There has been much talk lately in the dermatology world about the sudden increase of contact dermatitis on the hands caused by homemade slime. This fad became very popular several years ago – “how to make slime” was ranked by Google as the number-one most-searched how-to query of 2017.
There are countless recipes for slime on the internet, most involving ingredients like school glue, borax, shaving cream, hand soap, and contact lens solution. However, components of these ingredients are known to damage the skin barrier and cause a red, itchy rash.
A 2018 case study originally published in Pediatric Dermatology described a 10-year-old female patient who had presented with a 1.5-year history of a pink, itchy, eczematous rash on her fingers. Her dermatologist prescribed triamcinolone ointment, clobetasol ointment, and mupirocin ointment, but none had much effect on the rash.
Knowing that borax could cause an allergic reaction, the patient switched to a slime recipe that included Crayola Washable Glue, shaving cream, and contact lens solution. The rash, however, persisted.
A patch test confirmed a strong reaction to several ingredients found in these common household products, including methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone, triethanolamine, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, ethylenediamine dihydrochloride, and polyaminopropyl biguanide.
The patient was instructed to wear gloves when making, playing with, or otherwise handling the slime. A follow-up call at two months confirmed that the rash had completely cleared after wearing gloves and switching to slime ingredients that do not contain methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone.
Which School Glues Are “Safe”?
Investigators of this study found that most glue formulas are patented and protected, making it difficult to determine if they contain possible irritants.
However, further investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are included in the formulas of five of six tested school glues:
Crayola Washable Glue
Elmer’s X-Treme School Glue
Aleene’s School Tacky Glue
Aleene’s Clear School Tacky Glue
Up & Up Washable School Glue
Elmer’s School Glue was the only tested glue that did not contain methylchloroisothiazolinone or methylisothiazolinone, making it a better choice for children who are going to make slime or otherwise come into contact with the product.
What to Tell Parents of Contact Dermatitis Patients
If children or tweens present with a rash on their hands, inquire as to whether or not they might have made or played with slime recently. If so, inform parents of the recent findings involving the ingredients used to make slime and provide the following advice:
Have children wear gloves when making or playing with slime.
Choose Elmer’s School Glue because it does not contain methylchloroisothiazolinone or methylisothiazolinone.
Look for other household and personal care products such as hand soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and cosmetics that could contain similar allergens and therefore contribute to an allergic reaction.
While a rash from homemade slime might seem like an unlikely event, we have seen more and more cases of contact dermatitis caused by the ingredients used to make it. Encourage parents to find a different slime recipe that contains gentler ingredients and have their children wear gloves when handling the slime.
Have you seen patients who have presented with contact dermatitis caused by homemade slime? I would love to hear your experience! Feel free to share it with me (Leslie Baumann) via LinkedIn.
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