Colophony: Rosin in Unmodified and Modified Form

  • Ann-Therese KarlbergEmail author
  • Lina Hagvall
Reference work entry


Colophony (rosin) is the non-volatile fraction of the oleoresins from coniferous trees, mainly pine trees. The composition varies depending on the source but also on the way it is produced. There are three types of rosin based on the way of recovery: gum rosin, wood rosin, and tall oil rosin. Rosin is present in unmodified and modified form in many products with various usages and is ubiquitous in our daily life. The main usages are printing ink, adhesives, and sealants, as well as paper size. Colophony (rosin) is a common cause of contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) based on its widespread usage and the skin sensitizing capacity.

The main allergenic components are oxidized resin acids of the abietadiene-type which are formed on air exposure. 15-Hydroperoxyabietic acid was the first oxidation product identified as a contact allergen in gum rosin and is still considered to be the major sensitizer in colophony. Various allergenic compounds are also created in chemical modification processes performed to obtain improved technical rosin products. One of those is maleopimaric acid which is a strong contact allergen present in commonly used modified rosins. Studies on the prevalence of ACD caused by modified rosins and the major allergens should be performed in dermatitis patients and in the population.

Colophony (rosin) has a harmonised classification as a skin sensitizer in category 1. This means that products containing rosin at a concentration of at least 0.1% should be labelled with the statement EUH208 — “Contains rosin; colophony. May produce an allergic reaction” and a safety data sheet is required. Products containing at least 1% rosin must be classified and labelled as “H317: May cause an allergic skin reaction”.


Allergic contact dermatitis Colophonium Colophony Contact allergy Diels-Alder adducts Esterified rosin Gum rosin Maleopimaric acid Modified rosin Oxidation products Rosin Rosin derivatives Rosin products Skin sensitization Tall oil rosin 


