Allergic reactions to fragrances are falling, says professor

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

Allergic reactions to fragrances and perfumes have been steadily decreasing over the past decade, according to evidence presented at an IFRA seminar last week.

At a one day conference held in Brussels on 31 March, Olivia Bordalo from the Centro Dematologia said allergic reactions to fragrances were falling thanks to improved composition while allergy cases for other household items seem to be on the increase.

Fragrance allergies fall

“The number of cases of contact dermatitis we see caused by allergies to fragrances and perfumes are decreasing,”​ she said. “This is because the composition of fragrances is changing and causing less of an allergic reaction while other household items seem to be causing more.”

IFRA spokesperson Stephen Weller told that the fall in allergic reactions to fragrances is noteworthy given the general increase in allergies in recent times. He said the IFRA standards have contributed to this fall by helping to guarantee the quality and safety of fragrances.

The aim of the conference in Brussels was to look into the pros and cons of modern fragrance, and certain speakers revealed some unexpected advantages.

How fragrance affects us

It is often said that fragrances can affect mood, but Professor Tim Jacob from Cardiff University went one step further presenting scientific evidence to prove this instinct.

Jacob said various scientific studies have shown that lemon fragrances can act as an anti-depressant, orange and wood oils decrease stress and so does lavender, which is also associated with happiness.

Jacob also suggested that certain odours may have medicinal benefits. He said wood and fruit odours help patients recover from illness “so bringing flowers and grapes to hospital really will help sick relatives to get better.”

He also cited one experiment in which mice were given a combination of naphthalene and interferon, increasing the presence of natural killer cells in their bloodstream and therefore making their immune system stronger.

Call for a fragrance academy

Another of the speakers at the conference went beyond pros and cons, and called for the creation of an academy to improve the industry’s image and nurture the association of fragrance creation with the high arts.

“There are 347 receptors in the nose and only three in our eyes,” ​said perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. “An academy of perfumery would encourage an understanding of what the industry does and improve our standing.”

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