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Review
. 1997 Feb;36(2):57-86.
doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1997.tb00418.x.

Adverse Reactions to Fragrances. A Clinical Review

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Review

Adverse Reactions to Fragrances. A Clinical Review

A C de Groot et al. Contact Dermatitis. .

Abstract

This article reviews side-effects of fragrance materials present in cosmetics with emphasis on clinical aspects: epidemiology, types of adverse reactions, clinical picture, diagnostic procedures, and the sensitizers. Considering the ubiquitous occurrence of fragrance materials, the risk of side-effects is small. In absolute numbers, however, fragrance allergy is common, affecting approximately 1% of the general population. Although a detailed profile of patients sensitized to fragrances needs to be elucidated, common features of contact allergy are: axillary dermatitis, dermatitis of the face (including the eyelids) and neck, well-circumscribed patches in areas of "dabbing-on" perfumes (wrists, behind the ears) and (aggravation of) hand eczema. Depending on the degree of sensitivity, the severity of dermatitis may range from mild to severe with dissemination and even erythroderma. Airborne or "connubial" contact dermatitis should always be suspected. Other less frequent adverse reactions to fragrances are photocontact dermatitis, immediate contact reactions and pigmentary changes. The fragrance mix, although very useful for the detection of sensitive patients, both causes false-positive and false-negative reactions, and detects only 70% of perfume-allergic patients. Therefore, future research should be directed at increasing the sensitivity and the specificity of the mix. Relevance is said to be established in 50-65% of positive reactions, but accurate criteria are needed. Suggestions are made for large-scale investigation of several fragrances on the basis of literature data and frequency of use in cosmetics. The literature on adverse reactions to balsam of Peru (an indicator for fragrance sensitivity), essential oils (which currently appear to be used more in aromatherapy than in perfumery) and on fragrances used as flavours and spices in foods and beverages is not discussed in detail, but pertinent side-effects data are tabulated and relevant literature is provided.

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