DermNet provides Google Translate, a free machine translation service. Note that this may not provide an exact translation in all languages


Allergy to topical salicylate

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2012.


What is a topical salicylate and where is it found?

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.

Products containing topical salicylates that may cause contact allergy

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.

How does topical salicylate allergy present?

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.

Am I allergic to topical salicylate?

Topical salicylate allergy is diagnosed by performing patch tests with 2% salicylate in olive oil.

Treatment of topical salicylate allergy

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.

What should I do to avoid topical salicylate allergy?

Read product labels and avoid products that contain salicylates or any of its derivatives. Ask your pharmacist for advice and a suitable alternative.  

Names for salicylates in topical products

  • Homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate)
  • Ethylhexyl salicylate (octyl salicylate)
  • Trolamine salicylate
  • Benzyl salicylate
  • Amyl salicylate
  • Phenyl salicylate

Further information

Formula: homomenthyl salicylate – C16H22O3

CAS number: 118-56-9

Cross-reactions: unknown

Appearance: colourless to light yellow liquid

Sensitizer: salicylates and its derivatives

Patch test: 2% salicylate in olive oil



  • Book: Fisher's Contact Dermatitis. Ed Rietschel RL, Fowler JF. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2001
  • Mortz CG, Thormann H, Goossens A, Andersen KE. Allergic contact dermatitis from ethylhexyl salicylate and other salicylates. Dermatitis 21 (2): 7-10

On DermNet

Other websites

Books about skin diseases


Related information

Sign up to the newsletter