The aroma of roses, wood, citrus … Watch out! Perfumes can cause skin problems

With Christmas just around the corner, perfumes or cosmetic products are always a good option to give a gift. Hand creams with the scent of roses, fragrances with touches of wood, citrus, or seaweed do the wonders of our smell.

And although, in general, these types of products meet the health and consumer requirements demanded by the authorities, sometimes the ingredients that provide these pleasant smells can cause skin reactions, such as allergic contact dermatitis.

A Spanish study has identified the fragrances responsible for allergic contact dermatitis in different population groups: women, men, children, retirees. In addition, it has established which are the areas of the body most affected by this type of dermatological pathology.

To do this, over 5 years, dermatologists from the Spanish Research Group on Contact Dermatitis and Skin Allergy performed and analyzed patch tests (consisting of the application of dressings or patches on the back containing different allergens) to 19,588 patients.

Of these, 1,590 (8.1%) had positive reactions to at least one marker of fragrance allergy. The conclusion they have reached is that the odorous substances used in soaps, creams, perfumes, etc. they are the second most common cause of contact allergy.

It is an inflammation caused after the contact of an allergen with the skin and is known as allergic contact dermatitis. The symptoms of this pathology are shown in a skin rash, which produces itching, dry and cracked skin, and sometimes also swelling and pain.

Taking into account that once the person has become allergic to a substance, it will be for life, the question of identifying which product originates it is not a minor thing.
And is that the treatment for this type of dermatitis begins by eliminating contact with the substance causing the problem.

The most problematic fragrances

“Companies, when designing their products, take into account the audience they are going to address. Products designed for women have characteristic odors – and fragrances – different from products for men, or for babies. They also change according to the type of cosmetic product and its use (the fragrances used in the composition of a deodorant differ from those of a moisturizer, and even the fragrances in a facial cream are different from those of hand cream) “, he explains the study authors.

To this must be added, that these fragrances are also used in topical treatments to mask ingredients with a bad smell, such as, for example, urea.

This group of dermatologists has identified the fragrances that usually cause the most hypersensitivity or allergy problems, and which population group they affect.

In the case of men, the most common allergen is known as E. prunastri fragrance. Provides men’s cosmetic products with aromas reminiscent of wood, earth, or seaweed.

In the case of women, the aroma that causes the most reactions is geraniol, which gives creams and perfumes a sweet, floral, or rose scent.

Another of the most used fragrances is isoeugenol, which adds a sweet touch to children’s products, and which causes the vast majority of contact dermatitis among them.

And among people over 65, two aromas are repeated as the main causes of this type of allergic reaction, geraniol and E. prunastri.

Finally, among the data to highlight are the allergens responsible for hand eczema, citral, and Lyral, which are also implicated in occupational contact dermatitis caused by fragrances.

Outside the world of cosmetics, the dermatologists participating in the study point out that “citral is one of the most frequent components of household cleaning products, in which the citrus aroma is sought. Hence, direct contact with these household products is probably behind the high rates of sensitization to citral in cases of hand eczema ”.

And what products contain this type of fragrance? According to the study, in women, the most common sources of sensitization to fragrances are perfumes and deodorants, while in men they are aftershave lotions and deodorants.

Geraniol, which was the most common allergen among the population group over 65 years of age, maybe part of the composition of treatments, usually creams, to treat the ulcers so common among this age group.

Hands, face, and legs, the most affected areas

Cosmetic products have diverse applications, from foot creams to deodorants or aftershaves. But generally, fragrance allergy sufferers have their hands, face, and legs affected.

According to the analysis of the Spanish Research Group on Contact Dermatitis and Skin Allergy, eczema on the legs was caused in most cases by geraniol, E. prunastri, and isoeugenol.

In contrast, Lyral, geraniol, and citral predominated as the most common allergens in patients with hand eczema.

Similarly, in the cases with eczema of the face, there were patients sensitized to geraniol, Lyral, and citral.

Identify the fragrance that we do not tolerate

Knowing the most common allergens among fragrances can help patients with allergic contact dermatitis when choosing the most suitable cosmetic product for them.
Thus, although it is a nuisance, it is best to read the composition of this type of product. The only problem is that of all the fragrances that can be used, European legislation only requires you to declare 26.

For this reason, the dermatologists participating in the study advocate full labeling of products, regardless of their level and concentration, and not just declarable fragrances.

This would make it possible to optimize the diagnosis of specific allergies to specific substances and improve the situation for patients.