Propolis, Colophony, and Fragrance Cross-Reactivity and Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Dermatitis. May-Jun 2016;27(3):123-6. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000186.


Background: Colophony and propolis are among the complex plant resins used in a wide variety of medicinal and personal care products. A number of studies of colophony, propolis, and fragrance mixes suggest that contact with one of these allergens may increase the risk of delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions with additional compounds of significant cross-reactivity.

Objective: The aims of this study were to determine rates of cross-reactivity between propolis, colophony, and different fragrance mixes and to determine significant cross-reactivity thresholds for which to counsel patient avoidance.

Methods: Rates of cross-reactivity were calculated from the databases of 2 midwestern US patch testing centers. Rates were calculated both separately and collectively.

Conclusions: For patients allergic to colophony, fragrance and propolis may be considered significant cross-reactors. For patients allergic to propolis, fragrance and colophony may be considered significant cross-reactors. Cross-reactions between colophony, propolis, and fragrance mixes are unidirectional so, for patients allergic to fragrance, cross-reaction to propolis or colophony is not significant. Colophony allergy is found in only a small number of fragrance-allergic patients and is not a good indicator for fragrance allergy.

MeSH terms

  • Balsams / adverse effects
  • Cross Reactions / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology
  • Humans
  • Perfume / adverse effects*
  • Propolis / adverse effects*
  • Resins, Plant / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Balsams
  • Perfume
  • Resins, Plant
  • rosin
  • Peruvian balsam
  • Propolis