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Fragrance allergy? Go scent-free

Are you one of the many people in the UK with a fragrance allergy? If so, you will be all too familiar with how this can define so much of what you can use on your body and in your home. Whilst the extent of the inconvenience depends on which perfume chemicals you are sensitive to, scent-free products are the best option for living without constant skin reactions.

Up to 4% of people are thought to have perfume allergies, although many more have sensitive skin and may react to other components of skin creams.

Why is fragrance added to skin care products?

Fragrance is added to cosmetics to make them more appealing to consumers. Of course, you only need look at the popularity of the big perfume brands to see that pleasant aromas are welcomed by many people. Scent is even used in some stores to improve customers’ brand experience – not good if you have a perfume allergy!

Almost all skin products have perfume added to them. Indeed, it can sometimes be quite difficult to find personal care products on supermarket shelves which do not have added scent. Sometimes the perfume is added so as to give a nice scent whilst other times it is added as a ‘masking fragrance’ to cover up the smell of another ingredient.

Perfumes are also found in a huge array of other products such as washing powders, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, air fresheners, candles and tissues – to name just a few.

Unfortunately for people who have perfume allergies, this means that many products are completely out of bounds, leaving them to seek out scent-free products instead.

What are the symptoms of fragrance allergies?

If you are allergic to fragrance, you may react in a number of ways. Skin reactions are quite common, with rashes, redness, itching or eczema apparent in the area of skin which came into contact with the fragrance. Eczema in the armpits is often a sign of a perfumed deodorant allergy and those who experience this should try switching to a scent-free deodorant.

Perfume allergies, just as with any other allergy, can also affect you in other ways. You may experience watery eyes, shortness of breath, nausea or dizziness when you come into contact with some perfumes. There are also a number of less common symptoms; visit your doctor if you are concerned.

Why does fragrance make me react?

When you see ‘perfume’ or ‘parfum’ listed on the ingredients label of skin products, it represents a combination of compounds which all make up the scent of the product. It isn’t possible to tell what all of these compounds are if just the term ‘perfume’ is used so it is hard to narrow down what exactly you are allergic to.

Here is a list of the most common perfume chemicals which cause allergic reactions:

  • Cinnamyl alcohol
  • Hexylcinnam- aldehyde
  • Coumarin
  • Isoeugenol
  • Anisyl alcohol
  • Amyl cinnamyl alcohol
  • Hydroxy-citranellal
  • Oak moss extract

If you have ever gone for perfume allergy testing, you would likely have undergone a patch test involving the above chemicals and another one of Balsam of Peru. This is where a sample of the fragrance is applied to a small area of skin and monitored to see if there is any reaction.

These two perfume patch tests detect around 75% of perfume allergies so may be able to help you find out for certain about your sensitivities.

Essential oils in fragrances

Artificial chemicals are widely used in perfumes as they are usually much cheaper than essential oils, which offer a natural form of scent. It is often these synthetic chemicals which set off allergic reactions, although essential oils can also cause reactions in some people.

Essential oils are used in many natural skin care products because of their remarkable effectiveness in both adding scent and having beneficial effects on skin. Unfortunately for those who have allergies to essential oils, this can restrict their use of even the most natural of products.

However, just because your skin reacts to some essential oils, it doesn’t mean that it will to all. If you like, you can undergo patch testing to identify exactly where your fragrance allergy lies. This way you can still enjoy the use of some natural skin care products with essential oils.

Scent-free products

If you are allergic to several perfumes or have very sensitive skin, going completely scent-free is usually the best option. These ultra mild products are least likely to cause a reaction and should hopefully allow you to put together a beauty regime that does not irritate your skin.

Green People offers a scent-free range known as Organic Base. This contains:


You can click each of the list above to find out more about them. They do not contain any essential oils or perfumes and instead offer you neutral, natural skin care which is effective yet as gentle as can be.