Allergic to Rosin?

June 4, 2004 at 03:12 PM · I'm beginning to wonder if I'm allergic to rosin. It's not a skin allergy, just a rhinitus thing.

I live in Arizona so it's possible that I'm not *allergic* to rosin, but it's in fact just one more stress on my already stressed sinuses.

I have sensitive sinuses (being in the company of smokers for an evening can bring on an infection) and get sinus infections rather easily, unfortunately. It doesn't help that I snore when I sleep (no point in denying it) and that dries my sinuses out and makes me prone to infections.

I've tried wearing one of those dust masks when I play (even tried 'adjusting' the mask with scissors) but that was a total failure. When I brought the violin up to play, the mask jammed up into my glasses.

My husband caught me practicing with little bits of toilet paper shoved in my nose - *that* was embarrassing.

Has anyone else dealt with this problem? How'd you solve it? I wonder if there is such a thing as nose plug sized sinus filters?

Snorting saline solution (they sell it down here to keep sinuses moist) every 15 minutes or so helps a little, but I must say the toilet paper nose plugs worked the best so far. Not plannin on doing that for a lesson though!


Replies (27)

June 4, 2004 at 03:29 PM · Hi Liz

I don't have an allergy to rosin, but I do know that there are some hypoallergenic rosins on the market that are apparently relatively dust free, but are more expensive than the normal stuff. Some say that they also produce a clearer sound. I haven't tried any yet, so I can't advise if this is true!

There are a couple you can order via the internet as follows:

Kostein Anti-Allergy rosin - costs £9.35 - visit

Clarity Hypoallergenic rosin - costs £8.85 - visit

I think these are both UK companies, so you may want to do a search on the internet for a closer retailer to avoid shipping costs etc. If you do a search for 'hypoallergenic rosin', you should get quite a few come up.

Good luck with the search - hope this helps, Nancy.

June 4, 2004 at 05:04 PM · It is definitely a possibility. That's why I use Motrya Gold Rosin (which is hypoallergenic, there is no rosiny or piney odor), and a touch of Jade Rosin (there is no dust and no odor) when I want extra grip.

November 16, 2004 at 01:44 AM · Well that sounds terrible, There is alot of bad allergys out there, I know but I never heard of that.

I do have a solution to your problem, its a machine that cleans the air of any allergy things, and odors, mold, and many other things. somebody gave us one and we loved it!! just email me if you want one(just a thought).

November 16, 2004 at 02:26 AM · i have had the same problem before, and i would recommend the Clarity Hypoallergenic Rosin. It produces hardly any powder and it pulls a really really great sound... makes my violin sound awesome. hope this helps,


November 16, 2004 at 02:40 AM · We've been using L'Opera Jade because of sensitivity to rosin dust. Hope this helps.

November 16, 2004 at 05:09 AM · I wasn't even aware that rosin had a smell until my girlfriend told me that the only thing she remembered from her violin lessons at age 7 was the smell of rosin. What does it smell like? Does it very with the darkness of the rosin or anything like that?

November 16, 2004 at 03:15 PM · Rosin smells a bit like a pine tree (from which it comes).

Rosin is indeed a strong allergen and people can become sensitized to it after repeated exposure. Once sensitized, it's a life-long problem.

There is only one hypoallergenic bow rosin on the market called "Clarity" from the Supersensitive Musical String Company.

All the other rosins are allergenic despite their claims, but some may cause less of a problem if they are softer and don't dust as much.

The color of rosin has nothing to do with allergenic effects or even performance. Rosin's color is an artifact of processing. The better the processing, the lighter the color.

Some bow rosin companies will make a couple grades of rosin, one softer than the other, and they'll dye one dark to distinguish it for marketing purposes.

- Tom

November 16, 2004 at 11:42 PM · Greetings,

Tom. Interesting post. Just curious though. You say `the lighter the rosin the better the processing.` I wonder whta you menat by that exactly? There are some veyr good rosins which are dark- I mena really top- Guillaume for example. In what sense is this not processed so well as say Tonica which is a nice light rosin?



