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Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2012.
Salicylate is a chemical found naturally in plants and is the main ingredient of the oral pain-relieving tablet, aspirin. It is also found in many fruits and vegetables as well as in many toiletry and cosmetic products.
The main salicylates used in sunscreens are homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate), ethylhexyl salicylate (octyl salicylate) and trolamine salicylate. They have weak UVB absorbing properties and are generally used in combination with other chemical absorbing sunscreen agents. Topical salicylates do not protect against UVA.
Salicylates used in sunscreens and other cosmetic products are generally very well tolerated. Allergy to topical salicylate products is uncommon. There have been a few case reports with small numbers of patients who have reacted to topical salicylate products. Most patients developed classic allergic contact dermatitis.
Topical salicylate allergy is diagnosed by performing patch tests with 2% salicylate in olive oil.
If you are diagnosed with topical salicylate allergy then avoid exposure to salicylate-containing products. Management of salicylate dermatitis may be treated as for any acute dermatitis/eczema; this may include treatment with topical corticosteroids and emollients.
Read product labels and avoid products that contain salicylates or any of its derivatives. Ask your pharmacist for advice and a suitable alternative.
Formula: homomenthyl salicylate – C16H22O3
CAS number: 118-56-9
Appearance: colourless to light yellow liquid
Sensitizer: salicylates and its derivatives
Patch test: 2% salicylate in olive oil
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