What is it?
Propolis is a red or brown resinous substance collected by honey bees from buds of poplar or cone-bearing trees. It may be contained in beeswax and 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.

How can I avoid it?
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 U.S. 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 not enough information, ask your pharmacist or retailer or contact the company directly. At work, request a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to help identify potential sources of exposure.

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.

  • Found in beehives
  • Popular folk remedy medicinals
    • Ointments
    • Powders
    • Tablets (this may cause dermatitis around the mouth or anus)
    • Cold sore remedies
    • Burn salves
  • Varnishes
  • Skin care products
    • Emollients
    • Lip balms
    • Canker sore treatment
  • Chewing gum
  • Car wax
  • Lozenges, oral sprays, tinctures, mouthwashes, and toothpaste
Other names for propolis:
  • Bee bread
  • Bee glue
  • Hive dross
  • Propolis balsam
  • Propolis resin
  • Propolis wax
Potential cross-reacting/co-reacting substances:
  • Fragrances including:
    • Balsam of Peru
    • Balsam of Tolu
    • Benzyl salicylate
    • Cinnamic acid
    • Vanillin

How safe is it?

Hang tight. We're thinking.