November 17, 2004 at 12:04 AM · Has anyone ever had a new violin that smelled machine-shop oily? Two instruments from the same shop and type, and only one had it. Later someone discovered a repaired crack - can the material used for repairing cracks give up that smell? (And should a luthier, when selling a new instrument with a repaired crack, tell the customer even if it doesn't interfere with the instrument's function?) I don't know if it made me feel ill but I did avoid breathing in that smell when it was very strong in the beginning. I love the smell of rosin, by the way.

November 19, 2004 at 01:32 AM · Stephen,

Rosin is derived from distilling the sap from a certain species of pine tree. The most volitile components (terpenes, etc.) boil off and the residue that remains is rosin. The more time and heat, the more the rosin oxidizes and the darker it gets.

Certain impurities, especially iron, cause the rosin to rapidly darken and there are methods used to minimize the effects of these metals.

Generally anything in the process that extends time, temperature, or exposure to impurities will cause it to darken. The price of bulk rosin is almost totally determined by its color with lighter being more expensive.

Violin bow rosin may be further modified with additives such as oils, waxes, gold flecks, and other proprietary ingredients, all of which could affect color.

There's a lot of hype in bow rosin and I wouldn't put much stake in claims based on color, gold fillers, etc. The hype on Tartini rosin is especially amusing. They claim they found a few hundred year old sample of bow rosin, had it analyized and matched is secret composition. The reality is that it is impossible for most most sophisticated analytical laboratories in the world to separate the components of these kinds of mixtures and identify them in any meaningful way. Also, the rosin would have oxidized so much over the years that its current state would not be its original state.

- Tom

July 20, 2007 at 08:30 PM · Hello every one,

I'm new here and this thread caught my eye as I am allergic to rosin. I find playing my Violin dries out my throat and makes me chough, etc...

I've read in the other discussion (about rosin having a lasting efect on your heath) that you've found that the synthetic kinds produce much less dust.

The only problem is that I think some of these have a petroleum base and I have even greater allergies to petroleum!!! "AAAHHH!!!"

I was wonding if any of you knew about a natural rosin that produces less/no dust...Just thought I'd ask on here before I start a massave, time-consuming hunt for something that might not even exsist!

If you know of anything that'll help, I'd be very greatfull!



July 20, 2007 at 09:36 PM · Hi,I've worked with a number of kids who seemed to be allergic to rosin. They tended to have other allergies (pollen,trees,dust) or asthma. Several things helped, and even the most severely-asthmatic kid was able to continue playing. 1) Hypo-allergenic rosin 2) Sticky (usually dark) rosin rather than dusty (usually light). 3)Rosining modestly even if more frequently- a caveat, though my opinion, that many people use too much rosin 4) Cleaning the strings, around the bridge and the bow stick of rosin every day. 5) Washing hands after rosining or cleaning the instrument. Luck! Sue

July 21, 2007 at 02:58 AM · I used to think the inevitable tears and accompanying nasal/sinus effects I experienced always when playing the violin was just a sign of frustration. I ended up setting aside playing altogether for a number of years as a result. Occasionally I would pick it up, but always with the same result. No so long ago it occurred to me that I may have a rosin allergy.

I tried the Clarity artificial rosin, recommended by many, but I could never find the balance between applying enough to pull an adequate grip and not so much as to build up on hair/strings. That is just my experience, of which many variables surely contributed, perhaps not least of which may be my own ineptitude. In any case, all symptoms were eliminated, which proved to me that I was in fact dealing with an allergy issue and that gave me enough hope to continue experimenting.

**I discovered there are multiple additives/impurities in a given rosin to which one may have an allergy in addition to the rosin itself. Some of the "hypo-allergenic" brands simply reduce additives/impurities, in addition to keeping the dust to a minimum, but this might be enough for some. It is worth experimenting with authentic rosins if Clarity doesn't do it for you. It might be a matter of finding a compromise between a level of allergy symptoms you are willing to tolerate and a rosin that does what you like it to do. This is where I ended up (AB dark by the way).

