Propolis is a red or brown resinous substance collected by honey bees from buds of poplar or cone-bearing trees. It may contaminate beeswax and be found in and around beehives. Developing an allergy to it is an occupational hazard among beekeepers. It also is popular in health food stores and used in healing ointments and other skin care products.
Skin contact with Propolis is required for it to cause a rash. Discontinuation of exposure to products containing Propolis should result in improvement and/or resolution of your dermatitis. By law, all products made in the US for topical use have the ingredients listed either on the product package or the box that contains it, so check the labeling of your skin care products for this ingredient. If there is no information ask your pharmacist or call the company directly. At work, request a material safety data sheet (MSDS) to help identify potential sources of exposure.
The avoidance of fragrances agents such as Propolis can be difficult, since so many everyday products contain these substances. One should use only fragrance-free cosmetic and household products. “Unscented” products may contain low levels of a fragrance to cover up an undesirable odor and also should be avoided. Products labeled as “hypoallergenic” do not assure that the product is truly free of fragrance.
Since fragrances are complex mixtures of many ingredients, an individual may tolerate one fragrance but not another. A trial-and-error method of avoiding a fragrance allergen in a product can be performed by applying the product to the forearm in the same small area twice a day for a week. If no dermatitis develops, the product may likely be used safely.