Not a happy subject among perfumistas. In the current environment, it’s not surprising that we keep quiet about it. Still, here is what is happening to me.
I have a mild itchy rash on the perfume zone on my wrists. The area at the base of my throat shows no actual rash, but is often very itchy. I have three treatments, all generally effective. The first is a cream called medihoney, based on an extract of honey, and is recommended for eczema. The second is a non-prescription hydrocortisone cream, also for irritations like eczema. The third is to not apply perfume to those areas.
I’ve been through this before, and the rashes and itchiness went away by themselves, so I’m hoping this will happen this time too. Of course it is not really an ‘allergy’ in any serious sense: just a mild an adverse reaction on the skin.
I don’t know if there are specific perfumes that have cause the irritations. I wear a lot of perfume (of course!) and on weekends might wear two or three in a day. I have not enough determination to strip this back to nothing, give my skin a rest, and then test each one over a period of days. I do sort of get the impression that niche stuff may be more irritating than mainstream perfumes, but I’m not sure why. High concentration of natural materials? But – are naturals more irritating than synthetics? I don’t know.
Perfume aside, maybe my skin is not in good shape. It is winter here and my skin feels dry a lot of the time, so it may be more likely to react adversely to perfume. I have a rash in a spot that I never apply perfume to, so clearly perfume is not the only problem. And long hot showers, so tempting in winter, are a very bad idea. I have had some success applying a good unscented body moisturizer (not the eczema creams mentioned above) to the affected areas, with the thought that boosting the moisture in the skin might help as much as using a medicated cream to treat the rash.
So I apply perfume to clothes, or use creme versions of some perfumes, or just put up with the itch. I love my perfume so much, I’m prepared to suffer (a bit)!
These are a few of my experiences. What about you?
20 thoughts on “Allergies. Let’s talk about them.”
Oh man. I kind of hate to admit it, but I’ve had a few nasty run-ins with perfumes…
The first few times I wore Nuit de Tubereuse, my throat swelled up, and it was quite uncomfortable. I haven’t had that problem since, but I don’t spray it near my face!
There are a few other perfumes that I really like that cause a rash on my skin, but with those ones, I just spray on my clothing (as you suggest, above). Probably, with the number of perfumes we wear—up to three a day!— spraying on clothing is probably a smart idea!
I wonder though, are there specific notes that you notice that seem to cause irritation? I seem to have some troubles with labdanum (a favorite note!), although I have no idea whether it’s more problematic in synthetics or naturals…
Great post! 🙂
Thanks dee, and thanks for posting this when you are so busy.
Throat swelling sounds awful – that could really be serious. Does it put you off tuberose? I recall you are not generally a tuberose fan.
I don’t know what the culprit note might be. Labdanum is a favourite of mine as well ..
I had a couple of minor skin irritations but I was never sure if it was caused by a perfume – so I would just stop applying anything to that specific spot until it goes away. I wasn’t able to pinpoint any specific offenders.
I try to leave those bits of skin alone too. But my second Tauer set turned up today. I must try on skin. I must!
You are so right, we don’t like to talk about that…
I have that too, and quite regularly, but I cannot bear not to wear perfume, even for a day, so I suffer and use cortisone cream. 😉
For me it is especially bad with Andy Tauer’s perfumes, he uses such high concentrations of naturals, and they can be just as irritating, sometimes worse than synthetics. 😦
And spraying a Tauer on clothes is probably not the best of ideas either, staining and commitment to one scent for all eternity could be the result.
Thankfully there are so many options out there, and a little suffering for the good cause I am willing to take, even if I know it is not the wisest course of action for the health of my skin.
P.S. I use Neutrogena Norwegian Formula unscented lotion on my body, it is amazingly good for dry and sensitive skin.
Thanks for the tip on Neutrogena. I’ll look out for it. There is a bewildering array of products out there. I do know that you don’t have to pay high prices to get a good one.
Tauer – oh no! In the last few weeks I have become a fervent fan! I have TEN samples to enjoy! I’m sure you are right about the staining – Le Maroc is a very deep colour, and so is Une Rose Chypree. But I am wearing URC – on skin – for a special occasion tomorrow night. I don’t care of I break out in boils.
I have no problems with perfumes – so far I never reacted to anything (I did get an allergic reaction some years ago to a deodorant though).
A friend told me just the other day she cannot wear anything with cinammon in it as her skin itches where she applies it.
Maybe you could try and see if there exists a note in perfumes that you think might be causing this?
I can imagine cinnamon being an irritant. Seeing as we have fallen into a discussion about Tauer, that reminds me that cinnamon is a note in Une Rose Chypree, which I have been testing recently.
Still, it can’t be the only problematic note, as it is so recent. I have not managed to isolate anything in particular. Once I thought perhaps the problem might just be alcohol, and if so, extraits might be good. But no.
The issue I think is that, as with food allergies, you have to start at zero (like eating peeled pears for s day) and gradually add until you find out what is causing the reaction. With perfume I reckon that could be nigh impossible, because each new perfume you try is of course full of many materials, and often you don’t know what they are.
