What is a paraben allergy

Regarding possible allergens in cosmetics, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know what you are sensitive to and how to avoid it. One way to achieve this is by carefully reading the product ingredient panel and avoiding ingredients you know or ponder you are allergic to. It isn’t enough to check for terms love “hypoallergenic”, “fragrance-free” or “for sensitive skin,” as there is no federal standard or definition that governs the use of these terms in the U.S.

However, under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), the U.S. Food and Drug istration (FDA) requires an ingredient declaration on cosmetic products sold at the retail level to consumers. However, certain ingredients may be listed generally as “fragrance,” or “perfume,” without identifying the specific ingredients.

If you own reviewed the product ingredient panel and still own questions regarding the substances in the product, you may contact the manufacturer listed in the product label.

In addition, consumers should always check product labels and follow the manufacturer instructions before applying as directed. Reading the label on products is especially significant as some products contain ingredients that may cause irritation, regardless of whether you own allergies or not. For example, manufacturers of certain hair dyes instruct users to test a little quantity of product first – to see if they own a sensitivity to the ingredients in the product before applying it more broadly.

Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions can range in severity, but may include hives, itchy skin, a rash, flaking or peeling skin, facial swelling, irritation of the eyes, nose and mouth, wheezing, and anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a lack of consciousness, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, lightheadedness, chest pain, a rapid, feeble pulse, nausea, and vomiting.

What is a paraben allergy

If anaphylaxis symptoms happen, seek medical attention immediately.

In addition to allergic contact dermatitis, perfume ingredients may also affect the respiratory system because they are essentially vapor and can be inhaled. This is especially true in patients with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and viral respiratory infections. For people with sensitivities to certain fragrances, inhaling them may result in shortness of breath, the sensation of being suffocated, coughing, phlegm, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, chest tightness, and wheezing.

If you experience symptoms of what you suspect is an allergic reaction, consult your healthcare professional, as sensitivity to allergens can become more severe over time.

Be certain to discuss with your healthcare provider what product or specific substance you ponder might be triggering the allergic reaction. They may recommend diverse types of tests to better understand what you are allergic to.

If you believe you own experienced an adverse event (allergic reaction or illness) after using a cosmetic product, you can also submit a report to the FDA. The FDA encourages consumers with questions about cosmetic products to submit inquiries.

Testing for Allergens

There is some excellent news.

You don’t own to wait until you own an allergic reaction to attempt and figure out what you are allergic to. You can get tested. Knowing precisely what allergen has caused a reaction will assist you to avoid further exposure to the substance. Your healthcare provider may recommend you undergo patch testing or some other, less frequently used tests.

  1. Patch Test
    This test is often used to diagnose dermatitis, or irritation and swelling of the skin. This test involves placing a little quantity of allergen on the skin and covering it for 48 hours.

    A doctor will examine the skin after 72 to 96 hours and check for signs of an allergic reaction, including, redness, a rash, or hives. Based on the symptoms present, the physician can determine whether the patient has had an allergic reaction. Patch testing requires two to three office visits.

    If a patient has extremely sensitive skin, this type of testing may not be specific enough to assist identify allergens and other methods may be used.



FDA Activities on Allergens in Cosmetics 

To better understand allergens in cosmetics, the FDA focuses its efforts around three main areas:

  1. Conducting scientific research on the mechanisms of allergic reactions and how allergens interact with the body’s immune system; and
  2. Monitoring of adverse event reporting;
  3. Conducting research on consumer practices, the frequency of adverse reactions, and consumer awareness of allergens in cosmetics.

Monitoring Adverse Event Reporting

Adverse event reports contain critical medical information and descriptions that assist the FDA identify signals of potential safety issues with cosmetic products and ingredients. The FDA receives adverse event reports from healthcare professionals and consumers via MedWatch. The FDA reviews every adverse event reports and when necessary, takes action to address safety issues associated with cosmetic products and ingredients.

More information on adverse event reporting can be found at the How to Report a Cosmetic Related Complaint page.

Additional Reading:

Reporting Cosmetic Adverse Events to the US Food and Drug istration.

Katz, L. M., Valenzuela, C.

What is a paraben allergy

& Sadrieh, N. K. 2016. Dermatitis, 27(4), 236–237. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000195.

Scientific Research on Cosmetic Allergens

The FDA is interested in better understanding how allergens interact with the body’s immune system. To do this, FDA scientists are collaborating with scientists at the National Middle for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi and University of Florida. Through these partnerships we can better understand how allergic reactions are induced, and we are identifying new ingredients capable of inducing allergic reaction.

We are working with our research partners to develop animal-free testing methods to identify potential allergens and are exploring whether allergen testing data can assist us further identify potential allergenic ingredients in cosmetic products. We are also exploring the existing data for quality and potential gaps.


Fragrances may be composed of several diverse ingredients:

As noted under, these specific ingredients may not be identified on the cosmetic product label.

