Top 10 Causes of Contact Dermatitis

Have a red, sore itchy rash after wearing that new bracelet? It could result from allergic contact dermatitis, a skin reaction to something - jewelry, fragrance or other substances - with which you’ve had contact.

The July issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists the top 10 causes of contact dermatitis that were recently identified by Mayo Clinic researchers:

Nickel, commonly found on jewelry clasps or buttons

Gold, usually worn as jewelry

Balsam of Peru, a fragrance used in skin care products and perfume

Thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccines


Neomycin sulfate, a topical antibiotic

Fragrance mix, which is comprised of eight of the most common flavorings found in various products

Formaldehyde, a preservative that can be found in paper products, paints, building materials, medications, household cleaners and fabric finishes

Cobalt chloride, a metal found in medical products, hair dye, antiperspirants, and in snaps, buttons and tools

Bacitracin, a topical antibiotic

Quaternium-15, a preservative found in skin care products and in industrial products such as paints, polishes and waxes

Skin allergy patch testing can confirm allergies to these substances.

Mayo Clinic

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Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Dave R. Roger, M.D.