The frequency of fragrance allergy in patch-tested patients increases with their age

Br J Dermatol. 2003 Nov;149(5):986-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2003.05491.x.


Background: The most likely age of sensitization to fragrance chemicals is unknown.

Objectives: To investigate the frequency of allergy to the 8% fragrance mix (FM) in each decade of life in patients undergoing patch testing for the investigation of skin symptoms.

Methods: Patients (n = 23 846; 14 104 female and 9742 male) underwent patch testing to a standard series between 1 January 1984 and 31 December 1998. All data were recorded on a computerized database.

Results: We found that 8.4% of females and 6.4% of males were allergic to the FM. The frequency of fragrance allergy was low in the first two decades of life (2.5-3.4%). It gradually increased in females after the age of 20 years to peak in the 60s at 14.4% of those tested, with a decline to 11.6% in the 80s. The prevalence in males rose more slowly and peaked at 13.7% in the 70s, declining to 10.8% in the 80s. The youngest patients sensitized were aged 2 years.

Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that allergy to fragrance results from a combination of repeated environmental exposure and age-related susceptibility factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • London / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests
  • Perfume / adverse effects*
  • Sex Factors


  • Perfume