Review of aluminum, paraben, and sulfate product disclaimers on personal care products

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2022 Nov;87(5):1081-1086. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2021.06.840. Epub 2021 Jun 16.


Background: Product disclaimers listed on personal care products face limited regulation. These disclaimers may be helpful or may mislead the public.

Objective: Review the evidence supporting the potential harms of 3 compounds commonly addressed by product disclaimers: parabens, aluminum, and sulfates.

Methods: Reported cases of adverse events to these compounds were identified. Trends in allergic contact dermatitis reactions to chemicals used in place of these compounds were also identified.

Results: There is limited evidence that parabens and aluminum pose a threat to human health; there is even less evidence that topical sulfate-containing products pose a danger to consumers. In the setting of paraben avoidance, there has been a steady increase in cases of allergic contact dermatitis to preservatives that are more allergenic, specifically the isothiazolinones.

Limitations: Assessment of the toxicology of these compounds is ongoing and may change with new data.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence that parabens, aluminum, and sulfates used in personal care products pose a health risk. There is evidence that avoidance of parabens has resulted in an epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis to isothiazolonine preservatives.

Keywords: ACD; allergic contact dermatitis; antiperspirants; carcinogens; chemistry; contact dermatitis; dermatitis; formulation sodium lauryl sulfate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics* / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics* / chemistry
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact* / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Parabens / adverse effects
  • Parabens / chemistry
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects
  • Sulfates


  • Cosmetics
  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Sulfates
  • Aluminum