Derm DMs: Can I Be Allergic to Perfume?

August 22, 2022
Caitlyn Martyn
By: Caitlyn Martyn | by L'Oréal
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We’ve all smelled a perfume we weren’t a fan of, whether it be a coworker’s cologne or a candle that just doesn’t smell right.

For some people, fragrances may cause physical reactions (like redness, itching and burning) when they come into contact with the skin. To learn more about perfume-induced skin allergies, we asked board-certified, NYC-based dermatologist and consultant, Dr. Tamara Lazic Strugar to weigh in.

Can You Be Allergic to Perfume?

According to Dr. Lazic, a fragrance allergy is not uncommon. If you’re prone to skin allergies like eczema, you might be more susceptible to a fragrance allergy. “For those who have a broken skin barrier, repeated exposure to fragrances can trigger an allergic reaction that, once developed, might affect you for the rest of your life,” says Dr. Lazic.

What Does an Allergic Reaction to Perfume Look Like?

According to Dr. Lazic, an allergic reaction to perfume is usually characterized by a rash in the area of contact with the perfume (think: neck and hands) that can sometimes swell and blister. “A fragrance allergy looks and acts like poison ivy,” she says. “It causes a similar rash from direct contact and shows up a few days after contact with the allergen, making it hard to figure out the culprit.”

What Triggers an Allergic Reaction to Perfume?

A perfume allergy can be triggered by synthetic or natural fragrance ingredients. “Be on the lookout for ingredients like linalool, limonene, fragrance mix I or II, or geraniol,” says Dr. Lazic. She also warns that natural ingredients aren’t always safer for sensitive skin– they can trigger flare ups, too.

What Can You Do If You’re Having an Allergic Reaction to Your Perfume

If you think you’re having a reaction to your fragrance, discontinue using the product immediately. If the rash doesn’t improve, see your dermatologist. “Getting a patch test done by a dermatologist can help diagnose what you may be allergic to and they can provide you with guidance on what to avoid and how to do so,” says Dr. Lazic.

If You’re Allergic, Should You Avoid All Fragranced Products?

According to Dr. Lazic, “If you’re allergic to any fragrance allergen, you should ideally be using all fragrance-free products for skincare, hair care and even everyday life like detergents, air fresheners and scented candles,” Dr. Lazic says. “You should also consider talking to your partner or other cohabitants about the fragrances if you’re in close contact with them.”


Design: Juliana Campisi

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