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Every day we are exposed to 50 to 100 perfumes, preservatives, and chemical additives in personal care products. It just takes one to cause an allergic reaction.
Scientists tell us that about one person in ten has ongoing allergic reactions to hidden chemicals in perfumes and fragrances. We all know someone who sneezes, wheezes, scratches, or breaks out when exposed to scents in cosmetics and personal care products—but just which products cause the most problems may surprise you.

Here are ten warning signs that you may need to avoid perfumes and fragrances.1. If you get tiny red pimples when you are exposed to strong odors, especially if they appear on your cheeks and nose, you probably need to avoid perfumes and fragrances.

There is a form of acne called rosacea that occurs when a change of temperature or a chemical in the air on in food or drink causes a "nervous" reaction in the skin. The skin tightens so quickly that tiny blood vessels actually burst, causing tiny red pimples on otherwise clear skin. Avoiding perfumes and fragrances is essential to managing rosacea.

2. You get pimples or blisters on your chin or at the corners of your mouth.

People who get pimples or blisters on the chin or at the corners of the mouth usually aren't reacting so much to a fragrance or essential oil as they are reacting to the sudsing agent that makes sure the fragrance or essential oil is dissolved, sodium lauryl sulfate (also known as sodium dodecyl sulphate in the UK and Australia). This isn't a sign you need to avoid fragrances and perfumes. It is a sign you need to avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, or at least to wash you face if after you use toothpaste or mouthwash.

3. Jewelry that isn't made from 14-karat gold makes you break out.

People who are sensitive to nickel and silver tend also to be sensitive to perfumes and fragrances.

4. Bubble bath, body lotions, or massage oil make your skin dry or itchy.

Dryness and itch after using bubble bath, body lotions, or massage oil is usually a reaction to the perfumes and fragrances they contain.

5. Using scented laundry detergent in the washer or static control sheets in the dryer makes you break out.

Skin reactions to scented laundry detergent or static control sheets is almost always due to the fragrances they contain.

6. You get red in the face when you are embarrassed, upset, or happy.

Skin that turns red with emotion usually also turns red when exposed to chemical scents.

7. You get red in the face when you drink alcohol.

Some people lack an enzyme needed to break down the acetaldehyde the liver makes as it burns alcohol. This chemical is similar to the acetone used in finger nail polish remover.


8. People ask if you are sunburned, even when you are not.

This is an important tell-tale sign of allergy without itchiness.

9. Eating spicy foods makes you cry, makes you blush, or both.

Spicy foods activate the vagus nerve, which turns on your tear ducts and sends blood to the surface of your face. Many people who are unusually sensitive to spicy foods are also unusually sensitive to chemical scents and fragrances.

10. Perfume makes you sneeze.

Perhaps the best indication you are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances, however, is sneezing. If perfumes and colognes may you sneeze, avoid them!


  • Heisterberg MV, Menné T, Johansen JD. Contact allergy to the 26 specific fragrance ingredients to be declared on cosmetic products in accordance with the EU cosmetics directive. Contact Dermatitis. 2011 Nov
  • 65(5):266-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2011.01962.x. Epub 2011 Sep 21.
  • Photo courtesy of adriennenorman on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/adriennenorman/233374485
  • Photo courtesy of yjhsu on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/yjhsu/2969245702