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Why you should avoid skincare that contains fragrance

I don’t like to use the word “should” (telling others what to do), but I will in this case. Using fragrances in skincare is an unnecessary risk. About 2500 different fragrance ingredients are currently used in the composition of perfumes, and at least 100 of these are known contact allergens.  If skincare is a product that improves skin health, why take unnecessary risks? For those lucky enough to use perfume without trouble, this is what perfume is for. Not skincare.

Lazy skincare companies add fragrance and pack their products in fancy jars to give an impression of luxury. Never mind that there is no correlation between the benefits you can expect from those expensive products and their price. But you may end up with contact dermatitis, inflamed eyes, or itchy throat.

The most recent estimates show that 1.7-4.1% of the general population are sensitized to ingredients of the fragrance mix.

The most important question about skincare is, “What do you want it to do”? I don’t know of anything positive that fragrance could do in skincare. However, if you like a fragrance, you can always add a drop of your favorite perfume, one you have used for years, to the cream you plan to use.

Here are some of the fragrant chemicals known to be allergenic. This is a list from the European Union

Amyl cinnamal, Amylcinnamyl alcohol, Benzyl alcohol, Benzyl salicylate, Cinnamyl alcohol, Cinnamal, Citral, Coumarin, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxymethylpentyl cyclohexenecarboxaldehyde, Isoeugenol.

List B: Fragrance chemicals, which are less frequently reported and thus less documented as consumer allergens., Anisyl alcohol, Benzyl benzoate, Benzyl cinnamate, Citronellol, Farnesol, Hexyl cinnamaldehyde, Lilial, d-Limonene, Linalool, Methyl heptine carbonate, 3-Methyl-4-(2,6,6-trimethyl-2-cyclohexen-1-yl)-3-buten-2-one.

Two fragrances (natural mixtures): oak and tree moss.

Is there a reason to add these known allergens to a skincare product? If the chemical was shown to have benefits that outweigh the dangers and if there is no alternative chemical with similar benefits. Otherwise, we at Skin Actives stay away from fragrances used just for fragrance’s sake.


Johansen JD. Fragrance contact allergy: a clinical review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(11):789-98. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304110-00006. PMID: 14572300.