Luckily, I have had no skin irritations since my perfume explorations started. I sneeze repeatedly after applying some scents, but that goes away quickly.
I sneeze a bit too, sometimes.
I hope it’s not my perfumes that are causing your problems! Mine contain a very high percentage of natural materials, including labdanum in some, cinnamon in others. I don’t think the cinnamon is high enough to cause problems, but one never knows. Allergies are such strange things, completely different from one person to another.
I have to say that I’ve never had a skin reaction to any perfume or perfume material, which is a good thing, since I test everything under the sun on my own skin, all day every day. Like Alice C, I do get sneezing fits from some synthetic perfumes, and there are a few synthetics that, in large quantities and certain combinations, can trigger a headache. The sneezing is benign and goes away, but if I feel a migraine might be coming on, I scrub immediately and never test that perfume again.
Hi Ellen, no, I don’t think any of yours have caused a problem. Whew!
Allergies are very strange, as you say. They come and they go. (My 8 y. o. daughter has returned a positive result on a blood test that was done on her for certain sorts of nut allergies. I’m certain she never used to be allergic to nuts in past years.) I wonder to if certain sorts of things – like the weather, or stress – can make our skin more reactive, so that perfume is not necessarily the cause of a reaction, but the reaction to perfume is a symptom of poor skin health, or poor health in general. I have been under more stress than usual at work, but that is about to ease, so here’s hoping for an improvement!
Hi Ellen! I just wanted to poke my head up and mention that I haven’t (yet anyway, LOL) had any type of skin-reaction to any of your fragrances either 🙂
And now I thnk of it, I was testing Ellen’s perfumes over the summer, and I am certain I was not having any reactions to any perfume over that period. So I’m doubly sure that I am totally fine with Ellens perfumes.
Hmm … that does narrow things down for me to the winter fragrance wardrobe …
I do think that perfumes with more natural materials are more likely to cause allergic reactions. Natural materials are more complex — a Tauer compared to a mostly synthetic recent perfume from the mall would have many, many more types of molecules in it and therefore has more possible things for you to be allergic to. This is why IFRA (argh) keeps banning naturals, because of the potential allergens.
I read somewhere a list of the most common allergens in perfumes — if you want to narrow it down, you might start with those. I know cinnamon is on there, as well as eugenol and oakmoss. URC probably has all three and a lot more besides. 🙂 (Love it.)
I have really sensitive skin and eczema but perfume generally doesn’t bother me. My own sweat is far more likely to trigger a rash — I don’t know why. I have a prescription steroid cream I use when I do break out — might be worth investigating. It helps quite a bit. I find temperature extremes in general to be problematic for my skin — I should move to the Mediterranean!
Good luck with your allergies.
Thanks. Oh yes, the Mediterranean! I’d like to go right now!
I knew someone once who got rashes from sweat. I have slightly eczema prone skin, as does my daughter, who may have inherited it from both her father and me. These things can be the result of heredity, as I understand it. Sunshine – UV light – on eczcema can actually be good for it, I think some doctor told me once years ago? Well, I’m not going to take that advice too literally.
A list of perfume allergens would keep me better informed, so I will check that out, thanks. On the other hand, sometimes I think I’d rather not know!
Really I’m not complaining tho’. Perfume is not causing anaphylaxis, or headaches, or a terrible red unsightly reaction. Just a slight reaction, hopefully temporary.
I have asthma, and there are some perfumes that will bother my breathing – I can usually tell on first sniff who they are, and then I avoid them. But I have to say that this was a bigger problem years ago than it is now. I think that I was genrally more of a nervous person when I was younger and that could well have affected my sensation of what I smelled as well as had a direct impact on how my body reacted.
As for skin reactions the skin on the inside of my wrist can get a bit irritated too, I think it’s because the skin is so thin there. So I generally spritz a bit higher up on my arm. The thin skin areas of my body seems the most likely to react to perfume, not with rashes but with a burning sensation. I always use unscented body lotion and deodorant – I don’t want incidental and often very uninteresting perfume on my skin if I can avoid it, and the skin under the arms is supposed to be particularly sensitive.
Last year I went through an extensive allergy test because I had gotten af huge rash from a flu shot – they even took pictures of it for educational purposes at the hospital – that made me a bit proud 😉 I turned out that I wasn’t allergic to anything on that long lis, including the most common perfumes in cosmetics. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be in the future, of course, but for now I obviously feel in the clear – human nature, I guess.
I have a number of food allergies and they do vary quite a lot in intensity from one year to the next. The body is a complex entity, always changing.
Yes indeed, and skin is especially complex. In my visits to the doctor over the years with minor skin problems, my impression is that doctors really don’t know much about why skin behaves the way it does. They treat the symptoms, but causes are often a mystery. Sorry to hear about your flu shot reaction: you never want to be interesting to a doctor!
I have started spritzing higher up in my arm too, partly because of skin sensitivity and partly because if I don’t aim properly, I often spritz my wrist watch!
“They treat the symptoms, but causes are often a mystery.” – Tell me about it! Same deal with digestive disorders. Trial and errors works at least as well as going to doctors.