Essential Oils and allergens
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oils from the plants, flowers, stems, roots, leaves or bark. Even rinds are used to extract the oils from the fruit. The oils are typically steam distilled or through cold pressing of the organic material. These oils are highly aromatic and do not have a fatty acid profile unlike the traditional plant or fruit oils such as coconut oil, almond oil, grape seed oil etc.
The essential oils are organic compounds with characteristic and pleasant odor profiles. They are used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, deodorants, detergents, fabric softeners and other products used in households.
There are 26 allergens identified and they are present in most essential oils or fragrance components. Not all essential oils contain allergens. One example of an essential oil without allergen is Vetivert essential oil or Vetiveria Zizanoides Root Oil.
Contact allergy to fragrance occurs when an individual has been exposed, on the skin, to a sufficient degree of fragrance contact allergens. Contact allergy is a life-long, specifically altered reactivity in the immune system. Skin conditions such as allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, immediate contact reactions (contact urticaria), and pigmented contact dermatitis may occur upon exposure to the allergens in question.
Eugenol, Citronellol are examples of allergens that produces allergic reactions.
The 26 allergens are:
- Amyl cinnamal
- Amylcinnamyl alcohol
- Anisyl alcohol
- Benzyl alcohol
- Benzyl benzoate
- Benzyl cinnamate
- Benzyl salicylate
- Cinnamyl alcohol
- Hexyl cinnamaldehyde
- Methyl heptine carbonate
More information on allergens in fragrance components can be found in Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety ("SCCS") Opinion on Fragrance allergens in cosmetic products paper published by European Commission of EU.
Disclosure of allergens in products
In the US the disclosure of allergens are not mandatory while in EU the labeling laws make it mandatory to list the allergens beyond certain thresholds for leave on products, rinse off products etc. Perfumes from large brands often disclose allergens in their ingredients listing and the allergens typically follow after "Fragrance" or Parfum.