How to Rosin a Violin Bow Without Rosin? Allergy-free Alternatives!

Author: Alexis Ronstadt | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

If your eyes water and your nose runs while playing your violin, there might be a few reasons for your discomfort. And yes, rosin allergy is certainly one of them.

The bad news is that there really isn’t any way to play without rosin. It’s tried and true for a reason, and using anything else can cause serious damage to your bow and violin.

The good news is that there are solutions to your problem, including at least one reputable hypoallergenic “rosin” on the market.

So, grab your lab coat as we dive into the science behind rosin, rosin allergy, and how to mitigate the less pleasant effects of one of the violin’s most important accessories.

What is Rosin and How Does It Work?

Very simply, rosin comes from resin, which is the sticky sap that comes out of pine and other coniferous trees. Just like sugar houses tap maple trees for sap to make syrup, many rosin makers tap pine trees for their sap as the basis for their products.

Once heated and purified, they then add other ingredients such as beeswax or essential oils as part of what are sometimes secret recipes for different results.

For example, lighter-colored, less sticky rosins tend to be best for violins and violas while dark-colored, stickier rosins perform best for cello and bass players.

Rosin’s sticky property is what makes it work. If you’ve ever tried to use a brand new or newly re-haired bow on your instrument, you know that it just glides (quite effortlessly, in fact) across the strings and barely produces any sound at all.

Rosin adheres to bow hair in the form of fine dust, causing the friction that is needed to create the vibration of your string. No friction, no vibration, no sound.

And it is this pesky rosin dust that gets all over your instrument and in your eyes and nose when you play.

How Much Rosin to Use

Before you make an appointment with your allergist, consider that you might simply be using too much rosin.

Even without an allergy, rosin dust can irritate your eyes, skin, and sinuses. Thankfully, you might be surprised at how little rosin you need to produce sound.

A very general rule of thumb is to run your bow across the rosin around 5 times for a moderate practice session. Some violinists only rosin their bow after 2 or 3 sessions.

If your bow is coated in white, you may have used too much. (Don’t remove it by touching the bow hair with your fingers, though! The natural oils on your fingers can damage the hair.) If your bow hair still looks yellow, you may not have used enough.

As you play more, you’ll begin to notice when your bow needs rosin. A bow that glides too much needs more rosin. If your eyes water, your nose runs, and you see a heavy coat of dust underneath your bridge after playing, you guessed it: you’ve used too much.

Rosin Allergy

In a truly tragic turn of events, some violinists have a rosin allergy or develop one over time. (Given that rosin comes from trees, we can’t be too surprised.)

The primary culprit in rosin allergy is the abietic acid that is found in pine and other conifers. It can cause your watery eyes, runny nose, and even skin rashes.

Fiddler Tom Quinn, a scientist and rosin allergy sufferer himself, developed a rosin alternative that contains no abietic acid. Because it is not made from tree sap at all, Clarity Rosin offers violinists all the adhesive qualities of its plant-based cousin with none of the natural irritants.

Furthermore, Mr. Quinn claims that it is not corrosive (ergo, no damage to your instrument where traditional rosin tends to build up) and it cannot “go bad” as quickly as natural rosin does.

Other rosin makers offer purer rosin, like Magic Rosin, which is reported to minimize symptoms, and brands like Kolstein offer low-dust rosin that may also help allergy sufferers.


Once you’ve fallen in love with the violin, it’s hard to give it up. Thankfully, neither rosin dust nor rosin allergy are reasons to do so!

Just be mindful of how much rosin you’re using or try out a different style of rosin to keep the sniffles at bay.

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About Alexis Ronstadt

Originally from Phoenix (AZ), Alexis has been performing since childhood. She picked up the violin at age 8 and has been attempting to make interesting sounds with it, sometimes even successfully, since then. Projects include instrumental rock band Larkspurs and an improvisational collaboration called The Bone Stitchers. Aside from adding effects to her pedalboard and discovering exciting new artists, few things delight her more than writing about all things music in support of the music community at large.

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