Rosin causes watery eyes and runny nose while playing?

May 31, 2007 at 05:26 AM · Has anyone else have a severe sinus reaction to bow rosin, including uncontrollably stingy, watery eyes and runny nose after the first 10 to 15 minutes of playing? I imagined that surely others must have this problem, and that the issue had likely been discussed at length, but I found nothing in the archives. Does noone else have this problem? Is there a rosin out there with minimal dust? I tried the SuperSensitive Clarity which was supposed to be hypoallergenic, but to no avail. EVERY time I play more than 10 to 15 minutes, my eyes sting and water and my nose runs like I just bit into ten hot peppers. Help!


Replies (24)

May 31, 2007 at 05:29 AM · Andrew, one of my students has this problem. They found hypo-allergenic rosin (is it Oliv?). It's rather clear-looking. It seems to help at least a little, though my little gal still avoids rosining her bow. Try "Search site" for "rosin allergy"

May 31, 2007 at 10:22 AM ·

that post will have everything you need :) i'd recommend supersensitive's Clarity rosin. Everyone seems really happy with that one.

May 31, 2007 at 06:10 PM · Hi there,

The other common low-dust rosin I've heard of is the Pirastro Tonica. Hopefully one of these options will help!

May 31, 2007 at 09:40 PM · If you're serious about violin playing go to an allergistdoctor and have him/her desensitize you to rosin.

Have you tried an anti allergy medication before playing?

May 31, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Many rosins are listed as non-allergenic. Even some of the better rosins have this as one of their features. For most sufferers, the more powdery the rosin, the bigger the problem. Check the packaging on rosins at your local shop. if they don't have a package, check the web for their information. For example, Pierre Guillaume rosin is non allergenic but since it's in a wood box, it's not listed, but it is in their information available to the dealer.

June 1, 2007 at 01:34 AM · Might you be allergic to the pine oil (turpentine) inherent in rosin? If so, even one speck of dust will cause a reaction. All rosins will leave a residue: they must, else the bow would not grab the strings. I have found hard rosins leave less dust. If you can't find a specific hypoallergetic rosin, you might want to try Pirastro Black: it is hard, very good for synthetic strings - and so far for me, creates the least dust. Hope this helps.

June 2, 2007 at 04:14 AM · Also, it probably goes without saying that you should use as little rosin as possible. I used to use about 20 times more than I needed. Most people use about 10 times too much. Now, it's about once or twice a week, just a few strokes, and I wipe the excess off the bow. I'm not allergic, but if I were, I suspect this might make some difference.

August 16, 2007 at 04:21 AM · I was forced to research this subject due to an allergy to spruce wood that would be fatal if I was exposed long term. Rosin is derived from spruce trees. My last serious hive attack and extreme blood pressure drop came from using Motrya Gold rosin. I now use Clarity synthetic with no adverse health problems and it is the only rosin that I can safely use. It is difficult to remove from violin varnish if allowed to rest on the violin. Abietic acid is the real culprit here and you cannot be desensitized.

August 26, 2007 at 08:57 PM · I had the exact same problem for about two years, and finally found a solution. While I believe it is really an allergy (I could practically feel the dust in my nose, and the problem was exacerbated whenever I applied rosin - every couple of days), the solution had to do with the focus of my eyes. I had been staring intently at the area where my bow hits the strings whenever I played. I started to play gazing off into the distance, and both the eye watering and nose running were minimized considerably.

August 27, 2007 at 05:43 AM · Your adverse reaction to rosin may be due to an allergy to something in rosin or it may be sensitivity to particles which act as irritants. I tried Clarity. I found that if I used an amount comparable to other rosins, it didn't have sufficient effect on the bow. I started using more of the Clarity, and I generated more tiny particles which irritated my mucous membranes. I wrote about this on, and I got an email from someone who works for the company that makes Clarity. He assured me that Clarity is hypoallergenic and gave me some references to scientific research papers about it. I tried to pursue the matter by looking through the technical literature on toxicity of rosin. I also looked for scientific papers which might tell whether violinists have more respiratory problems than the general population, but I didn't find any. BTW, I was a biochemist in a previous life.

