Moisturizer allergy: diagnosis and management

J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2008 Nov;1(4):38-44.


Background: Moisturizers are used by patients with dry skin conditions as well as those with healthy skin to enhance and preserve the smoothness of the skin and to interrupt the dry-skin cycle. Moisturizers are generally considered safe, although skin reactions, such as allergic contact dermatitis from topical preparations may occur. Cosmetic products including moisturizers are among the main culprits of allergic contact dermatitis.

Methods: Utilizing a recently published database of all moisturizers available at Walgreens Pharmacies (Chicago, Illinois), which listed each product's allergens from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) screening panel, we evaluated the number of moisturizers containing each allergen.

Results: Of the 276 moisturizers accounted for in the database, 68 percent contained fragrance making it the most common allergen found in these moisturizers. Parabens were discovered in 62 percent of moisturizers, followed by Vitamin E in 55 percent of products. Essential oils and biologic additives were found in 45 percent of products, followed by benzyl alcohol in 24 percent of moisturizers. Propylene glycol was found in 20 percent of moisturizers, followed by formaldehyde releasers in 20 percent of products. Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate was discovered in 16 percent of products, followed by lanolin in 10 percent of moisturizers. Methylisothiazolinone/methylchloroisothiazolinone was found in six percent of available products.

Conclusions: Many ingredients of moisturizers have the potential to cause irritant and allergic contact dermatitis; therefore, it is necessary for clinicians to be aware of such potential allergens in order to manage and advise their patients accordingly.