Contact Urticaria Due to Phenoxyethanol in an Aftershave

Dunia Lujan; Buenaventura Hernandez-Machin; Yeray Peñate; Leopoldo Borrego


Dermatitis. 2009;20(4):E10-E10. 

In This Article


Contact urticaria due to cosmetics has been attributed most commonly to fragrances.[1,2] Here we report a case of contact urticaria caused by 2-phenoxyethanol, a preservative used in topical drugs and cosmetics. This substance has antimicrobial properties against fungi and against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and is widely used because of its bactericidal action against Pseudomonas. It is usually combined with methyldibromoglutaronitrile in a 1:4 proportion to produce Euxyl K400.

Reactions to phenoxyethanol have rarely been reported. Three cases of contact urticaria induced by phenoxyethanol in cosmetics[3–5] and three cases of contact dermatitis induced by phenoxyethanol in cosmetics and vaccines[6–8] have been reported, which suggests that this preservative can be considered relatively safe. No cases of methyldibromoglutaronitrile-induced contact urticaria have yet been reported, indicating that phenoxyethanol should be considered as the causative agent in cases of reported Euxyl K400–induced contact urticaria.

In our experience, the occurrence of pruritus immediately after the application of a cosmetic product is usually due to an irritative reaction. However, pruritus and edema or puffiness occurring immediately after the application of a cosmetic should cause one to suspect contact urticaria.


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