Newer preservative may be to blame for outbreak of skin rashes

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 17 at 11:36 AM

AUSTIN -- Some face creams, mascaras, shampoos, body washes even wet wipes that people have used for years are suddenly causing problems.  People are complaining of rashes that may be linked to a newer preservative.

The American Academy of Dermatology is calling this preservative the contact allergen of the year due to the increasing amount of skin rashes it's believed to be causing. Still, one Austin dermatologist KVUE spoke to says this particular preservative is just one of more than 3,000 chemicals that can cause these types of skin rashes.

Sue Benson of Austin couldn't stand what she looked like after a skin rash broke out on her face recently.

"It was horrible because my eyes would swell up so bad they would swell shut, and my whole face was distorted," said Benson. "I almost looked like the Elephant Man.  I couldn't go anywhere.  I couldn't see.  I had no control, because I didn't know what was causing it."

The rash is called contact dermatitis.

"This is a skin allergy where people are allergic to a lot of the chemicals and materials they handle on a day-to-day basis," said Adam Mamelak, M.D., a Board Certified Dermatologist with SanovaDermatology.

The chemical preservatives making news recently are Methylisothiasolinone, or MI, also Methylcholoroisothiasolinone, or MCI.

"We are seeing an unbelievable increase in allergies to this specific chemical," said Mamelak.  

MI and MCI were created in 2005 and mostly used in shampoos and body washes you rinsed off fairly soon.  Now the chemicals are starting to show up in cosmetics and skin creams that stay on your body longer.

"When it is in contact with the skin for a long period of time that's when we see the problem," said Mamelak. "That's when we see people breaking out."

Mamelak says regardless of what product is causing the contact dermatitis it's possible to use it for years before any breakouts happen.

"Eczema and dermatitis is one of those things we can get any point in our life," he said.  "It doesn't have to be at first exposure.  It could be a chronic low grade exposure that really changes this over to a skin allergy."

Something Benson knows first hand.

"I have my life back and I don't have to worry about missing work or looking like a monster," said Benson.  "I did.  I looked like a monster.  That stuff is horrible."

Mamelak cautions that not everyone who uses a product containing MI or MCI will have an allergic reaction. However if a skin rash occurs and does not go away after a couple of weeks, he advises seeing a dermatologist to identify the source of the problem.

Click here for more information from SanovaDermatology.

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