Prevalence of Preservatives Across All Product Types in the Contact Allergen Management Program

Dermatitis. 2017 Jan-Feb;28(1):81-87. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000259.


Background: Preservatives are known causes of allergic contact dermatitis.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of preservatives in each product category in the Contact Allergen Management Program and compare prevalence with reported rates of allergic contact dermatitis.

Methods: Contact Allergen Management Program product information was queried based on the 53 approved preservatives for cosmetic products by the European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus 5 additional preservatives used in US products.

Results: Phenoxyethanol and parabens were the most common preservatives with 23.9% of products containing phenoxyethanol and 20.75% of products containing parabens. Methylisothiazolinone (MI) was found in 12.9% of products, most commonly in hair care and household products. Preservatives like MI and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) that are both common in products and have a high incidence of allergic contact dermatitis are of greatest concern as contact allergy hazards. Phenoxyethanol and parabens are common and have weak sensitizing power, making them preferred preservatives.

Conclusions: Evaluating the prevalence of preservatives provides important information on allergen exposures. Using current positive reaction rates, the risk of sensitization to a given preservative can be more accurately estimated and may affect the use of certain preservatives by industry in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / standards
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / prevention & control*
  • Ethylene Glycols / adverse effects
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parabens / adverse effects
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / standards
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment


  • Cosmetics
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • phenoxyethanol