If you or your child has a skin rash that you just can’t shake, it might be caused by your wet wipes.
Dermatologists, like Ohio State University’s Dr. Matthew Zirwas, are seeing more and more rashes on people’s hands, faces, and unmentionable parts. These rashes often share a common culprit: a preservative called methylisothiazolinone (MI) that’s commonly found in self-care products like shampoo, hand soaps, and wet wipes.
And while you rinse off shampoo and hand soaps, residue from a wet wipe remains on your skin and can cause allergic contact dermatitis.
What the Rash Looks Like
Allergic contact dermatitis is an itchy, red rash that occurs after contact with an allergen. Poison ivy rashes are perhaps the most well known contact dermatitis rashes. But dermatitis rashes caused by MI are on the rise.
According to the British Association of Dermatologists, it’s the second most common cause of contact dermatitis after nickel allergies.
Severe cases of rashes caused by MI may not only be red and itchy, but also blistered and quite painful. The most affected areas include the genitals, buttocks, fingers, hands, and face.
The Rise of Methylisothiazolinone
While the cosmetics industry has used MI for years, the concentration of the ingredient in products has recently increased as the industry has phased out other types of controversial preservatives like parabens.
In fact, Zirwas notes that the level of MI in some products has increased 25 fold over the past several years.
And while not everyone is allergic to MI, the increased levels are causing what British dermatologists call an “epidemic” of contact dermatitis.
MI is prevalent in household products, particularly ones that are water based. The chemical is used as a preservative to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Any type of wet wipe, be it a baby wipe, a children’s or adult’s flushable wipe, or an antibacterial wipe could use MI.
Other products that may use MI include:
- Shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products
- Liquid Hand Soaps
- Shower and shave gels
- Laundry detergent
You can look through the ingredients list of your self-care products to see if they include MI, or you can look them up using the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep, a database that rates self-care products based on their potential toxicity.
If You Think You or Your Child Might Be Allergic to MI…
So if your baby is struggling with a diaper rash that just won’t go away, or if you’re experiencing a rash yourself, you may want to test yourself to see if you’re allergic to MI.
Zirwas recommends using the product in question on the inside of your arm, where your elbow is, twice a day for two weeks. This test should help you discern if it’s your innocuous seeming wipes that are causing you or your baby pain.
If you think you have an allergy to MI, you’ll have to give up the product in question for a month before the rash will fully subside. If you’re very concerned about the rash, make an appointment with your dermatologist.
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