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The Mayo clinic performed a study in 2006 inwhich almost 4,000 patients were examined over a 5-year period to determine which substances most frequently caused skin dermatitis. Skin dermatitis can occur after contact with an allergen causing the skin to become red, swollen and itchy. The rash may resolve on its own but continued exposure to a particular irritant can cause the rash to last longer and be more severe.
The allergens that caused the most skin reactions were:
1. Nickel- this metal is often in jewelry such as pierced earrings or in buttons, clasps and zippers.
2. Gold- while often thought to not cause allergies, gold jewelry is not actually pure gold but may be mixed with other metals such as nickel or copper.
3. Balsam of Peru- a fragrance in perfumes or lotion, can also be found in spices, flavorings and mentholated tobacco.
4. Thimerosal- a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines but also is found in antiseptic sprays and even cosmetics.
5. Neomycin sulfate-a topical antibiotic ointment or cream but also is found in pet food, soaps, deodorants and ear drops.
6. Fragrance mix- is a combination of eight of the most common allergens found in a variety of products such as food, cosmetics, antiseptics and insecticides.
7. Formaldehyde- is used as a preservative in numerous products such as wrinkle free clothing (see my article at www.empowher.com/skin-hair-amp-nails/content/how-wrinkle-free-clothing-can-cause-skin-irritation), household cleaners and cosmetics.
8. Cobalt chloride- is a metal commonly found with nickel used in hair dye and objects that are metal plated such as snaps or buttons. Wet clay can also have cobalt in it.
9. Bacitracin- a topical antibiotic, similar to Neomycin, found in ointment and creams.
10. Quaternium 1.5- is a preservative found in cosmetics, shampoos, nail polish and sunscreen.
The researchers used patch testing to determine which allergens caused the most frequent allergies. Patch testing involves putting the suspected substance on the skin and leaving it in place for two days covered with a patch. The patients were tested with approximately 69 allergens.