British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)

Parabens (Hydroxybenzoates)

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 parabens (hydroxybenzoates).

What is parabens (hydroxybenzoates)?

Parabens are preservatives. The parabens name is usually used in cosmetics and hydroxybenzoates in medicaments. Hydroxybenzoates are sometimes used as food preservatives. However, dermatologists think it is unlikely that eating food containing these chemicals causes allergic rashes.

What are some products that contain parabens (hydroxybenzoates)?

Personal care products

  • Toiletries and toothpastes
  • Hand and face creams
  • Wet wipes, nappy and barrier creams
  • Cosmetics
  • Sunscreens.


  • Moisturisers e.g. E45, Lipobase, QV, Ultrabase, Zerocream, Eurax
  • Prescribed creams and ointments e.g Locoid, Betnovate lotion, Nerisone cream, Ultralanum plain, Efudix, Imiquimod, Vaniqa
  • Ear, eye and nose drops
  • Paste bandages e.g. Viscopaste BP7
  • Some local anaesthetics
  • Wart treatments.

Industry and manufacturing

  • Oils and fats
  • Glues and polishes.

Parabens may also be labelled as hydroxybenzoates and include: methylparaben (methyl hydroxybenzoate), ethylparaben (ethyl hydroxybenzoate), propylparaben (propyl hydroxybenzoate) and butylparaben (butyl hydroxybenzoate).

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 parabens (hydroxybenzoates) 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: 2018