A perfume or fragrance allergy occurs when you have an allergic reaction after being exposed to a perfume containing an allergen.

Symptoms of a perfume allergy can be caused by:

  • Touching the perfume liquid or substance,
  • Spraying perfume,
  • Even inhale some of it.

Perfume Allergy Sensitivity


When you have an allergy, your body develops a specific immune system response to a chemical or ingredient in the perfume that causes the reaction.

This means that your body identifies the ingredient in the perfume as a foreign substance. It then unleashes an inflammatory reaction to help fight the substance, such as a bacterial or viral invader.

This immune system response usually develops over a few days and manifests as itching or rash. These symptoms can last for weeks before disappearing.


The much more common perfume sensitivity is a reaction to something that irritates your body. Sensitization does not necessarily trigger a body-wide immune system response.

With tenderness, you may have a rash or a mild headache that goes away after a few hours.

You may also sneeze a few times before your symptoms go away. This is because your body is reacting to get rid of the irritant to return to normal.

Types of substances

The substance you react to also makes a difference.

Most of the ingredients that cause a reaction in perfumes are not actually allergens. These are usually synthetic or chemical irritants that your body finds.

Allergens, on the other hand, are technically proteins to which the body responds with an inflammatory response that causes allergy symptoms.

In short, a true perfume allergy occurs when an organic protein in a perfume ingredient causes a reaction. The vast majority of reactions people tolerate are just perfume sensitivities.

Perfume Allergy Symptoms

The symptoms you experience are directly related to whether you have a perfume allergy or sensitivity to perfume.

Most allergic reactions usually give you an itchy red rash that disappears quickly after exposure to perfume. Some mild symptoms may persist for several weeks, even after a brief exposure.

A few mild symptoms of a perfume allergy include:

  • Itching, even where you don’t see any redness or irritation.
  • Itching around the eyes and throat
  • Scaly or dry skin
  • Crusty and pus-filled blisters,
  • Hives epidemic,
  • Patchy, reddish skin,
  • Burning sensation on your skin without visible irritation or sores
  • Being more sensitive to sunlight than normal.

Sensitivity symptoms

A few mild symptoms of perfume sensitivity include:

  • Sneezing if the perfume is sprayed on the face and near the respiratory tract (nose, mouth and throat),
  • Itchy, runny or stuffy nose,
  • Nasal mucus flowing down the back of the throat (nasal discharge),
  • Persistent cough,
  • Headache,

Other allergic reactions are much more severe and can happen quickly. Some of these symptoms may need immediate medical attention. However, they are extremely rare.

Here are some serious emergency symptoms to watch out for:

Swelling in your mouth, lips, or tongue: This type of swelling can be uncomfortable and make it difficult for you to breathe, eat, or speak. You may need medical treatment, such as corticosteroid injections, to quickly reduce swelling.

Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis occurs when your airways become inflamed and shut down because your body releases high amounts of a type of antibody called IgE. This can make breathing difficult or impossible. In such a case, seek emergency medical help.


Your treatment for a perfume allergy should be based on your symptoms and the substance that is causing the allergy.

Most importantly, it should include avoiding the substance that caused the symptom in the first place. Your doctor will prescribe your medications according to your condition, and may recommend an adrenaline auto-injector according to the severity of your allergy.