Patch test reactivity to DMDM hydantoin. Relationship to formaldehyde allergy

Contact Dermatitis. 1988 Apr;18(4):197-201. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1988.tb02802.x.


The relationship between contact allergy to formaldehyde and positive patch test reactions to DMDM hydantoin was investigated. 35 formaldehyde-allergic patients were patch tested with serial dilutions of formaldehyde (0.1%-0.3%-1.0% aq.) and DM hydantoin (the non-formaldehyde-containing parent compound of DMDM hydantoin). 21 were also patch tested with MDM hydantoin (1 molecule formaldehyde) in serial dilutions: 7 (33%) reacted to 1 or more concentrations. The other 14 were also tested with DMDM hydantoin (2 molecules formaldehyde) in serial dilutions: 8 (57%) reacted to 1 or more concentrations. Patients patch-test-positive to formaldehyde 0.1% and/or 0.3% tended to show more patch test reactivity to (D)MDM hydantoin than those who reacted only to 1%. Aqueous solutions of (D)MDM hydantoin in concentrations as used in cosmetic products therefore contain enough free formaldehyde to cause dermatitis in a patch test system in some formaldehyde-allergic patients: 12 such patients applied a cream containing 1% DMDM hydantoin to the flexor aspect of the lower arm twice daily for 1 week; 4 (33%) developed dermatitis. The use of a cream containing 0.25% DMDM hydantoin in these 4 patients still caused dermatitis in 1 and provoked itching in another. An increase in the use of DMDM hydantoin in cosmetic products will also inevitable increase the risk of cosmetic dermatitis in consumers allergic to formaldehyde.

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Dermatitis, Contact / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Contact / etiology*
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects
  • Formaldehyde / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hydantoins / adverse effects
  • Hydantoins / immunology*
  • Patch Tests
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / chemically induced
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / epidemiology
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects


  • Cosmetics
  • Hydantoins
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • dimethoxyhydantoin
  • 1-monomethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin
  • Formaldehyde
  • 5,5-dimethylhydantoin
  • 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin