Can chemicals cause vitiligo?

It’s important to remember there are multiple factors involved in vitiligo onset, including genetic predisposition, living and working environments, and exposure to certain chemicals. Some products may be harmful for some patients but not others.

There are a number of commercial products that have been reported to induce vitiligo, and most of them contain phenols. Other chemicals and their derivatives that have been known to cause loss of skin color include:

  • p-phenylenediamine (also known as para-phenylene diamine or PPD) 
  • para-tertiary butylphenol (PTBP)
  • monobenzylether of hydroquinone (MBH) 

Industrial items with PPD or PTBP include permanent hair dyes, fabric and leather colorants, printing inks, motor oil additives, fiberglass products, plywood, masonry sealant, insecticides and commercial disinfectants. Medical items with PTBP include hearing aids, prosthesis and athletic tape. Skin lighting creams and soaps in certain countries may contain MBH in excessive concentrations and drive progressive skin depigmentation.

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