Fragrance contact dermatitis: a worldwide multicenter investigation (Part I)

Am J Contact Dermat. 1996 Jun;7(2):77-83.


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of responses to selected fragrance materials in patients with suspect fragrance allergy and to evaluate risk factors and associations with such responses. The validity of using specific fragrance ingredients versus a mixture of fragrances was evaluated in terms of predicting allergy to different fragrance ingredients.

Methods: One hundred sixty-seven subjects were evaluated in seven centers worldwide with a fragrance mix, the eight ingredients in the fragrance mixture, six other well-known fragrance allergens, balsam of Peru, and 15 lesser studied fragrance materials.

Results: The age of the patients was 44.9 +/- 17.5 years (mean +/- SD). More than 85% were women. A relatively high proportion gave a past history of atopic disease. Facial eruptions (40%) and hand involvement (26.7%) were the most common topographic sites. All but 4 of the 35 fragrance materials produced a positive response in > 1%. A reaction to fragrance mix occurred in 47.3%. Seven of the 34 ingredients tested produced an allergic response in more than 10% of those tested. Men were more likely than women to exhibit a positive response to five fragrance ingredients. White persons were more likely to react to perfume mix (52.8% versus 25.3%) and certain ingredients in the mix than Asian persons. Allergy to benzyl salicylate was more common in Japan than in Europe or the United States.

Conclusion: The age at which patients with perfume allergy present for evaluation is similar to that of other contactants. Atopic individuals may be overrepresented in this group of patients. Face involvement is likely. White persons are more likely to react to fragrance mix, whereas in Asian patients benzyl salicylate was a more frequent allergen. Fragrance mix corrected with 85.6% of positive responses to fragrance ingredients. The addition of ylang ylang oil, narcissus oil, and sandalwood oil to fragrance mix would be expected to pick up 94.2% with positive responses to fragrance materials; adding balsam of Peru increases this to 96%.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests
  • Perfume / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution


  • Cosmetics
  • Perfume