Allergic contact dermatitis caused by isopropyl alcohol: a missed allergen?

Contact Dermatitis. 2011 Aug;65(2):101-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2011.01936.x. Epub 2011 Jun 17.


Background: Isopropyl alcohol is a secondary alcohol, a structural isomer of propanol, that is widely used as an industrial solvent and as a preservative and antiseptic in the clinical environment. It is known to be a mild irritant for the eyes and mucous membranes, but is considered to be a weak and infrequent sensitizer.

Objectives: To show that isopropyl alcohol should be considered as a potential allergen in patients with eczema who have contact with this substance.

Materials and methods: We present a series of 1450 patients patch tested with isopropyl alcohol during the period 1992-2011.

Results: Forty-four patients showed an allergic response to isopropyl alcohol. Four cases presented as occupational hand eczema. Fourteen cases were seen in patients with leg ulcers. Twenty-six patients presented with eczematous lesions following the use of products containing isopropyl alcohol to disinfect previous skin lesions. Eighty-four per cent of the patients showed sensitization to three or more allergens. Relevance was present in 84% of the patients.

Conclusions: We report here the first large case series of contact allergy to isopropyl alcohol, which demonstrates that sensitization to this substance might not be as uncommon as previously thought.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Propanol / adverse effects*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Allergens
  • Causality
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solvents / adverse effects*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Allergens
  • Solvents
  • 2-Propanol