The European Commission, which has conducted extensive research on perfume allergens, lists the following 26 perfume ingredients listed as allergens in Annex III of the European Union Cosmetics Directive:

  1. Oak moss extract
  2. Cinnamaldehyde
  3. Hydroxycitronellal
  4. Amyl cinnamal
  5. Benzyl salicylate
  6. Hexyl cinnamaladehyde
  7. d-Limonene
  8. Coumarin
  9. Methyl 2-octynoate
  10. Isoeugenol
  11. Cinnamyl alcohol
  12. Lilial
  13. Benzyl cinnamate
  14. Farnesol
  15. Linalool
  16. Eugenol
  17. Citronellol
  18. Benzyl alcohol
  19. Benzyl benzoate
  20. Anisyl alcohol
  21. Amylcinnamyl alcohol
  22. Citral
  23. Geraniol
  24. Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC), (also known as Lyral)
  25. g-Methylionone
  26. Tree moss extract


Research on Cosmetic Ingredients

  1. Simultaneous determination of cosmetics ingredients in nail products by quick gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.Zhou W., P.G.

    Wang, J.B. Wittenberg, D. Rua & A.J. Krynitsky. 2016. Journal of Chromatography A.1446:134-40.

  2. Skin sensitizers in cosmetics and beyond: potential multiple mechanisms of action and importance of T cell assays for in vitro screening. Vukmanović, S &. N. Sadrieh. 2017. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 47:415-432.
  3. Determination of methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone in cosmetic products by ultra high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.Wittenberg J.B., B.J. Canas, W. Zhou, P.G. Wang, D.

    What is a paraben allergy

    Rua & A.J. Krynitsky. 2015. Journal of Separation Science. 38:2983-8.

  4. Molecular docking predicts perfume binding to HLA molecules. Schutte, R., X. Zhang, N. An, D.A. Ostrov & S. Vukmanović. 2019. Contact Dermatitis. 81:174-183.
  5. Identification of a compound isolated from German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) with dermal sensitization potential. Avonto C., D. Rua, P.B. Lasonkar, A.G. Chittiboyina &, I.A. Khan. 2017. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 318:16-22.
  6. Quantitative Determination of α-Arbutin, β-Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Nicotinamide, Hydroquinone, Resorcinol, 4-Methoxyphenol, 4-Ethoxyphenol, and Ascorbic Acid from Skin Whitening Products by HPLC-UV.

    Wang Y.H., C. Avonto, B. Avula, M. Wang, D. Rua & I.A. Khan. 2015. Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL. 98:5-12.


Preservatives may be listed as:

  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing ingredients:
    1. Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
    2. 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
    3. DMDM hydantoin (1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin)
    4. Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
    5. Diazolidinyl urea
    6. Imidazolidinyl urea
    7. Quaternium-15 (Dowicil 200; N-(3-chloroallyl) hexaminium chloride)


    Research on Animal-Free Testing Methods

    1. Alternative testing methods for skin sensitization: NMR spectroscopy for probing the reactivity and classification of potential skin sensitizers.

      Chittiboyina A.G., C. Avonto, D. Rua & I.A. Khan. 2015. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 28:1704-14.

    2. Chemical stability and in chemico reactivity of 24 perfume ingredients of concern for skin sensitization risk assessment. Avonto, C., M. Wang, A.G. Chittiboyina, S.

      What is a paraben allergy

      Vukmanović & I.A. Khan. 2018. Toxicology In Vitro. 46:237-245.

    3. Quantitative determination of phenolic compounds by UHPLC-UV-MS and use of partial least-square discriminant analysis to differentiate chemo-types of Chamomile/Chrysanthemum flower heads. Avula B., Y.H. Wang, M.

      What is a paraben allergy

      Wang, C. Avonto, J. Zhao, T.J. Smillie, D. Rua & I.A. Khan. 2015. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. 88:278-88.

    4. In chemico assessment of potential sensitizers – Stability and direct peptide reactivity of 24 perfume ingredients. Avonto, C., M. Wang, A.G. Chittiboyina, S. Vukmanović & I.A. Khan. 2019. Journal of Applied Toxicology. 39:398-408.
    5. In chemico skin sensitization risk assessment of botanical extracts. Avonto, C., A.G. Chittiboyina, N. Sadrieh, S. Vukmanović & I.A. Khan. 2018. Journal of Applied Toxocology.

      38:1047-1053.

    6. Comparative studies on the chemical and enzymatic stability of alpha- and beta-arbutin. Avonto C., Y.H. Wang, B. Avula, M. Wang, D. Rua & I.A. Khan. 2016. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 38:187-93.
    7. A fluorescence high throughput screening method for the detection of reactive electrophiles as potential skin sensitizers. Avonto C., A.G. Chittiboyina, D. Rua & I.A. Khan. 2015. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

      289:177-84.


    Common Allergens Found in Cosmetic Products

    The FDA has compiled the list under of common allergens found in some cosmetic products. These are allergens that cause most allergic reactions from the use of cosmetic products.

    Common allergens drop into the five classes as detailed below:  natural rubber, fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and metals.


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