Chemical found in all-natural products causing severe allergic reactions

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Chemical found in all-natural products causing allergic reactions
There is a new warning about a potentially dangerous chemical found in skin care products many people use every day

HOUSTON -- We have a warning about a chemical in skin care products many of us use every day. It can cause allergic reactions that aren't pretty, and doctors say they can come from the most unlikely source --- some products that are labeled natural.

"I was just sitting upstairs at my desk and my hands started itching. Over the next few days, it turned into a red rash. The red rash then started to crack and peel over time," Diana Wilson said.

One dermatologist said Wilson probably had eczema or psoriasis.

"I was just at my wits' end. This is when it was at its worst. It was cracking, it was hurting. It was very painful. I couldn't touch anything, couldn't do anything, and it looked awful," she said.

Then she found out it could be a reaction to a preservative called methylchloroisothiazolinone, or MI for short. Wilson says she found it in her shampoos, conditioners, soaps and dish detergents -- all of which she says were labeled all-natural or hypoallergenic.

"A lot of parents and a lot of the members of the public assume hypoallergenic means that it has less of the ingredients that cause allergic reactions. But what we found is that that's not always the case," said Dr. Rajani Katta, a professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

After noticing a rise in these reactions, Dr. Katta did a study at several Houston-area stores to find out if products for infants and children with sensitive skin contained MI.

"And what we found is that a lot of them did, especially diaper wipes and hair care products," Dr. Katta said.

She says it's also common in makeup and makeup removal wipes, and for those who are sensitive to it, the chemical can cause severe reactions like this. After finding the cause of her allergy, Wilson says she went as far as buying a case of dish detergent she thought was all-natural and later found out that it, too, contained MI.

"That was the most frustrating part," Wilson said.

The lesson here...

"When you're buying a skincare product, you really need to be careful and know that just because it says hypoallergenic or just because it says for sensitive skin, you can still have allergic reactions to that product," Dr. Katta said.

We reached out to several companies who produce all-natural or hypoallergenic products to ask about the chemical. One responded saying it uses amounts well below limits set by regulators. Another company says it stopped using MI more than a year ago, but it's possible that products containing the chemical could still be on shelves.

It's a warning to read labels before you buy.