British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)


What are the aims of this patient information leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about your contact allergy. It tells you what a contact allergy is, what causes this allergy and what you can do about it.

What is contact allergy?

Dermatitis, also known as eczema, describes a type of inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a term used when this inflammation is caused by direct or indirect skin contact with something in your environment. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system causes allergy to a very specific chemical or substance that has been in contact with the skin.

What causes your specific allergy?

Your patch tests indicate that you have a contact allergy to limonene.

What is limonene?

Limonene smells of citrus and is found in many plant based natural oils including citrus oil (from orange, lemon and lime peel), lavender, geranium, bergamot, rosewood and tea tree oils and many other plant oils.

What are some products that contain limonene?

  • Almost all prestige perfumes
  • Personal care products including perfumes, aftershave lotions, bath products, shampoos and conditioners, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and chewing gum
  • Cleaning products such as liquid soaps, hand cleansers and detergents
  • Paint stripper and as a fragrant alternative to turpentine (turps)
  • Household paints
  • Commercial air fresheners
  • Deodorants.

It is important to look out for citrus oils and other natural oils and perfumes such as lavender (lavandula angustifolia) and geranium (pelargonium graveolens).

Remember, always check the label, these lists can never be complete and ingredients change.

How can I manage my allergy?

This means that you should avoid putting products containing limonene onto your skin in the future.

Limonene itself does not often cause reactions. You may find that you can tolerate some products containing limonene, if they are new or recently-opened, when the limonene has not yet been exposed to air. Exposure to air causes limonene to trigger an allergic reaction. For example, ‘older’ products containing limonene which have been in the bathroom for several months, especially if the product is sometimes uncapped, will be much more likely to cause an allergy.

Labelling of limonene is now compulsory in cosmetics and detergents if it is added in its pure state. It is also present in ‘natural’ cosmetics and some ‘fragrance-free’ cosmetics where it will not be labelled.

Self-care (what can I do?)

Always check the ingredient listing on the product, package or package insert as these lists can never be complete and ingredients change. This is particularly important for any products purchased outside the EU where some allergens may not be banned.

Created: 2015