Did you know that in the US some employers and local authorities have begun to enforce no-perfume policies?

How real are the concerns around harmful molecules in fragrances?

The main issue is the growing number of people with a heightened sensitivity to perfume. We have known for some time now that many fragrance ingredients can cause both skin and respiratory reactions such as:

- watery eyes
- runny nose
- sneezing
- headaches
- dizziness
- impaired breathing
- skin irritations and rashes

These are allergy symptoms which can be much more than simply inconvenient, they can also become officially disabling. And, interestingly, the impact of our perfume-wearing culture on public health has already been cited as the new second-hand smoke issue, which does suggest that no-perfume policies might become increasingly more common.

But does this mean we can't enjoy a beautiful fragrance on our bodies anymore?

To be clear, there are two types of fragrant ingredients that concern us here:

1. Man made synthetic fragrances - largely petrochemical-based

2. Naturally occurring extracts - principally essential oils

Currently, legislation in NZ and the US does not require full disclosure on fragrance ingredients. And where chemists have analysed a sample of commercial perfumes, they have discovered completely synthetic blends or mixtures of both synthetic and natural fragrance, with known allergens mixed invisibly into the final scent.

wFor an allergic person the unknown cocktail is the big problem because it works the same as with food allergies - first you have to isolate the allergen in order to avoid it.

This is why the best way to use perfume with confidence is by creating your own - one pure essential oil extract at a time.

Pure essential oils are the origins of exclusive perfumery

If you have experienced an adverse reaction to a perfume in the past, or if you often find commercial perfumes overwhelming, chances are you already know you are fragrance sensitive.

But it doesn't mean you have to go without. Keep it simple… just one pure essential oil can imbue your body with alluring soft aroma, and you can safely build a repertoire of essential oils that you know you can use to move on to simple combinations for greater variety (check out my previous post on creating scents and cologne).

It's not so much about denying yourself the pleasure of beautiful scent but rather of rediscovering the power and subtle nuance of luxury natural perfume.

Just follow some simple ground rules

- Take a patch test before using an unknown essential oil
- Use only essential oils that you know to be absolutely pure

Follow the correct dilution and dosage from a qualified aromatherapist

- Always use only pure virgin carriers for skin blends

How can I find out more about the potential allergens in fragrance?

If you have suffered from symptoms that you think might be related to fragrance allergy, it may well be important to know more specifically what compounds are affecting you. You can talk about allergies with your doctor: you might already have an idea of which products you react to and can use this information to help identify the specific compounds you are allergic to.

There is quite a lot of background information out there that should convince you not to dismiss your discomforts as trivial.

In 1999 the European Commission of scientific committees published a list of known fragrance allergens (already updated once since and up for further review in 2015). It is now law in Europe for cosmetics and perfume labeling to disclose the presence of these substances in every product.

A US organisation Women's Voices has recently published a report called Secret Scents that presents an overview of statistics on fragrance related allergies and illnesses.

The US Environmental Working Group (EWG) ran an investigation into the full content of 17 top branded perfumes. Specific allergens found to be common to many of these main-brand perfumes have been identified and are listed against each product (names such as Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel included).


Medicinal-grade essential oils must be 100% pure. At Absolute Essential we use certified organic or wild grown (sustainable) plants to produce our oils and all extraction processes are strictly controlled to produce the best quality oil with a maximum purity and therapeutic value. See more at Absolute Essential