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Can you be allergic to Kisses?

Kissing is an enjoyable activity for most people, but some individuals experience allergic reactions from kissing. Medically known as “kissing allergy,” people with this condition develop irritated, swollen lips and mouth after kissing someone. While uncommon, kissing allergies do exist and can range from mild to severe.

What causes a kissing allergy?

A kissing allergy is caused by an allergic reaction to an ingredient or compound found in a kissing partner’s saliva, lip products, food residues, or other substances.

Some common triggers include:

  • Food allergens – People who are allergic to foods like peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, etc. may react if tiny amounts are present in their partner’s saliva.
  • Lip products – Ingredients in balms, glosses, and lipsticks such as fragrance, flavors, preservatives can cause irritation for some.
  • Oral hygiene products – Substances found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss may trigger a reaction.
  • Latex – Latex allergy from condoms or dental dams can cause contact dermatitis of the lips and mouth.
  • Medications – Drug residues like antibiotics, NSAIDs, chemotherapy drugs can be passed through saliva.
  • Pollutants or chemicals – Cigarette smoke, vaping, weed killer, and other environmental irritants may be problematic.

The specific substance causing someone’s kissing allergy needs to be identified through allergy testing and an elimination diet. Once the triggers are isolated, they can be avoided.

What are the symptoms of a kissing allergy?

Common symptoms of a kissing allergy include:

  • Itching, burning, or tingling lips
  • Red, inflamed, or swollen lips or mouth
  • Cracks, sores, or tiny blisters on the lips or mouth
  • Runny nose or watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or stomach pain

The onset of symptoms is usually rapid, within minutes or hours after kissing. In severe cases, throat swelling, wheezing, and anaphylaxis can occur and require emergency care.

Who is at risk for a kissing allergy?

While anyone can develop an allergy to a kissing partner, some groups at higher risk include:

  • People with food allergies
  • People with environmental allergies like hay fever
  • People with atopic dermatitis or eczema
  • People with known oral allergy syndrome from fruits, nuts, etc.
  • People with metal, fragrance, or preservative allergies

Having an existing allergy doesn’t guarantee someone will react to kissing. But those prone to allergies should be vigilant when new exposures occur.

Is a kissing allergy curable?

Currently there is no cure for kissing allergies. However, the symptoms are manageable by avoiding the substance(s) responsible. This may require:

  • Allergy testing to identify the exact allergens
  • Avoiding exposure to those allergens from the partner
  • Having the partner remove problematic foods, products from their diet/routine
  • Taking antihistamines prior to kissing as pre-medication
  • Using hypoallergenic products if certain cosmetics are the issue

In rare cases, the offending allergen can’t be pinpointed or avoided. This may severely limit kissing and intimacy. Desensitization immunotherapy is an emerging area of research for treatment.

When should someone see a doctor?

Consult a doctor or allergist if kissing causes:

  • Significant lip/mouth swelling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Symptoms that worsen with repeated kissing
  • Symptoms that persist despite allergen avoidance

Testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis and identify the substance triggering the allergy. This will guide effective treatment and prevention.

How common are kissing allergies?

Kissing allergies are considered rare, but growing recognition of their existence makes statistics unclear. A 2015 European study found kissing allergy prevalence was:

Cause Prevalence
Food related 14%
contact dermatitis 10%
idiopathic (unknown) 31%

Many people may never identify their kissing allergy if symptoms are mild. But lip reactions to kissing partners likely occur more often than we realize.

Famous cases of kissing allergies

Even the rich and famous aren’t immune to kissing allergies. Some well known cases include:

  • Scarlett Johansson – Allergic to several cosmetic ingredients, she reportedly couldn’t kiss her co-star Woody Harrelson due to his cologne.
  • Keith Urban – Developed a bizarre allergy to newspaper print after becoming famous. Kissing wife Nicole Kidman after she read the paper caused reactions.
  • Dita Von Teese – Her ex Marilyn Manson wore heavy face makeup that caused Von Teese lip swelling and rashes from kissing.

These celebrities highlight how even obscure allergens can cause kissing reactions in sensitized individuals!

Scarlett Johansson’s lipstick allergy

Scarlett Johansson suffers from contact dermatitis triggered by many common cosmetic ingredients like benzoates and silicones. She has to avoid most commercial lip and skin products.

She reportedly once said she couldn’t kiss her co-star Woody Harrelson while filming a movie due to his strong cologne. Fragrances are a common kissing allergy culprit.

Keith Urban’s newspaper allergy

Country singer Keith Urban developed an odd allergy to newspaper ink after becoming famous. If wife Nicole Kidman kissed him after reading the paper, he would get itchy lips and a rash.

Doctors believe Urban became sensitized to newspaper ink chemicals through increased environmental exposure over his career.

Dita Von Teese’s reaction to face makeup

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese was once married to rocker Marilyn Manson, who wears heavy goth-style face makeup and powers onstage. She experienced allergic lip swelling and rashes after kissing him while he had his makeup on.

The exact ingredient causing her reaction was unclear, but cosmetic pigments, latex, or glues could have been triggers.


Kissing allergies, while uncommon, do impact some individuals after lip contact with an allergen source. People prone to other allergies should be mindful of this possibility if they experience recurrent lip or mouth symptoms from a partner. Avoiding the trigger through testing and vigilance provides relief in most cases.