How to identify the source of a sensitivity?


Basenotes Dependent
Aug 4, 2014
I have had some sort of issue with some sweet fragrances. I don't know if it's vanillin, heliotropin, coumarin, or the like. I don't know perfume ingredients in general and especially what's in any particular bottle outside of what is printed on the box, if it is at all and I get one (vintage buys and such)

The ones that cause issues have vanilla or tonka in the note pyramid and have a very prominent sweetness. There are these (admittedly very cheap) perfumes that open very sweet and vanillic, but go very plastic to my nose, then cause a tactile sensation at the front of my nose and back of my throat. I'd describe it with teens like piercing, needling, ors scratching. Then I start sneezing with some, and end up with a headache around my forehead where it is kind of like I can feel my upper sinus region. These are scrubbers because of the discomfort, not because of the smell.

It's highly annoying. Especially because for each one that has caused this reaction, I've smelled/owned/worn a dozen others that also have tonka or vanilla in the pyramid and open just as sweet, if not moreso without any issue at all. And most of those are also cheapies.

I don't have any food allergies and no fragrance has ever caused a skin reaction. I also don't get this feeling unless there's that prominent sweetness going on. Should I order some ingredient samples from a supplier and try to identify the culprit, or is there another way? Would it even be helpful, since pyramids don't have to be at all representative of the actual chemicals used? I don't suppose I could necessarily tell what a bottle might do before smelling.

Ferragamo F Black to me is strongly plastic and causes some irritation. Arpege pour Home is slightly plastic and very scratchy almost immediately. Haramain Detour Noir cause sneezing fits within a couple minutes of spraying. I just got Lapidus Poker Face, and about ten minutes in I get the tactile sensation in the nose/throat and mild sinus headache. These are all pretty cheap and no great loss to me, but I've also got several fifteen dollar bottles that are very vanillic but I can wear all day.


Basenotes Dependent
Nov 13, 2020
There are many different molecules present in each perfume, there is tremendous ambiguity & redundancy with which particular odor qualities can be created with aromamolecules, and what is bothering you could very possibly be not a single aromamolecule, but rather an accord of multiple aromamolecules. In light of all this, IMO it will be an enormous undertaking with low likelihood of success to try to recreate from isolated aromamaterials the undesirable effects you are experiencing from some commercial perfumes as a means of understanding their cause(s). And even if any of this were successful, as you point out it wouldn't help you to avoid trying perfumes that cause such undesirable effects on the basis of "note pyramid" marketing copy.


Basenotes Dependent
Oct 12, 2016
Sometimes Cashmeran can have that effect on me.
That might be a possibility. But there are so many other things, statistically it is probably caused by something else.

It also might be possible that you have a sensitivity to aldehydes, but I think that is unlikely.

If it is an allergen, the most common allergens in perfume are eugenol/isoeugenol (smells sort of like clove), citronellol, geraniol, or certain muguet ACs (especially old fragrances that contain Lyral). Perhaps lavender/linalool.

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