August 27, 2007 at 06:07 AM · Here is a link to another discussion thread on re the health effects of rosin:

I highly recommend this thread for two reasons. First, I wrote a lot about the scientific issues. Second, someone noted that the FDA has approved the use of rosin in some foods. Emily Grossman, who is a cook in addition to being a violinist, pianist, teacher, and artist, said some very interesting things on preparing food with rosin.

August 27, 2007 at 06:01 PM · I'm allergic to pine and cedar pollen to the point that they can cause me to go into anaphylaxis. So, how I could've gone so long without making the connection between these allergies and a now month-long "cold" that hasn't resolved makes me feel downright stupid.

As I'm realizing only now, I'm also allergic to regular rosin, and it's the rosin dust I stir up while playing that's had me so under the weather lately. It's gotten so bad that my lymph nodes and thyroid glands have been swelling up from the prolonged reaction I've been experiencing.

I've ordered some Super Sensitive Clarity rosin, and I hope this will fix the problem. I'll let you know! :)

August 29, 2007 at 02:40 PM · Clarity rosin saved my soul, in a way, by allowing me to continue playing the violin. What I would like to know is, how can this substance be cleaned from the strings and instrument surface? It is a very stubborn compound!

August 29, 2007 at 08:47 PM · Rubbing alcohol with paper towels or cotton balls on your strings. I dare say even synthetic rosin is easily dissolved by alcohol.

Not sure about your violin's body, though. Depends on its finish. I use Fiddlebrite polish to remove stubborn rosin buildups from the belly of mine, but it has a nitrolac finish, which is impervious to just about everything...even rosin, it seems.

I doubt it would be good to use this stuff on oil or spirit varnishes. It has petroleum distillates in it, which will dissolve just about any other petroleum-based/natural oil finish. It's even been known to take off some types of plastic finishes on some of the cheaper student bows.

August 30, 2007 at 01:24 AM · Thanks for the input Larry, I've been using rubbing alcohol as you suggest for 36 years. Recently, to try and remove Clarity from some Eudoxa strings, rubbing alcohol didn't work so, I tried some 190 proof alcohol that I use in making varnish. I was surprised that it didn't have an immediate solvent

effect. I suppose I need to contact the maker of this synthetic rosin.

August 30, 2007 at 03:00 AM · That's insane. I wonder what they make that rosin with. I also wonder how carcinogenic it must be. Maybe gasoline will take it off. *chuckle* It sounds as tenacious as road tar, and gas is about the only thing that'll get that stuff off a car. ;) Best of luck to ya, and if you figure out what takes it off as easily as alcohol does regular rosin, lemme know, 'cause I'll have some in, hopefully, by the end of the week, and...well...I don't wanna have to spend two hours cleaning the stuff off my strings every time I finish playing. :)

September 1, 2007 at 05:39 PM · Larry, how did you become so seriously allergic to Pine and Cedar pollen? My problem developed after five years of producing $200,000 per year worth of Red Spruce

top and brace wood for C.F. Martin along with higher grade wood for serious instrument makers. Last night I suffered 9 hours in the Hell of a hive attack that came from rosin gassing from ceramic glaze in a kiln. It didn't get to the point of anaphylaxis thank God! I can't believe the FDA approved wood rosin for food. They fed it to some rats and they didn't die so, I guess they "think"

it must be really good for us. They took note that

the abietic acid in rosin was broken down in the liver but they didn't bother to analize the metabolites left over. I have been told by an allergist that the broken down compound is what causes anaphylaxis.

September 1, 2007 at 10:09 PM · Lee,

The same way I became allergic to any of the other things to which I'm allergic--I just did. ;)

My immune system is extremely over-active, and sometimes even the common cold can cause a massive attack of hives, culminating in my throat swelling and making it nearly impossible to breathe. The upside of such an immune system is that I kick illnesses MUCH more quickly than most people do (usually). The downside is that my symptoms are much more severe, and the whole hives/anaphylaxis issue kind of makes my colds, flus and such a lot more of a hassle than most people experience with them.

