Allergic Contact Dermatitis Caused by Parabens: 2 Case Reports and A Review


A 2000 article from the American Journal of Contact Dermatitis (vol 11, no 1, p.53) of two case studies on allergic reactions from parabens. Authors discuss the wide use and availability of these inexpensive and effective preservatives and conclude that while issues exists in how these allergy tests are conducted, there is a connection between allergic reactions to parabens and previously damaged skin.

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Parabens, methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl, and butyl, are the most common preservatives in use today. They are the alkyl esters of phydroxybenzoic acid and are used extensively because they are relatively nonirritating and nontoxic and offer good antimicrobial coverage. Testing for paraben allergen can be done by patch testing.

The North American Contact Dermatitis Group has found 2.3% of their patients to have a positive patch test result...Testing for paraben allergy is generally done with a paraben mix Several paraben mixes are commercially available. The TRUE paraben mix contains equal parts of ethyl, methyl, propyl, butyl, and benzyl hydroxybenzoate. 

In summary, these cases show paraben sensitivity and provide an opportunity to review paraben allergy. Both cases show the probable sensitization of the individual to parabens through previously damaged skin that is then exposed to parabens by a topical preparation.

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