What Causes Fragrance Allergies?

All Posts, Sebameducation April 5


You enter a room and get a whiff of a strong fragrance. Maybe it’s someone’s perfume or cologne; perhaps it’s a candle or air freshener. It doesn’t matter where it’s emanating from, however, because you’ve instantly reacted.

The tears start rolling down your cheeks, your eyes begin swelling up and, just like that, the familiar symptoms of a fragrance allergy have returned. And if you physically come in contact with the fragrance you are allergic to, your skin could even develop hives or another type of rash.

Fragrance & Sensory Overload


The number of people who report being allergic to fragrances has grown in recent years, in large part because nearly everything we are around and/or consume features a scent of some kind. One doctor comments about this as a cultural phenomenon, saying that “scent sells”.

The fragrances we are regularly exposed to are also, she states, more complex – which can be difficult for already-sensitive noses to process. What it comes down to is that we are constantly bombarded by scents, and this can weigh on our systems because repeated exposure to fragrance can heighten sensitivity to it.

Where Do Fragrance Allergies Come From?

In short, researchers haven’t been able to lock down one indisputable culprit yet, but there are specific causes that have been pinpointed. For example, everyone has a number of olfactory receptors that is unique to them. These receptors are a part of your genetic and physiological makeup, and essentially determine just how sensitive you are to fragrances.

Chemicals in the Fragrance

Fragrances are usually a combination of various chemical ingredients. Researchers have suggested that people with scent allergies are probably allergic to one or more of the chemicals in any single fragrance solution – not necessarily the fragrance itself. If you’re allergies pop up even when the label reads unscented, it could be your body’s response to included chemicals, as even unscented products often have chemicals in them.

What to Do About the Allergies

So, maybe your genetics have determined that your olfactory receptors are more numerous and sensitive than the average person’s. Or perhaps you have an allergy to a chemical commonly included in fragrances. How can you tell which is which? And, how can you treat it?

First, you will want to see an allergist. S/he can administer specific allergy tests to close in on the allergen. Then, of course, you will want to avoid the allergen in pretty much everything. How strict you are about this will likely depend on the strength of your reaction to the allergen. But definitely have over-the-counter allergy meds on hand just in case a fragrance you are allergic to happens to sneak by.

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