**For experimentation to be useful it is advisable to clean the strings and bow hair (see other threads on this) before applying a new type, and the repeated process is likely not advisable for a nice bow.

**I would also recommend, when you have your bow rehaired, requesting powdered rosin not be applied.

At least I eventually discovered that the sense of frustration I experienced while playing was more a product of an allergy, and not (always) the instrument itself. With that settled I am enjoying playing again. Good luck!

July 23, 2007 at 01:57 AM · You can also be allergic to certain brands. It happened to me. I have played the violin for many years and never had such a problem. Then I started to get a runny nose, every time I played, about three years ago. I had just bought a couple of brands that I had never used before, so I put them away and went back to my old reliable Hill Dark, Hidersine Light and AB Light. Problem solved.

Months later, as an experiment, I pulled one of the suspect brands out, used it liberally on a newly rehaired bow with no rosin on it and voila! the runny nose was back with a vengeance. Now this cake has gone to the great violin dealer in the sky. :-)

August 20, 2014 at 05:50 PM · I have some questions:

Does anyone have a contact dermatitis to Clarity Rosin?

I am currently undergoing patch testing to see if I am allergic to Bernadel and the hypoallergenic brand (Clarity). Today, both patches are swelling bright red now that they are exposed to light and air. (That would explain the bright red sore on my left cheek).

Are there other options? Or do I need to find another profession?

Tom, what is clarity made from? Have you found that people can also have a contact dermatitis from your product?

August 20, 2014 at 05:57 PM · As a side note, I used to use Hill Dark, but stopped when the cake broke. When I began using Bernadel, I began getting a red spot on my left cheek that is now a constant wound 4 years later. :( I began using Clarity a few months ago. The eczema on my hand disappeared and the rash is less severe, but still there. My allergist is going to be excited to see the spots tomorrow. I'm very sad that it looks as though I'm allergic to clarity, too.

August 21, 2014 at 01:35 AM · Theresa, Clarity is a "hydrogenated polydicyclopentadiene" resin and very inert. It has been used as a major component of adhesives used for baby diapers and feminine hygiene products for over thirty years and it has been extensively tested for skin contact. If you google it, you'll find references to its use as a cosmetics ingredient and depilatory.

Although I've not heard from anyone with a sensitivity to Clarity I'm sure people can be allergic to anything so it's good you're being tested. Good luck.

BTW, some people find the violin grade of Clarity to be too hard. You might want to look at the cello grade it you like more grab.


September 3, 2014 at 07:24 PM · Thanks Tom. The cello rosin pulls a dreadful tone from my low string. It's too sticky. I do find it too powdery (when using the violin rosin), but the cello rosin doesn't get good tone. I just think I need to learn to use that particular rosin. I have been curious if a low dust rosin would work better for me. I have heard some people have luck with Jade rosin. I have no idea. I am just tired of having a hole in my face. Since treating it like an allergy, it is getting better, but not gone.

September 4, 2014 at 03:06 AM · Tom,

Perhaps you should reveal who you are in relation to Clarity rosin.

September 4, 2014 at 06:44 PM · "Perhaps you should reveal who you are in relation to Clarity rosin"

I'm the inventor, but it's sold by Supersensitive. Since the poster asked me a specific question about its composition I assumed she at least knew that. I personally don't care what rosin people buy, but I do try to be helpful when people ask about allergenic issues or have questions about rosin in general.

You'll never find a post where I said buy this, not that, because I don't care. What I do care about is dispelling all the misinformation and myth that surrounds rosin.

September 4, 2014 at 06:54 PM · I am so thankful that Mr. Quinn has given info about this product here.

This is what my face looks like over the last year dealing with this suspected rosin allergy. Last year I switched to melos rosin. Shortly after that, this rash appeared. I switched back to Bernadel, but the rash persists. After going to a teacher training last summer, I had the suggestion from a friend to try Clarity. I think it is different than the rosins I have used previously, but I know I can get used to the feel of it. Since switching to Clarity, the skin condition burns less, and is actually healing, I think, SLOWLY. I still feel irritation after a day of playing. I teach for about 6-7 hours a day.

