Ethylhexylglycerin: a low-risk, but highly relevant, sensitizer in 'hypo-allergenic' cosmetics

Contact Dermatitis. 2016 May;74(5):281-8. doi: 10.1111/cod.12546. Epub 2016 Feb 15.


Background: Ethylhexylglycerin is a relatively new cosmetic ingredient that is used for its surfactant, emollient, skin-conditioning and antimicrobial properties. Since 2002, it has been occasionally reported as a contact allergen.

Objectives: To report on 13 patients who presented with allergic contact dermatitis caused by ethylhexylglycerin, evaluated at two Belgian university patch test clinics during the period 1990-2015.

Patients and methods: The patients were patch tested with the European baseline series, a cosmetic series, and - if indicated - additional series. Both the cosmetic products used and their single ingredients were patch tested.

Results: All but one of the ethylhexylglycerin-allergic patients were female, with a median age of 43 years (range: 29-81 years), most often suffering from dermatitis on the face, and sometimes on the hands and/or axillae. As the culprit products, leave-on cosmetics were identified, including a high number of proclaimed 'hypo-allergenic' and 'preservative-free' facial creams, sun protection creams, and deodorants.

Conclusions: Ethylhexylglycerin is a rare, but highly relevant, cosmetic sensitizer, even in those products advertised to be safe for consumers. Targeted patch testing with ethylhexylglycerin 5% pet. is very useful, and routine patch testing in a cosmetic series may be considered. Higher test concentrations might be indicated in selected cases.

Keywords: CAS no. 70445-33-9; allergic contact dermatitis; cosmetics; deodorants; ethylhexylglycerin; octoxyglycerin; patch testing; preservative; skin conditioner; sunscreens.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Female
  • Glyceryl Ethers / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests
  • Product Labeling


  • Cosmetics
  • Glyceryl Ethers
  • ethylhexylglycerin