Background: Vitamin E (tocopherol) a naturally occurring mixture of antioxidants commonly used in topical skin care products, may cause allergic contact dermatitis.
Objective: The aim of this study was to characterize positive patch test reactions to tocopherol and tocopherol acetate.
Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test data to tocopherols (dl-α-tocopherol 100% and/or dl-α-tocopherol acetate 100%) from 2001 to 2016.
Results: Of the 38,699 patients patch tested to tocopherol and/or tocopherol acetate, 349 (0.9%) had positive reactions; of these, 87.6% were currently relevant. Most (51.4%) were weak (+) and/or not related to occupation (99.1%). Compared with tocopherol-negative patients, tocopherol-positive individuals were more likely to be female (72.5% vs 67.2%, P = 0.0355), have a final primary diagnosis of allergic contact dermatitis (74.2% vs 52.6%, P < 0.0001), and have dermatitis in a scattered generalized distribution (23.8% vs 18.2%, P = 0.0072); they were also less likely to have hand involvement (16.6% vs 22.3%, P = 0.0064). The most common source of tocopherol was personal care products, especially moisturizers.
Conclusions: Positive patch test reactions to tocopherols were relatively rare given their widespread use. When positive, current clinical relevance was high. Tocopherol-positive patients were more likely to be female and presented with dermatitis on the face or in a scattered generalized pattern.