I've only become allergic to conifer pollens in the last few years, and each year, they get worse. All my allergies are triggered by the ingestion or inhalation of certain things. Pollen gets in my nose and lungs, as well as my mouth, so it basically gets, sooner or later, into my blood stream. This is how it can cause such a massive internal reaction.

I once developed a serious allergy to tomatoes, but it went away after about a year. Perhaps these new allergies will just go away, too. In the mean time, I just have to remind myself that, with my immune system, not even ebola could kill me. It wouldn't get a chance to. My reaction to it would take me out first. ;)

September 2, 2007 at 01:53 PM · I know Saddam was thinking about to use rosin as mass destruction lethal weapon.

September 2, 2007 at 05:31 PM · Antonello,

That made me laugh so hard I think I ruptured my spleen. :)

September 7, 2007 at 05:30 AM · Lee,

I finally got some Clarity rosin in, and you're right. It's some seriously tenacious/impervious stuff! I found two ways to get rid of it. One's a three-step process, and the other's a two-stepper. Oddly, though, the three-step process is a bit faster, though perhaps not as thorough, and it makes more of a mess while performing it.

The three-step way is to scratch as much of it off your strings as you can with a fingernail, then use alcohol to clean the little bit left off the strings, then wipe down the body really well with a dry cloth.

The other, slower yet less messy and more thorough way is to use some Fiddlebrite or similar petroleum-based instrument polish to remove the rosin from the strings, then use alcohol to remove the polish from the strings. Just be as careful with this polish as you are with alcohol, as it'll seriously mess up oil or spirit varnishes.

But, whichever way you go, you'll still end the process by using alcohol on the strings. Honestly, I don't mind having to take the extra step, because this rosin is already letting my throat, sinuses and the rest of my head clear up.

I just wish I'd bought some sooner. :)

March 21, 2008 at 01:28 AM · Sorry for this late message, but I just discovered this thread. I developed Clarity a few years ago and maybe I can answer some questions.

Rosin is indeed a strong allergen and one of the chemicals allergists include in any initial skin patch testing. It's also one of the leading causes of industrially induced asthma. I've received many letters from violinists who had given up the violin solely because of rosin allergy.

The prime allergen in rosin is abietic acid, which comprises about 80% of most rosins. All rosins contain abietic acid and all rosins are allergens. Some may be softer and dust less, but the dust is as strong an allergen as any other rosin dust. Claims by rosin manufactures that their product is "hypoallergenic" are largely false claims, but my understanding is that the FDA has no rule on making hypoallergenic claims so they get by with it.

Clarity is different. It is not based on rosin, but on a fully hydrogenated hydrocarbon resin. The same material is commonly used in surgical tape adhesives, baby diaper adhesives, and the sticky adhesives used to make feminine hygiene products. It has been tested over and over for two decades and is deemed to be hypoallergenic by any reasonable standard.

Rosin is hydrophilic, which means it absorbs water and its characteristics change with humidity. This solubility also makes it somewhat soluble in alcohol which is why violinists have traditionally used alcohol to clean rosin from strings and bow. HOWEVER, violin varnish is also soluble in alcohol and it can harm the finish.

Clarity is hydrophobic. It is totally insoluble in water and its characteristics do not change with humidity. It is also insoluble in alcohol as many of you have discovered. It's soluble in anything that cleans oil and grease. A good solvent for cleaning Clarity from strings and bows is mineral spirits, and mineral spirits are much safer for your instrument. Like alcohol, mineral spirits are flammable so be careful of flames. Mineral spirits are less volitle than alcohol so you'll have to give it more time to dry after you do your cleaning.

Personally, I've found the best way to clean strings, whether rosin or Clarity, is a microfiber cloth.

If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to email me at



March 21, 2008 at 03:30 AM · Greetings,

this sounds liek a really good product. Can anyone comment on the sound? (Might be a silent rosin;))



April 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM · THANK YOU MR. QUINN!! I have a gallon can of mineral

spirits that I thought was totally useless. Possibly this synthetic rosin could be developed a little further to reflect the tonal properties of traditional resin based violin "rosin". Clarity rosin was an absolute Godsend to me and I hope to shake your hand someday in person. Sincerely, Lee

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