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

Beene, Kevin M. MS; Scheman, Andrew MD; Severson, Dave; Reeder, Margo J. MD

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.

From the Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison.

Address correspondence to Kevin M. Beene, MS, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, 16 E. Gorham St. Apt. 16, Madison, WI 53703. E-mail:

Address reprint requests to Margo J. Reeder, MD, 1 South Park Street, 7th Floor, Madison, WI 53715. E-mail:

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to declare.

© 2017 American Contact Dermatitis Society
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