What causes perfume allergies?

What causes perfume allergies?

When you love something so much, it hurts. That’s the encapsulated feeling once you experience your first perfume allergy. The news that you can no longer don your favorite perfume or cologne may easily leave you in despair.

Understanding the cause of perfume allergies is the best way to deal with them – by arming yourself with knowledge and facts about this common condition.  

At Dossier, we’re happy to provide you with a rundown of perfume allergy causes, how to detect if you’re allergic, and our list of alternatives.

But really? Can perfumes trigger allergies?

You wouldn’t think that something that smells so delightful could be the kiss of death. But you’re not alone! 2-11% of people suffer from fragrance allergies. 

Seasonal changes, type of perfume applied, age, and even your genetic makeup may be contributing factors for your newfound itch.

You might be thinking no big deal, perfume allergies can’t be that bad! However, they can be quite a nuisance. Some symptoms may include:


-runny nose;

-watery eyes;



-swelling at the area where perfume was applied;

-in severe cases, asthma attacks.

Don’t be overly alarmed. The discomfort associated with perfume allergies might seem like the guillotine for self-expression. After all, we view our signature fragrance as an extension of ourselves, no? 

Come again? What’s in your perfume?

Although allergic reactions from perfumes may depend on a variety of factors, you may be curious to know: What exactly is in my perfume? We always seem to think that fragrances are a concoction of natural ingredients (herbs, spices, etc.), but sometimes, this is hardly the case.

The most common fragrance allergen is ethylene-diamine-tetraacetate (EDTA), a preservative commonly used in cosmetic products, including fragrances. Its primary use is to maintain a fragrance’s shelf life. 

In addition to preservatives in certain fragrances, there are other popular ingredients that may trigger allergies, including fast-acting floral and plant extracts:







How do you test for perfume allergies?

Before proceeding with a perfume allergy test, know beforehand that not everything is foolproof. In some rare cases, you may obtain a false positive result if you’re taking certain medications. 

Nonetheless, dermatologists and allergists typically administer two types of tests for perfume allergies:

Skin prick test 

During this test, an allergist will prick your skin with diluted perfume extracts. A few minutes later, your skin will be examined for signs of redness or swelling. If there is no appearance of an allergic reaction, the allergist will add a more diluted perfume extract to your skin to see if any reactions occur. 

Skin patch test 

An allergist will apply a small patch of diluted perfume extract on your skin. A few days later, your skin will be examined for signs of irritation. If there is no detection of an allergic reaction, the allergist will apply a larger patch of perfume extract on your skin. 

Not only is conducting an allergy test beneficial in detecting any allergies that you may potentially experience, but also using this invaluable knowledge should serve as inspiration for discovering new fragrance scents (and influence your next purchase). 

How do you get rid of perfume allergies?

If you’ve tested positive for a perfume allergy, then the obvious route to rid yourself of it is to stop re-applying the fragrance immediately. That may leave you distraught, but the good news is your allergy symptoms should subside within a few days. 

Before thinking about hitting the bottle again, consult with an allergist first. They’ll advise you on which scents are safe for you to use. 

Here are also a few other tips for reducing your risk of perfume allergies: 

Avoid perfumes for a few weeks 

The best way to get rid of a perfume allergy is to avoid the allergens that initially triggered your reaction. If your allergy test revealed that you experienced adverse effects to EDTA and/or other perfume ingredients, avoid re-applying them…at least for a while. 

Use fragrance-free products

Make sure to read first the ingredients list of any fragrance or scented products that you might apply. To be on the safe side of things, opt for fragrance-free products to limit exposure to unnecessary allergens. 

Take your vitamins

Sometimes parental advice is the best advice. Vitamins such as B-6 and B-12 can help boost your immune system and reduce allergy symptoms. Vitamin C may also help to minimize allergy symptoms. No need to go the pill route, instead dodge directly to the source. For example, citrus fruits, watermelon, broccoli, and peppers are excellent sources to ward off allergies.

Remove perfume before heading to sleep 

We all want our scent to linger with us all throughout the day, but as all good things, they eventually come to an end. Stale odors that ruminate on your pillow and bed sheets can expose the potential for an allergic reaction. That’s why it’s important to start an evening ritual of removing your perfume. Then in the morning, kick off your day with a fresh signature scent that keeps everyone, including yourself, impressed.

Swap for colognes and body lotions

Signature scents should be an extension of you, but how you decide on the desired and lingering effects depend greatly on the concentration. That’s why it’s best to swap for colognes or even body lotions that contain lower levels of essential oils. Not only do these provide lighter coverage, but also their relatively lower concentration significantly reduces the risk of allergies while maintaining a scent that will gain notice from those around you. 

Perfume allergies are a common problem, but rest assured, there are plenty of alternatives and measures to reduce your risk. With some simple adjustments, you’re sure to rediscover or even embark on a new journey for your signature scent.

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