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A Journal on Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia 2008 June;143(3):175-80

language: English

Contact allergy to cosmetics: the patients’ perspective. An interview-based study

Gallo R., Baldari M.

Section of Dermatology, DiSEM University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy


Aim. It is generally agreed that the management of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) to cosmetic ingredients can be challenging for patients due to the complex names and synonyms of the responsible allergens, but what kind of problems patients actually have in finding safe alternative products has seldom if ever been investigated.
Methods. To identify the major problems experienced by patients allergic to cosmetics, the authors studied 72 ACD patients with clinically relevant positive patch test and/or repeated open application test (ROAT) reactions from cosmetic allergens or from own cosmetic products as is. Two months after patch testing, they were called by phone, and underwent a semi-structured interview focused on the following questions: “Is your dermatitis better?”, “Did you find our explanations clear?”, “Do you remember the name of the substance you are allergic to and which products contained it?” “Was it difficult to avoid exposure? If yes, why?”, “How did you chose alternative products?”.
Results. The interview revealed that 63 out of 72 patients were cured or much improved. Of the remaining 9 patients, 6 had not avoided exposure, 3 still suffered from other kinds of dermatitis, but ACD was no longer present. All patients declared themselves satisfied with the explanations received, but half of them could not precisely name the causative allergens/cosmetics and had had problems in finding safe products, especially when preservatives with difficult names were involved. Hypo-allergenic-products were often complained of as expensive. Twenty patients who had been prescribed specific allergens-free products by their dermatologists had overcome their problems more easily.
Conclusion. Patients’ education after patch testing is crucial to achieve quick and stable resolution of ACD from cosmetic products.

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