Updated 08 April 2014

Top 10 skin allergens

All that itches is not gold, but the precious metal is among the leading causes of a skin condition called allergic contact dermatitis.


All that itches is not gold, but the precious metal is among the leading causes of a skin condition called allergic contact dermatitis.

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, allergic contact dermatitis is a skin inflammation characterised by swollen, reddened and itchy skin that's caused by direct contact with an allergen.

The top ten contact dermatitis allergens were:

  • Nickel, frequently used in jewellery and clasps or buttons on clothing
  • Gold, common to jewellery
  • Balsam of Peru, a tree resin-derived fragrance used in perfumes and skin lotions
  • Thimerosal, a mercury compound used in vaccines and local antiseptics
  • Neomycin sulphate, a topical antibiotic common in first-aid creams and ointments. It's also found in cosmetics, deodorants, soap and pet food
  • Fragrance mix, a group of the eight most common fragrance allergens found in foods, cosmetic products, insecticides, antiseptics, soaps, perfumes and dental products
  • Formaldehyde, a preservative used in numerous items including paints, medications, fabric finishes, paper products, household cleaners and cosmetics
  • Cobalt chloride, a metal found in medical products, hair dye, antiperspirant, and metal-plated objects such as snaps, buttons and tools. Also found in cobalt blue pigment
  • Bacitracin, a topical antibiotic
  • Quaternium 15, a preservative found in cosmetic products such as self-tanners, shampoo, nail polish and sunscreen, and in industrial products such as polishes, paints and waxes.

Avoiding allergens is the chief treatment for contact dermatitis. In some cases, corticosteroid creams can be used to treat rashes caused by contact dermatitis. (Health24, updated April 2011)

Read more:
Kids and allergies


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules