Fragrance has been around a very long time. Actually, fragrance dates back to as early as 3000 B.C. when it was used in both ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations. In 1921, “Coco” Chanel made fragrance popular with Chanel No. 5 as the premier designer perfume.
Dr. Amy and the Baby Pibu team want to share what you need to know about fragrance and about fragrance-free skin care products. To understand the importance of fragrance-free skin care products, you first have to understand what fragrance actually is and what problems it can cause.
90% of fragrances are made of synthetic compounds. Over 5000 different compounds are currently used to make up the fragrances we enjoy today. Fragrances can be found everywhere: perfumes, colognes, cosmetics, medications, foods, personal hygiene products, and cleaning supplies. It generally takes up to 50 compounds to compose a unique fragrance you may enjoy. Fragrance is hard to avoid. In 2007, Dermatitis designated fragrance as the allergen of the year. Fragrance remains as one of the top 5 allergens causing allergic contact dermatitis. Up to 10% of the North American population has an allergy or sensitization to fragrance. Women are more affected than men due to increased exposure from day-to-day personal hygiene products.
A skin rash due to fragrance sensitization is called allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). ACD caused by fragrance commonly affects women and presents as a chronic rash on the face, neck, axillae, hands, and behind the ears.
Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) to fragrance occurs when you become sensitized to a particular ingredient or ingredients making up the fragrance. Sensitization occurs after the body has repeated exposure to the particular ingredient. After random bad luck, the body can decide to become allergic to that ingredient. A good example of ACD is the poison ivy rash. Once the body becomes sensitized and allergic to the ingredient, it only takes minuscule amounts to incite the ACD. What can be confusing is that the ACD may not develop immediately but may take 2-5 days to develop after exposure.
In 1999, the European Union (EU) Scientific Committee identified 26 fragrance chemicals causing allergies in patients, and in 2003, the committee enforced that these ingredients be identified on cosmetic and detergent products. Since then, the list has grown over 80. The labeling must occur if the concentration of the designated ingredient exceeds 100 parts per million (ppm) for a rinse-off product and 10 ppm for a leave-on product. In 2014, EU’s Scientific Committee recommended a ban on ingredients, HICC and moss extracts atranol and choroatranolwhich. The moss extracts are both found in the iconic Chanel No. 5 and Dior’s Miss Dior perfumes. Chanel is currently considering reformulating their iconic perfume because of this.
A patch test is the test of choice that should be done to determine a fragrance allergy. Patch testing is commonly performed in a dermatologist’s office. Patch testing helps identify which substances may be causing a delayed-type allergic reaction in a patient. The allergic contact dermatitis is the result of the delayed-type allergic reaction. In a patch test, a series of diluted chemicals are placed on a patient’s back, and after 2 days, the chemicals are removed and an initial reading will be done to see if there is a local allergic skin reaction. A final reading is done 2 days after chemicals are removed. For fragrance, there is a fragrance mix that is used and it is composed of the chemicals causing the most allergic reactions.
Since repeated exposure to fragrance can increase the likelihood of developing an allergy to fragrance, it has been recommended that babies and children have limited exposure to heavily fragranced products. For your baby or toddler, consider fragrance-free skin care products. Avoid the repeated exposure of fragrance to your baby or toddler. Consider both unscented and fragrance-free skin care products or fragrance-free skin care products with a scent created by safe essential oils. Essential oils causing the least allergic reactions are lavender, rosemary, and thyme oils.
In case you are wondering, Baby Pibu™ products are fragrance free! The daily care products, Bathtime Wash and Baby Butter, have a light scent from lavender oil. Baby Pibu’s Hydrating Ointment is unscented and fragrance-free. As you look for fragrance-free skin care products, search for products that carry the meaningful Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association.