British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)


What are the aims of this patient information leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about your contact allergy. It tells you what a contact allergy is, what causes this allergy and what you can do about it.

What is contact allergy?

Dermatitis, also known as eczema, describes a type of inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a term used when this inflammation is caused by direct or indirect skin contact with something in your environment. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system causes allergy to a very specific chemical or substance that has been in contact with the skin.

What causes your specific allergy?

Your patch tests indicate that you have a contact allergy to formaldehyde.

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a preservative frequently used in cosmetics and household products. It can be difficult to avoid formaldehyde completely as it is so commonly encountered. Formaldehyde is also found in some preservatives (also called formaldehyde-releasers) found in cosmetics/ personal care products.

What are some products that contain formaldehyde?

  • Personal care products including cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, shampoos, mouth wash, antiperspirants, nail polish
  • Medicated creams including wart paints, dental products
  • Household products such as disinfectants, air fresheners, metal cleaners, polishes, cleaning fluids
  • Fabric finishes including permanent press and anti-wrinkle finishes
  • Paints
  • Paper products especially high quality papers
  • Building materials including fibreboard, plywood, glues and varnishes
  • Industrial products such as coolants, cutting oils and antifreeze
  • Preserving fluids for laboratory specimens and embalming.


  • Imidazolidinyl urea (Germall 115)
  • Diazolidinyl urea (Germall II)
  • Quaternium 15 (Dowicil 200)
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol)
  • DMDM hydantoin.

Remember, always check the label, these lists can never be complete and ingredients change.

How can I manage my allergy?

This means that you should avoid putting products containing formaldehyde onto your skin in the future.

Self-care (what can I do?)

Always check the ingredient listing on the product, package or package insert as these lists can never be complete and ingredients change. This is particularly important for any products purchased outside the EU where some allergens may not be banned.

Created: 2016