Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 12:11 GMT


'Label perfumes that irritate'

Patch tests are used to find the root cause of allergies

Skin experts want the international perfume industry to tell consumers whether their products contain chemicals which can cause skin irritation.

Although the vast majority of the 2,000 ingredients used to make fragrances are completely harmless, around 24 commonly used substances are known allergens.

And these could cause a small proportion of eczema sufferers, or those with sensitive skin, to break out in a rash when they use the perfume.

However, at the moment there is no obligation for the manufacturers to label which substances are included in the mixture, so consumers do not know which perfumes could cause them problems.

[ image: Dr Susan Parker: 'companies should be more open']
Dr Susan Parker: 'companies should be more open'
Lucy Davis has to avoid perfumes because she cannot tell which will irritate her skin, and which will not.

"I tend not to use fragrances at all because I know my skin is sensitive - but I don't know what it is sensitive to."

Consultant dermatologist Dr Susan Parker said that it was time for the companies to be more open.

She said: "There are 24 ingredients that the EEC are currently looking at as being the main sensitizers, and if those were labelled, that's not an unreasonable request."

New labelling arrangements

The trade association for the industry, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, said it was trying to arrange clearer labelling with the EC.

A spokesman said: "Consumers who are allergic to perfume should avoid products which contain parfum. The industry is currently discussing ways in which labelling of specific fragrance ingredients could be agreed and introduced."

More than 800 perfumes have been launched in the last decade, and fragrance producers are notoriously secretive about the formulas used to produce each distinctive smell.

If the fragrances were labelled properly, consumers could then take allergic 'patch tests' to work out which ingredients were not tolerated.

Small amounts of a number of different ingredients are spread on different small areas of skin, and examined later for any signs of allergic response, such as reddening, or rash.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

02 Nov 99 | Health
'Ante-natal allergies passed on to babies'

06 Oct 99 | Health
Iceland puts freeze on additives

07 Sep 99 | Health
Living with allergies

Internet Links

National Eczema Society

Asthma and Allergy Information and Research

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99