Vanillin is a crystalline compound, which is the fragrant constituent of vanilla. The vanilla bean is the dried and fermented fruit of an orchid, Vanilla planifolia. It is a fragrance used in a variety of products such as personal care products, flavorings, and essential oils in perfumes.
Skin contact with Vanillin is required for it to cause a rash. Discontinuation of exposure to products containing Vanillin 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.
Contact dermatitis due to Vanillin can occur in individuals exposed in the cultivation, trade, or industrial use of vanilla. Synthetic Vanillin can be produced from pine tree sap, eugenol, wood pulp, sugar and coal tar. The Food and Drug Administration requires that the term imitation vanilla appear on the label if the product contains synthetic ingredients. If the label has the term vanilla extract, the product must be derived from vanilla beans. Some individuals are sensitized to synthetic vanillin and not to the natural spice, and vice versa. An unusual source of exposure to Vanillin is smoking certain types of tobaccos.
The avoidance of fragrances and flavoring agents such as Vanillin 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.
Since some fragrances are also flavors, foods can, rarely, cause flare-ups of dermatitis in fragrance-sensitive individuals. Particularly if you have oral or lip allergies as discussed with your health care provider, you should avoid foods prepared with Vanillin.
Direct contact with foods or products containing Vanillin may cause symptoms including burning, irritation and redness. Direct contact may occur on the skin, lips or mouth. It is possible, but rare, that ingestion of this substance could cause generalized symptoms such as itching or redness of the skin.