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, propylene glycol and animal by products which can cause skin irritations or other health effects.
Please read our safe cosmetics page for more information on which chemicals are most irritating to sensitive skin.
Some products label themselves as "fragrance free" and those are the ones you are most likely to notice have no scent at all. The challenge is, that your fragrance free products may not be hypoallergenic!
Some fragrance free products carry ingredients to mask the scents of their ingredients, and these chemicals can cause skin, eye or lung irritation or even worse!
You'll need to check the ingredients list to see how safe the ingredients in your fragrance free products really area. Our free eBook will show you how to quickly evaluate the ingredients in your products to see which ones may cause a skin reaction.
And, vice versa, products with no added fragrance MAY still have some scent!
In fact, in my experience, MOST products with no added fragrance have some scent. This particular challenge really drove me crazy when looking for a good shampoo, because I couldn’t find one that was BOTH fragrance free AND that also made me look good!
All of the fragrance free shampoos I tried made my hair look like straw :( I finally found a "no added fragrance" shampoo which DOES have a mild, non-perfume scent from the ingredients, but which is hypoallergenic and it makes my hair look REALLY great. You can see my before and after pictures page.
Avoidance is the best solution for your fragrance allergies, but that is not viable in all cases. Most people have to come into contact with other humans at some point in their lives and it is very likely that some kind of fragrance will be involved!
Being upfront about your allergy to fragrance is the first step. This is especially important if contact with someone or someplace that uses fragrance is going to last longer than just a few moments. Restaurants and businesses will often blow out candles or move scented arrangements in order to accommodate your needs.
Fragrance on people is a little harder to deal with. In some cases, men or women can remove an outer jacket or coat if perfume or cologne has been sprayed on that fabric, or if they were in a room with others who are wearing perfume.
The perfume used in a person's shampoo, skin lotions, laundry detergent or fabric softener could be strong enough to cause a reaction. If possible, advising the person before a meeting of your allergy may help.
In a work setting, there are more intimate contacts with people every day, so talking with coworkers and bosses about your allergy and educating people at work can help to tone down the offending scents.
Both my husband and I have been sensitive to fragrance for a long time. We have noticed that some people can get defensive when you speak to them about your fragrance allergy.
One time my husband was getting sick from a co-worker's perfume, so he politely talked to her about it. She was so upset, she did not speak to him for months!
It is important if you need to speak to someone about your fragrance sensitivity that you do so privately, and with a respectful and non-judgmental attitude.
Sometimes this is not possible, for example if you are in the middle of an allergic reaction. This happened to me at a dental office where they were burning a scented candle for the holiday season.
I couldn't sit in the waiting room, as I was coughing so badly. I had to wait outside in the cold as I couldn't breathe!
Other methods of dealing with fragrance allergies can include:
There is no reason to suffer day in and day out because of a fragrance allergy. Dealing with the scents of the world is challenging enough when you first learn about the condition, but once you have a bit of control over your symptoms, removing the cause is the best way to avoid further problems!
I will be opening up a new area of the site on fragrance free products, and you can be updated on these new additions through our Naturally Clear News monthly update which you can get for free at our free eBook page.