Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Topical Preservatives, Part I

J. Desiree Douglas

Disclosures

Dermatology Nursing 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Topical preservatives are a rising source of allergic contact dermatitis. Preservatives prevent growth of bacteria, molds, yeast, and algae in many products including body, skin, and hair care products. This column will include a discussion of formaldehyde and the associated formaldehyde-releasing preservatives quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol.

Introduction

The North American Contact Dermatitis Group found the top ten allergens in 2005–2006 were nickel, myroxylon pereirae, fragrance mix I, quaternium-15, neomycin, bacitracin, formaldehyde, cobalt chloride, methyldibromo-glutaronitrile and para-phenylenediamine (Zug et al., 2009). The physiology of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) and the top three allergens were discussed in recent issues of Dermatology Nursing (Douglas, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c). This column is the first of a two-part focus on the most common topical preservatives found in our environment today.

There are two main groups of preservatives: formaldehyde-based preservatives and non-formaldehyde related preservatives. In this column, formaldehyde and the associated formaldehyde-releasing preservatives — quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol — will be discussed. In the next issue of Dermatology Nursing, the non-formaldehyde-releasing preservatives will be explored.

Preservatives are placed into products to prevent contamination and spoilage. Preservatives prevent growth of bacteria, molds, yeast, and algae (Sasseville, 2004). Preservatives and fragrances are the top two causes of contact dermatitis in cosmetic products (Herbert & Rietschel, 2004). Furthermore, preservatives are the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in patients who are exposed to metalworking fluids (Marks, Elsner, & DeLeo, 2002).

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