Allergic Contact Dermatitis from Vitamin E: The Experience at Mayo Clinic Arizona, 1987 to 2007

Alison K. Adams; Suzanne M. Connolly

Disclosures

Dermatitis. 2010;21(4):199-202. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Background: Vitamin E, of which the most biologically active form is α-tocopherol, has become widely known for its antioxidant effects. It has been ingested or applied topically for purported anti-aging effects and for cosmetic enhancement.
Objective: To determine whether the incidence of allergic contact dermatitis from vitamin E has increased in recent years.
Methods: With the approval of the Mayo Clinic institutional review board, we retrospectively analyzed patch-test data from patients tested from June 1987 through December 2007.
Results: A total of 2,950 patients were patch-tested during this period, and 18 patients (0.61%) had positive reactions to α-tocopherol; 6 (0.53%) of 1,136 patients tested from June 1987 through December 1997 had positive results, and 12 (0.66%) of 1,814 patients tested from January 1998 through December 2007 had positive results (p = .69).
Conclusion: Vitamin E appears to be a relatively rare contact allergen in our experience.

Introduction

Vitamin E, of which the most biologically active form is α-tocopherol, is widely claimed to be a useful antioxidant. It has been ingested orally or applied topically for purported anti-aging effects and for cosmetic enhancement. Frequently, patients apply vitamin E to scars in an effort to improve cosmesis, although a double-blinded study showed no differences in cosmetic appearance for patients using an ointment containing α-tocopherol (320 international units per gram) as opposed to using an ointment alone.[1] In that study, 33% of the subjects developed contact dermatitis from vitamin E.

Recently, interest in complementary and alternative medicine has grown along with interest in "natural" products for improving cosmetic appearance. A recent study found that vitamin E was a component of 54.7% of moisturizers available at a local pharmacy.[2] Patients continue to use vitamin E either at the direction of their physicians or on their own despite its history of possible adverse reactions.

The purpose of this study was to examine our patient population data from 1987 through 2007. The patients were divided into two groups: those tested from 1987 to 1997 and those tested from 1998 to 2007. This was done to explore a possible difference in the incidence of contact dermatitis over time.

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