There are thousands of known fragrances, but, fortunately, only a few fragrances are considered sensitizers that cause allergy to individuals who are prone to fragrance allergies.
A screening agent, called the fragrance mix, is a list of 8 individual fragrances that are the most common allergy-causing fragrances used across many everyday products.
COMPONENTS OF FRAGRANCE MIX
Cinnamic alcohol is in scents of hyacinth and ester in natural fragrances like Balsam of Peru, storax, cinnamon leaves, and propolis. You can find it in perfumed cosmetic products, deodorant, paper, laundry products, food flavoring, and toothpaste.
Cinnamic aldehyde is a warm spicy odor with a taste of cinnamon. It is a constituent of cinnamon oil.
Eugenol is a spicy odor of clove with a pungent taste found in oils of clove and cinnamon leaf. It is used in colognes, toilet waters, tonics, dressings, hair cosmetics, periodontal packing, dental impression material, aftershaves, perfumes, hair cream, inhalants, antiseptics, and toothpaste.
Isoeugenol is the odor of clove, which is weaker than that of eugenol. It is a constituent of nutmeg oil and ylang ylang oil.
Geraniol has the sweet floral odor of rose and it constitutes a large portion of rose and palmarose oil, geranium oil, lavender oil, jasmine oil and citronella oil. It is the most widely used fragrance in perfumes, colognes, facial make-up and skin care products.
[Alpha]-amyl cinnamic alcohol is responsible for the intense odor of jasmine. It is an synthetic oil found in perfumes, soaps, cosmetics and toothpaste.
Hydroxycitronellal is the sweet fresh odor of lily of the valley. It is a synthetic floral fragrance found in perfumes, soaps, cosmetics, eye cream, aftershaves and also used in insecticides and antiseptics.
Oak moss absolute has an earthy, woody, masculine odor. It is an essential oil extraction of tree lichen often used in colognes aftershaves.
Even materials such as paints, cutting fluids and metal working fluids may contain fragrances to mask offending odors of the chemicals used to make those products. In the workplace, fragrances may also be circulated through air conditioning.
REACTIONS TO FRAGRANCE MIX
Typical allergic contact dermatitis is the common allergic reaction that may occur in individuals allergic to fragrance mix.
The dermatitis is generally confined to the site of contact with the allergen. The rash is usually located on the face, hands and arms. Oral exposure to the allergy-causing fragrance can also cause sore mouth (tongue) and rashes to appear on the lips or angles of the mouth.
The swelling and redness can be very intense in the affected area within a few hours, or the rash may appear after a day or two of the product being used. The affected skin may be red, swollen and blistered or dry and bumpy.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
The best way is to avoid substances that contain fragrances. But the solution is not as simple as using “fragrance-free” or “unscented” products. The reality is these terms do not necessarily mean that they do not contain fragrance chemicals. They just imply that the product has no perceptible odor. These products can contain masking fragrances that are used to cover up the odor of other ingredients. Check the content of the products you use and watch out for the fragrances listed in the fragrance mix above to be sure.
Treatment includes skin surface steroid creams to bring about rapid improvement. Occasionally, oral steroids need to be taken for a period of time. Over-the-counter antihistamines are also known to relieve the allergy. Alert your dentist or your doctor if you have an allergy to fragrance mix to gain advice on how to best treat your situation.