Tis’ the smells of the season…


I love this time of year, until I enter the stores.

No, I am not blogging about all of the senseless lines, people upset because they didn’t get the last of a great deal, or people forgetting the true meaning of the holidays and racing around, pushing people out of the way to get what they want and so on…  I am talking about the smell someone decided to make in a lab and decide the stronger they can make it, the better it will be, my enemy – artificial cinnamon scents.  

This time of year reeks havoc on me.  You can count on endless migraines, sore throats, and an itchy nose most anytime I go to the store.  If those symptoms were coming because of the closed in spaces with people sharing their germs from their colds, flu’s, etc, that would just make sense.  Unfortunately, that is not the case for me.

My sensitivity to the smell has gotten so bad, that it does become humorous at times – I seem like a magician or a “cinnamon” cadaver dog – I can scent it out from anywhere.  Recently, I was helping out at the front desk of my church and I felt the migraine come on, the itchy throat and I smelled the culprit, but I could not see it.  It was an unopened pack of cinnamon gum, tucked away in a drawer.  

You  maybe wondering, OK if all of these things happen with the smell of artificial cinnamon, you must be allergic to real cinnamon so what’s the deal?  Nope, real cinnamon – like from the stick or ground and in your spices cabinet – I do not get these adverse reactions from.  My nose may itch if I get it too close to my nose, but I can chow down a cinnamon bun like it’s no-ones business.  If it is a real cinnamon spice used, invite me over.  So no, it is this man made smell that is the culprit.

One time on a long flight, the 3 people next to me offered everyone around them a good, juicy piece of cinnamon gum.  I had the worst migraine ever because of that.  I have now learned to be polite and ask people if they wouldn’t mind chewing a different flavor, but once it comes out of it’s hiding, the damage is done already.  I feel terrible reminding people before I come to their homes if they don’t know me “hey, by the way, before I come over, can you cater to me and be sure you are not warming up your home with the warming smells of cinnamon?”  

With the scent still burned in my nose from a less than 5 minute walk around my local big-box craft store over 15 hours ago, I am still experiencing a sore throat, snifflely nose and the threat of a migraine coming on.  I decided once and for all last night, that I was going to research why this happens to me with synthetic cinnamon smells and what causes others to suffer from synthetic smells in general.  I made a simple post: “Does anyone else out there have a severe allergic reaction to the scent of artificial cinnamon? Discuss” and saw that I have comfort in numbers.  

Here’s the scary thing.  Not only are these sensitivities to these artificial smells awful because of the symptoms, but let’s take a closer look at what we are inhaling from the scent airborne – a double whammy for those of us with scent sensitives, but something to worry about for anyone breathing.

In an article written by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (Click here to read the full article) they list these sneaky ingredients and descriptions of them that not only make our senses cringe if it is our trigger smell, but make our insides cringe regardless:

Allergens and sensitizers: One in every 50 people may suffer immune system damage from fragrance and become sensitized, according to the EU’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products. Once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks. Product tests conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2010 revealed an average of 10 sensitizers in each fragrance tested.

Phthalates: This class of chemicals has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect development and fertility. Although some phthalates are being phased out of cosmetics under consumer pressure, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is still used in many products, including fragrance. In 2010, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found DEP in 12 of 17 fragrance products tested for our report, “Not So Sexy.” Product tests conducted by Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine in January 2007 found the phthalates DEP and DEHP (which is banned in Europe) in each of eight popular perfumes tested. DEP is a ubiquitous pollutant of the human body, found in 97 percent of Americans tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent epidemiological studies have associated DEP with a range of health problems, including sperm damage in men. Most fragrances don’t list phthalates on the label, but hide them under the term, “fragrance.”

Neurotoxins: As far back as 1986, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified fragrance ingredients as one of six categories of neurotoxins (chemicals that are toxic to the brain) that should be thoroughly investigated for impacts on human health. However, this research has not been demanded or funded. The FDA has taken no action on a petition submitted to the agency in 1999 requesting fragrance components to be listed on labels.

Synthetic musks:2009 study of Austrian college students found that those who used the most perfume and scented lotion also had the highest levels of synthetic musks, including Galaxolide and Tonalide, in their blood. Research by the Environmental Working Group has even found synthetic musks in the umbilical cord blood of newborn U.S. infants. Preliminary research suggests that musks may disrupt hormones. Both Galaxolide and Tonalide can bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors and have been shown to affect androgen and progesterone receptors. Tonalide has also been reported to increase the proliferation of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. These musks have an environmental impact – they have been found to be toxic to aquatic life in numerous studies and can accumulate in the food chain.

I can’t find where the idea for cinnamon as the “smell of the season” evolved from, but I can only question why that was chosen instead of one of the smells from the gifts from the 3 Magi.  I would love to enter a store filled with the smell of real frankincense essential oil, not factory made. Frankincense essential oil promotes calmness, serenity and relaxation.  To me, these are great emotions to help encourage when people are facing the stresses of shopping during the holidays.  Maybe stores should reconsider the smell of the season of cinnamon and use Frankincense – hey, they could totally use it for their advantage with an advertising campaign!

So there you have it.  Will I be able to escape the smell of artificial cinnamon this year better than others, nope.  Has my sensitivity allowed me to share another interesting health topic with you, yes – and for that I am thankful.

 Do you have scent sensitivities to artificial fragrances?  I would love for you to share by commenting below…



2 responses to “Tis’ the smells of the season…

  1. Great post! Very informative. Synthetic fragrances give me headaches as well. Right now I am loving the NYR Organics Vitality Aromatherapy Blend. It has ginger & clove. My house smells like I’ve been baking gingerbread all day, yum! And I like how it gives you an energy boost without being to jarring or making you hyper.

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