Coronavirus and allergic contact dermatitis

It seems like an appropriate moment to offer some information on the only real story in town at the moment — that of the COVID-19 pandemic — and how it might affect those with ACD, to both MI and other isothiazolinones, as well as other chemicals and ingredients.

Hand Washing

The need to wash hands frequently need not be repeated — 20 seconds, lots of lathering up, don’t forget in between fingers, nor thumbs and backs of hands, rinse well. The temperature of the water isn’t particularly relevant: hot doesn’t ‘kill’ more effectively than cold, but warm is more pleasurable and means you’re likely to do it longer.

Bars of soap are almost always free from MI and MCI, but one or two containing them have been spotted in the past, and the ‘rule’ certainly does not apply to liquid soap, which may well contain isothiazolinones. Bluntly, now is not the time to be experimenting with different products anyway. Stick to what works for you, and if due to shortage or panic buying you run out of safe regularly used products, scrutinise ingredients even more assiduously than you normally would.

Hand Moisturising

Dry hands will hopefully be manageable with your usual emollient, but you could always try a plain unscented oil — just a few drops — on your hands, as that’s essentially what is being stripped away when you wash your hands regularly.

Hand Sanitiser

Some important points on hand sanitiser.

First, it is NOT classed as a leave-on cosmetic, therefore is NOT automatically protected by legislation in Europe which holds that leave-on cosmetics should be free from isothiazolinones. I’ve not yet identified one which contains it, but I expect there are examples out there. Please, please, check carefully.

Some hand sanitisers which have a dual cosmetic purpose (as both hand cream and hand sanitiser) ARE classed as cosmetics, but it is not typically easy to tell, so assume it is not safe until you can verify otherwise. If it does not have a full list of ingredients, then it is not a cosmetic, and should be avoided.

Second, there are lots of hand sanitisers being rushed onto the market at the moment, many of them by cosmetic companies, but I’ve also seen a brewer produce some. Normally, such products have to go through a long testing and product safety evaluation, at least in Europe, and I’m uncertain about the legality of what is happening — though no doubt the enforcers have other matters on their minds at present, and perhaps have given some sort of dispensation. Regardless, please avoid these products, as I cannot believe they are sufficiently well tested and may contain ingredients to which you react, or may not adequately declare what they contain. 

Ultimately, washing with a bar of soap is by far the more effective anyway. 


The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America have issued the following guidance — Eczema, Hand-Washing and the New Coronavirus (COVID-19): Protecting Yourself and Your Skin — which you may find helpful. 

The National Eczema Association‘s ‘Ask the Ecz-perts’ Q&A on Coronavirus is also interesting. Find it here

In the UK, The National Eczema Society have published their Advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for People with Eczema

Here is the Eczema Association AustralisiaHand Washing

And also, The Eczema Society of Canada have published this Ask the Doctor advice, Eczema and COVID-19

For those of you with food allergies, immune conditions, asthma or gut disorders, you may find some additional helpful links at my general website, Allergy Insight. Click here for to see them. 


  1. June Sam

    So glad to see some companies are removing Mi from products .

  2. Joy

    Many bar soaps contain perfume and therefore may be unsafe (writing from Australia).

    Your comment – Bars of soap are almost always free from MI and MCI

    Many MI diagnosed people struggle with perfumed soaps. My skin has improved by switching to unscented soap.

    1. MI Free (Post author)

      I agree that many struggle with perfumed soaps, but I suspect this is far more often to do with direct sensitivity to fragrance chemicals than trace isothiazolinone. It’s a perhaps controversial view in the community, but I think trace MI / MCI in fragrance added to a cosmetic is a minor issue, especially in a rinse-off product such as soap. The quantity is likely to be minute, as such a tiny amount of fragrance is used.

  3. Lucille Byrnes

    Should I switch from liquid soap ( containing methylchloroisothiazolinone to a bar of soap, as the former doesn’t seem to be alcohol-based, or can I continue but also finish off with bar of soap? (Reason: liquid soap kinder to my skin.)

    1. MI Free (Post author)

      Well if you react to isothiazolinones you should definitely switch away from them, but I’m sure there are liquid soap options free from MI and free from fragrance (which will also be kinder to your skin). Are you struggling to find one?

  4. June

    I see MI has been not removed from dishing liquids and laundry detergents . M I does cause rash and skin problems , most people do not look at the ingredients is the products they use ,if they did they might find MI. Products work find without it with no miserable skin rashes .

    1. MI Free (Post author)

      Not fully clear what you mean here, but MI is still permitted in rinse off cosmetics and all household detergents / paints etc in the UK / EU, and also in leave on cosmetics in other places, such as US.


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