Pics of my skin:

I never go without playing. I am appreciative that there are hypoallergenic products on the market.

November 4, 2014 at 11:22 PM · Tom,

My son is a student violinist, in just five months he was promoted to beginner Orchestra, has been playing to tango.

This month he developed an allergy using a white resin, gets red eyes and blazing seems to be a type of rhinitis.

Researching alternative resin, found that Clarity is hypoallergeni hydrocarbon.

I have two questions:

First. hydrocarbon is benzene?

Second. Clarity one loose dust that can be inhaled by my son?

I wonder what the cancer risk (if) Clarity about being soaked up by example the lung.

Searching the internet about the title hydrocarbon found this link, I'm not good at chemistry or medicine to know if it's the same product.

I would like to know from you is Clarity is confiave to indicate to my 9 year old son?

I'd like technical guidance on the risks of exposure to Clarity, my fear is inhalation risk .

November 5, 2014 at 05:43 AM · Tom???

You were eager to answer the other questions...

November 5, 2014 at 08:46 AM · Carmo: please don't panic. A hydrocarbon is a chemical compound that is composed entirely of carbon and hydrogen. So the propane that used to fire a barbecue is a hydrocarbon - and so is benzene. Thus, benzene is a hydrocarbon but many hydrocarbons are not dangerous. [Its like all cats have legs but not all legs are on cats!]

Rosin, like coffee, tea and carrots if you like, is one of those things that's been tested (in the normal course of using them) on humans that there is little fear that they are generally bad. I know of no scientific report that consistently links rosin to a known disorder. That's not to say an individual can not react to it - but I think you should consider allergy but not toxicity (the first is a reaction of the individuals unique immune system, whereas the second is indicates a poison - that is something that will harm everyone).

Perhaps someone else can comment on the allergic response to rosin in general. Whether Clarity rosin has anything toxic in it I have no idea but if its pure rosin it should not.

I hope that's at least a bit helpful (I have to get some sleep!).

November 5, 2014 at 01:31 PM · I use the hypoallergenic rosin offered by Shar and it has worked wonderfully. I would get allergies when I used to play, but when I switched over to the hypoallergenic stuff it stopped. The no dust is really nice.

November 5, 2014 at 07:34 PM · "I have two questions:

First. hydrocarbon is benzene?"

Benzene, rosin, and Clarity are all hydrocarbons. Benzene is a known carcinogen and generally banned from most things. Rosin is a complex mixture of many chemicals, some of which may be toxic in high concentrations, but in the proportions found in rosin the total mixture of chemicals is "generally considered safe", however, rosin is a strong allergen. Clarity is more of a pure chemical, a totally hydrogenated hydrocarbon polymer, that has been widely tested and used in components of baby diapers and medical devices for thirty years. It is considered hypoallergenic.

"Second. Clarity one loose dust that can be inhaled by my son?"

Clarity will produce some dust as will all bow resins.

"I wonder what the cancer risk (if) Clarity about being soaked up by example the lung."

The components of Clarity have not been shown to be carcinogenic.

"Searching the internet about the title hydrocarbon found this link, I'm not good at chemistry or medicine to know if it's the same product."

These links point to chemicals not in Clarity. Clarity is based on this:,d.aWw

"I would like to know from you is Clarity is confiave to indicate to my 9 year old son? I'd like technical guidance on the risks of exposure to Clarity, my fear is inhalation risk ."

I can't answer this other than to say I would not hesitate to let my child use Clarity.

BTW, Clarity is a relatively hard bow resin. Clarity Cello is softer with more grab if that is what you prefer.


November 17, 2014 at 04:14 AM · staff

Thank you for the tips, I'll try the clarity in my son's violin.

He loves to play, I can not deny him this pleasure and vocation.

I Post will here after use of clarity

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

2023 Authenticate LA: Los Angeles Violin Shop
2023 Authenticate LA Shopping Guide Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine