Understanding Fragrance Allergens and Reading Labels (Cracking the Fragrance Code Part 2)

Now Trending:
I'm wendy!

I'm a environmental toxins lawyer turned clean living coach who is obsessed with morning sunshine, Ningxia Red and all things holistic living (but for real life).  Catch me over on Insta and come say hi.


A few of my favorite things!

The cleanest, purest, most sustainable essential oils on earth. Use Code SHAREYL to Save 10%.

Whether it's blue light blocking glasses, red lights or my infrared sauna blanket, Bon Charge is my go-to. Use Code WENDYKATHRYN to Save 15%.

My must have all-natural skincare & deodorant that actually works. Use Code WENDYKATHRYN to Save 10%.

My family's favorite clean protein, electrolytes & Pre/Pro/Post Biotic. Use Code WENDYKATHRYN to Save 10%.




Are you a woman who loves to smell good?! I mean, I hope so. We should all strive to smell good, right? But that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our health to achieve that goal.

Maybe you’ve heard that fragrance is bad for you and can contribute to infertility, thyroid disorders, and hormone issues, but you weren’t quite sure why or how to find clean fragrance. Maybe you have taken the time to research clean products for your family only to find out later it wasn’t as clean as you thought it was.

Today is part 2 of our fragrance series. In last week’s episode, we talked about the difference between a fragrance made with safe synthetic ingredients versus one made from 100% botanical plant-based ingredients like essential oils.

In this episode, I’m going to share what you need to know about fragrance allergens. There have been a lot of changes recently in labeling laws, and you may have already noticed a fragrance allergy disclosure popping up on ingredient labels where they didn’t used to be. I’ll explain what fragrance allergies are, whether or not you should be concerned about them, and why they’ve started popping up on product labels.

What is a Fragrance Allergy?

A fragrance allergen is an ingredient (whether isolated, synthetic, or a chemical constituent of a plant extract or essential oil) that is linked to allergic reactions. That could include:

  • Skin dermatitis

  • Eczema

  • Itchy scalp

In 2009, the EU came out with a new regulation that listed 26 known fragrance allergens and required cosmetics sold in the EU list them on the label of the product being sold. All 26 of the ingredients can be created synthetically, but many of them are also a single constituent of certain essential oils. That one compound can be one of 100 different compounds that are found in a single essential oil.

The allergen disclosure requirement doesn’t differentiate between synthetic ingredients and those found in essential oils. That means that a completely toxin free product that uses essential oils would be required to label these fragrance allergens.

While the European Union has required this disclosure since 2010, the United States has never had those requirements. That all changed in 2020 when California passed its own version of this law. Now, you cannot sell products in California unless the label clearly discloses any of the 26 fragrance allergens used in the product.

….. they also went a step further and also require companies also start telling the state if they are using other reproductive toxins in their fragrance.. but that is a discussion for part 3).

The United States followed California and passed the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation in 2022 and by the end of 2024, companies across the US will be required to label their fragrance allergies as well.

Now, you might be someone who is not affected at all by fragrance allergens and this isn’t an issue for you. But, the EU estimates that between 1-9% of the population may have sensitivities to those 26 ingredients. If you are someone who suffers from eczema and skin dermatitis, you might want to avoid fragrance allergens and see if it helps.

My Story With Fragrances and Sensitive Skin

When my daughter was born, she had eczema from head to toe. It was awful. We had a pediatrician tell us to get rid of anything that has a synthetic fragrance in it. When we switched to fragrance-free products, her eczema completely disappeared. Then, six weeks later, I realized I hadn’t had a single migraine, and I had suffered migraines my entire life! We are both very obviously sensitive to something that is in synthetic fragrance.

We’re not sure which individual constituent causes the reactions, but essential oils don’t bother either one of us at all. I use all of them all the time. So that begs the question: When these ingredients are isolated, does it matter if it comes from an essential oil? There could be over 100 other constituents in each essential oil. Does it buffer the response? Is it less allergenic? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer.

But, some really cool studies are happening to try and figure out whether the source of the allergen matters.

All I know is when I use synthetic fragrances, I get a migraine. When I use essential oils, I don’t. Skin responses to certain ingredients are so individual. You have to figure out what it is and how your body responds to it.

How to Read Product Labels for Fragrances

You’re going to start seeing the labels that say ‘fragrance allergens’ and then a list of what looks like a list of synthetic chemical names like Citral and Liminone. Here is how you know if it’s synthetically added or if it’s a constituent of an essential oil.

If an essential oil is listed as an ingredient (it might be the Latin name) in the product you’re looking at, then in the fragrance disclosure section, they’ll list the constituents of that essential oil. If those constituents are only from that essential oil, unless you have an allergy to those oils, you’re fine. There shouldn’t be any other added synthetic ingredients to that product or the word “fragrance” listed. That’s how you know it comes from an essential oil. On the other hand, if there are no essential oils listed on the ingredient label, but there are fragrance allergen disclosure ingredients, they are synthetically added allergens.

Although the EU and California spearheaded this change, you’re going to start seeing it everywhere. All companies are going to have to do this by the end of 2024 due the passage of the Modernization of Cosmetics Act. Recently, the EU announced that they have identified 56 new fragrance allergens to their list. Their scientific committee on consumer safety believes these 56 other ingredients are also possible fragrance allergens. So the total is now 80, and companies selling products in the EU have three years to comply with this requirement.

Will the U.S. adopt those full 80, or will they wait 25 years like they did for the first 26 ingredients? I’ve got a good bet that I know the answer to that one.

I hope this helped you understand the new allergen labeling requirement.

Related Episodes:

Episode 2: The Fragrance Dilemma: How an Entire Industry Hijacked Your Hormones

Episode 44: Cracking the Fragrance Code, Part 1: Safe Synthetics in Perfume vs. Natural Scents

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment


When you click my links, I get an affiliate commission and you get a discount— which I love because that helps me keep doing what I am doing and it saves you money. It’s a win-win.