Benzophenone-3: A Potential Cause in Individuals with Undiagnosed Dermatitis

Summary and Comment |
March 21, 2014

Benzophenone-3: A Potential Cause in Individuals with Undiagnosed Dermatitis

  1. Craig A. Elmets, MD

Benzophenones, chemical ultraviolet light absorbers with uses ranging from sunscreens to filters for color photography, are the American Contact Dermatitis Society's 2014 contact allergen of the year.

  1. Craig A. Elmets, MD

Benzophenone-3 (BP-3) is a compound that is incorporated into cosmetics and other personal hygiene products for its sunscreening effects. BP-3 is a known cause of photocontact and allergic contact dermatitis. In this study, 231 personal care products (114 from the United States and 117 from China) were examined to determine how often BP-3 was present and in what concentrations. The products fell into seven categories: toothpastes, hair care, body washes, hand soaps, sanitation, skin lotions and face creams, and makeup.

More than 80% (188) of the products contained BP-3, most frequently, skin lotions and makeup. These were also the products that had the highest concentrations. Toothpastes and sanitary products had the lowest frequency and smallest concentrations. In the concentrations available and at expected amounts applied, it was estimated that considerable concentrations would be present in the skin of users of these products, potentially with adverse health effects.


Benzophenone-3 is frequently incorporated into personal hygiene products because of its photoprotective activity. BP-3 can also be found in auto care and household products and in plastics. With its increasing use, one might expect that cutaneous reactions would also be increasing and should be part of a contact allergy evaluation. In fact, benzophenones are the 2014 American Contact Dermatitis Society contact allergen of the year. Unfortunately, BP-3 is not currently included in standard patch test series for common allergens. Physicians should consider patch testing with BP-3 in individuals with suspected cosmetic contact or photocontact allergies or dermatitis of undetermined cause.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Craig A. Elmets, MD at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Astellas Pharmaceuticals Grant / research support NIH; NIH/NCI; Veteran’s Administration; Abbott Laboratories; Biogen; Clinuvel; Covan Basilea Pharmaceutica; Genentech; TenX Biopharma; University of California Editorial boards Cancer Prevention Research; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, & Photomedicine; UpToDate Leadership positions in professional societies American Academy of Dermatology (Psoriasis Guidelines Subcommittee and Chair Designate, Clinical Guidelines and Research Committee); Photomedicine Society (Board of Directors)


Reader Comments (1)

JACK MOSS Other, Other, lansdale pa

I urge caution in selecting a concentration of BP-3 to be used for patch testing.

Your Comment

(will not be published)

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Do you have any conflict of interest to disclose?
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

* Required

Reader comments are intended to encourage lively discussion of clinical topics with your peers in the medical community. We ask that you keep your remarks to a reasonable length, and we reserve the right to withhold publication of remarks that do not meet this standard.

PRIVACY: We will not use your email address, submitted for a comment, for any other purpose nor sell, rent, or share your e-mail address with any third parties. Please see our Privacy Policy.