Use of aromatherapy products and increased risk of hand dermatitis in massage therapists

Arch Dermatol. 2004 Aug;140(8):991-6. doi: 10.1001/archderm.140.8.991.


Objectives: To determine the 12-month prevalence of hand dermatitis among massage therapists, to investigate a potential association between hand dermatitis and the use of aromatherapy products, and to study potential associations with other known risk factors for hand dermatitis.

Design: Mailed survey.

Setting: Philadelphia, Pa.

Participants: Members of a national massage therapy organization who live in the greater Philadelphia region.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported and symptom-based prevalences of hand dermatitis.

Results: The number of respondents was 350 (57%). The 12-month prevalence of hand dermatitis in subjects was 15% by self-reported criteria and 23% by a symptom-based method. In multivariate analysis, statistically significant independent risk factors for self-reported hand dermatitis included use of aromatherapy products in massage oils, lotions, or creams (odds ratio, 3.27; 95% confidence interval, 1.53-7.02; P =.002) and history of atopic dermatitis (odds ratio, 8.06; 95% confidence interval, 3.39-19.17; P<.001).

Conclusions: The prevalence of hand dermatitis in massage therapists is high. Significant independent risk factors include use of aromatherapy products in massage oils, creams, or lotions and history of atopic dermatitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aromatherapy / adverse effects*
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / pathology
  • Female
  • Hand Dermatoses / chemically induced
  • Hand Dermatoses / epidemiology*
  • Hand Dermatoses / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Philadelphia / epidemiology
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Plant Oils