A report from Dr. Tatyana Hamilton, MD, PhD
from the Department of Dermatology and
Skin Science, University of British Columbia, Canada, says that on an
average, a woman usually uses over 12 cosmetic products per day with an
estimate of over 168 specific constituents while a man uses over 6 personal
care products comprising 85 similar components. Fragrances and
preservatives used in skin care products have been implicated in the majority
of cases of contact dermatitis followed by hair care and nail cosmetics.
Allergic contact dermatitis is an
inflammatory response of the skin which when exposed to allergens or irritants
results in an intensely itchy red rash seen over the exposed areas, swelling,
and/or other inflammatory changes. Unlike the rash from urticaria, that disappears within minutes or after a few hours after exposure,
contact dermatitis usually takes longer to heal, and can take few days to a few
weeks after removal of the offending irritant.
In the review
published in the Skin Therapy Letter,
the authors suggest that Allergic
Contact Dermatitis of the skin is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to
fragrances or preservatives used in certain cosmetic products.
innumerable cosmetic goods available today in the market which not only
includes make-up products but also personal care products such as creams,
lotions, perfumes, sunscreens, hair care and nail care products. Each of these
products comprise a number of unique individual ingredients and these can range
from fragrances, preservatives,
antioxidants, humectants, emollients, vehicles, emulsifiers, hair dyes,
ultraviolet absorbers, acrylates, nail
polish components, and others.
The inclusion of these can proportionately
increase our risk of our skin's sensitivity leading to adverse reactions. Epidemiologically,
there are more cases of contact dermatitis than listed as most people do not
visit the doctor for mild adverse reactions.
Besides commonly known allergic substances
such as nickel sulfate, neomycin, Balsam of Peru, fragrance mix, thimerosal,
gold sodium thiosulfate, quaternium-15, formaldehyde, bacitracin, cobalt
chloride and benzalkonium chloride, there are numerous incriminating
preservatives including formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP) that are
capable of causing contact dermatitis.
research studies which involved 30,207 patients patch tested with an impression
for contact dermatitis showed that around 10 percent of definite reactions were
due to cosmetic allergens.
Ascreening study by the North
American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) involving "patch testing" and the
European analysis of 5911 cosmetic-allergic patients for allergic products
indicate that most allergens are liable to be missed unless specifically
screened for. This is becoming increasingly more challenging with the
discovery of newly emerging allergens being used in multiple cosmetic products.
You know you are
sensitive to formaldehyde if you are allergic to certain foods such as coffee,
cod fish, caviar, smoked ham, shiitake mushrooms, maple syrup, and aspartame to
name a few.
Over 3000 fragrances are increasingly being
used in the beauty industry representing the second most obvious group of
cosmetic allergens. The tools used
to evaluate for fragrance allergy include a blend of fragrances such as
fragrance mix I (FMI) comprising amyl cinnamic and cinnamic alcohol, eugenol,
cinnamic aldehyde, hydroxycitronellal, geraniol, isoeugenol, oak moss absolute
and sorbitan sesquioleate, while fragrance mix II (FMII) incorporates
hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, citral, farnesol, coumarin,
citronellol and hexyl cinnamal.
Balsam of Peru (BOP) is an aromatic fluid
obtained from the bark of the tree Myroxylon balsamum native of El Salvador that
is also used in the cosmetic industry and is a complex mixture of many unknown
The "Fair Packaging and Labeling Act"
prevents the listing of many unique fragrances as they are kept under wraps as
trade secrets. It is prudent not to forget that many cosmetic preparations
which are supposedly 'unscented' or free of fragrances besides being
'hypoallergenic' may contain concealed fragrances and as such, are not rendered
completely safe for hypersensitive individuals. These include many of the
herbal preparations available in the market.
The authors concluded
that when assessing patients besides studying their individual case history,
profession, hobbies and distribution of dermatitis the doctors should also
check out their personal care products for potential allergens that can cause an allergic contact dermatitis. If
found the recognized allergic substances should then be avoided by
hypersensitive individuals. Adequate counseling and relevant information
regarding safe personal care products is imperative to prevent allergic contact
Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Preservatives and Fragrances in Cosmetics;
Tatyana Hamilton, MD, PhD and Gillian C. de Gannes, MD, FRCPC; Skin Therapy