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Positive Patch-Test Reactions to Essential Oils in Consecutive Patients From North America and Central Europe

Warshaw, Erin M. MD, MS*†‡; Zug, Kathryn A. MD§; Belsito, Donald V. MD; Fowler, Joseph F. Jr MD; DeKoven, Joel G. MD#; Sasseville, Denis MD**; Maibach, Howard I. MD††; Mathias, C.G. Toby MD‡‡; DeLeo, Vincent A. MD§§; Taylor, James S. MD∥∥; Fransway, Anthony F. MD¶¶; Marks, James G. Jr MD##; Pratt, Melanie D. MD***; Zirwas, Matthew J. MD†††; Geier, Johannes MD‡‡‡; Uter, Wolfgang MD§§§

doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000293

Background Synthetic fragrances and natural essential oils (EOs) are used in perfumery and found in various cosmetics. Essential oils are also increasingly used to promote wellness. In previous studies, the sensitization potential of some EOs has been identified; however, the current prevalence of sensitivity is largely unknown.

Objectives The aim of this study was to determine frequency of positive patch-test reactions to EOs tested in the baseline series, along with 3 fragrance markers (FMs) (fragrance mix I, fragrance mix II, and Myroxylon pereirae), in consecutive patients in the US/Canadian North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) (2009–2014) and the central European, trinational Information Network of Departments of Dermatology (IVDK) (2010–2014).

Methods This study used a retrospective analysis of patch-test results and relevant demographic/clinical data collected electronically by the networks, obtained with Santalum album 10% petrolatum (pet) (IVDK only); Cananga odorata 2% (NACDG) and 10% (IVDK) pet; Jasminum species 2% (NACDG) and 5% (IVDK) pet; Mentha piperita 2% pet; Melaleuca alternifolia, oxidized (tea tree oil), 5% pet; and Lavandula angustifolia 2% pet (latter 3 NACDG only).

Results Overall, 62,354 patients were tested to 3 FMs and EOs (NACDG, 13,398; IVDK, 48,956); 11,568 (18.6%) reacted to at least 1 FM or EO, whereas 857 (1.4%) reacted to 1 or more EOs but none of the 3 FMs. For both the NACDG and IVDK populations, individuals who were positive to 1 or more of the 9 study allergens were significantly less likely to be male, have occupational skin disease, or have hand involvement and significantly more likely to have leg dermatitis and be 40 years and older (P’s ≤ 0.005). Prevalence rates for EOs were as follows: S. album, 1.4% IVDK; C. odorata, 1.1% NACDG and 2.4% IVDK; Jasminum species, 0.7% NACDG and 1.4% IVDK; M. piperita, 0.9% NACDG; L. angustifolia, 0.3% NACDG; and M. alternifolia, 0.3% NACDG. Of the 140 NACDG patients who reacted to 1 or more of the 5 NACDG EOs but none of the FMs, M. alternifolia yielded most positive reactions (45%); half of these reactions were strong (++ or +++, 50.8%) and of definite/probable clinical relevance (52.4%). Of the 717 IVDK patients who reacted to 1 or more of the 3 IVDK EOs but none of the 3 FMs, 38% were positive to C. odorata, 38% to S. album and 36% to Jasminum species."

Conclusions Testing to EOs may be important for detecting sensitivity not detected by FMs alone. In North America, M. alternifolia is an important and clinically relevant sensitizer often not detected by FM. In Europe, as well as in North America, clinical relevance is often difficult to evaluate because (1) labeling of EOs when used as fragrance is not mandatory, and (2) these mixtures may indicate sensitization to 1 or more of their individual constituents from other sources, including synthetic fragrances.

From the *Department of Dermatology, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center; †HCMC Parkside Occupational and Contact Dermatitis Clinic; and ‡Department of Dermatology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis; §Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH; ∥Department of Dermatology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY; ¶University of Louisville, KY; #Division of Dermatology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario; and **Division of Dermatology, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University, Quebec, Canada; ††Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco; ‡‡Department of Dermatology, University of Cincinnati, OH; §§Department of Dermatology, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA; ∥∥Department of Dermatology, Cleveland Clinic, OH; ¶¶Associates in Dermatology, Fort Myers, FL; ##Department of Dermatology, Pennsylvania State University, State College; ***Division of Dermatology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; †††Ohio State University, Columbus; and ‡‡‡Information Network of Departments of Dermatology at the University of Gottingen; and §§§Department of Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

No reprints available.

This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. There are no other sources of funding for this work.

The contents do not represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the US Government.

© 2017 American Contact Dermatitis Society
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