  1. Barbaud A, Collet E, Le Coz CJ, Meaume S, Gillois P (2009) Contact allergy in chronic leg ulcers: results of a multicentre study carried out in 423 patients and proposal for an updated series of patch tests. Contact Dermatitis 60(5):279–287PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Belloni Fortina A, Cooper SM, Spiewak R, Fontana E, Schnuch A, Uter W (2015) Patch test results in children and adolescents across Europe. Analysis of the ESSCA network 2002–2010. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 26(5):446–455. Scholar
  3. Brared Christensson J, Karlberg AT, Andersen KE, Bruze M, Johansen JD, Garcia-Bravo B, Gimenez Arnau A, Goh CL, Nixon R, White IR (2016) Oxidized limonene and oxidized linalool – concomitant contact allergy to common fragrance terpenes. Contact Dermatitis 74(5):273–280. Scholar
  4. Bruynzeel DP, Diepgen TL, Andersen KE, Brandao FM, Bruze M, Frosch PJ, Goossens A, Lahti A, Mahler V, Maibach HI, Menne T, Wilkinson JD (2005) Monitoring the European standard series in 10 centres 1996–2000. Contact Dermatitis 53(3):146–149PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burry JN (1976) Contact dermatitis from radiata pine. Contact Dermatitis 2(5):262–263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen YX, Gao BA, Cheng HY, Li LF (2017) Survey of occupational allergic contact dermatitis and patch test among clothing employees in Beijing. Biomed Res Int 2017:3102358. Scholar
  7. Chowdhuri S, Ghosh S (2007) Epidemio-allergological study in 155 cases of footwear dermatitis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 73(5):319–322PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christensson JB, Matura M, Backtorp C, Borje A, Nilsson JL, Karlberg AT (2006) Hydroperoxides form specific antigens in contact allergy. Contact Dermatitis 55(4):230–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christensson JB, Johansson S, Hagvall L, Jonsson C, Borje A, Karlberg AT (2008) Limonene hydroperoxide analogues differ in allergenic activity. Contact Dermatitis 59(6):344–352. Scholar
  10. Christensson JB, Hellsen S, Borje A, Karlberg AT (2014) Limonene hydroperoxide analogues show specific patch test reactions. Contact Dermatitis 70(5):291–299. Scholar
  11. Christoffers WA, Coenraads PJ, Schuttelaar ML (2014) Bullous allergic reaction caused by colophonium in medical adhesives. Contact Dermatitis 70(4):256–257. Scholar
  12. Crepy MN (2015) Skin diseases in musicians. Eur J Dermatol 25(5):375–383. Scholar
  13. Daly BM, Stevenson CJ (1984) Contact dermatitis to wood wool. Contact Dermatitis 11(2):123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deswysen AC, Zimerson E, Goossens A, Bruze M, Baeck M (2013) Allergic contact dermatitis caused by self-adhesive electrocardiography electrodes in an infant. Contact Dermatitis 69(6):379–381. Scholar
  15. Diepgen TL, Ofenloch RF, Bruze M, Bertuccio P, Cazzaniga S, Coenraads PJ, Elsner P, Goncalo M, Svensson A, Naldi L (2016) Prevalence of contact allergy in the general population in different European regions. Br J Dermatol 174(2):319–329. Scholar
  16. Ehrin E, Karlberg AT (1990) Detection of rosin (colophony) components in technical products using an HPLC technique. Contact Dermatitis 23(5):359–366PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elms J, Fishwick D, Robinson E, Burge S, Huggins V, Barber C, Williams N, Curran A (2005) Specific IgE to colophony? Occup Med (Lond) 55(3):234–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farm G (1996) Contact allergy to colophony and hand eczema. A follow-up study of patients with previously diagnosed contact allergy to colophony. Contact Dermatitis 34(2):93–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farm G (1997) Contact allergy to colophony. Clinical and experimental studies with emphasis on clinical relevance. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh) 201:1–44Google Scholar
  20. Farm G, Liden C, Karlberg AT (1994) A clinical and patch test study in a tall-oil rosin factory. Contact Dermatitis 31(2):102–107PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Farm G, Karlberg AT, Liden C (1995) Are opera-house artistes afflicted with contact allergy to colophony and cosmetics? Contact Dermatitis 32(5):273–280PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fregert S (1979) Colophony in cutting oil and in soap water used as cutting fluid. Contact Dermatitis 5(1):52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gafvert E (1994) Allergenic components in modified and unmodified rosin. Chemical characterization and studies of allergenic activity. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh) 184:1–36Google Scholar
  24. Gafvert E, Farm G (1995) Rosin (colophony) and zinc oxide in adhesive bandages. An appropriate combination for rosin-sensitive patients? Contact Dermatitis 33(6):396–400PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gafvert E, Nilsson U, Karlberg AT, Magnusson K, Nilsson JL (1992) Rosin allergy: identification of a dehydroabietic acid peroxide with allergenic properties. Arch Dermatol Res 284(7):409–413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gafvert E, Shao LP, Karlberg AT, Nilsson U, Nilsson JL (1994a) Allergenicity of rosin (colophony) esters (II). Glyceryl monoabietate identified as contact allergen. Contact Dermatitis 31(1):11–17PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gafvert E, Shao LP, Karlberg AT, Nilsson U, Nilsson JL (1994b) Contact allergy to resin acid hydroperoxides. Hapten binding via free radicals and epoxides. Chem Res Toxicol 7(2):260–266PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gafvert E, Shao LP, Karlberg AT, Nilsson U, Nilsson JLG (1995) Maleopimaric acid – a contact allergen in rosin modified with fumaric acid. Nord Pulp Pap Res 10:139–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gafvert E, Bordalo O, Karlberg AT (1996) Patch testing with allergens from modified rosin (colophony) discloses additional cases of contact allergy. Contact Dermatitis 35(5):290–298PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gambichler T, Boms S, Freitag M (2004) Contact dermatitis and other skin conditions in instrumental musicians. BMC Dermatol 4:3PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Geier J, Lessmann H, Schnuch A, Uter W (2004) Contact sensitizations in metalworkers with occupational dermatitis exposed to water-based metalworking fluids: results of the research project “FaSt”. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 77(8):543–551PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goossens A, Armingaud P, Avenel-Audran M, Begon-Bagdassarian I, Constandt L, Giordano-Labadie F, Girardin P, Coz CJ, Milpied-Homsi B, Nootens C, Pecquet C, Tennstedt D, Vanhecke E (2002) An epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis due to epilating products. Contact Dermatitis 47(2):67–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Grattan CE, English JS, Foulds IS, Rycroft RJ (1989) Cutting fluid dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis 20(5):372–376PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Han JS, Jung JM, Lee WJ, Won CH, Jang YJ, Chang SE, Lee MW, Choi JH, Moon KC (2014) Benzoin spray: cause of allergic contact dermatitis due to its rosin content. Ann Dermatol 26(4):524–525. Scholar
  35. Hausen BM, Hessling C (1990) Contact allergy due to colophony (VI). The sensitizing capacity of minor resin acids and 7 commercial modified-colophony products. Contact Dermatitis 23(2):90–95PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hausen BM, Loll M (1993) Contact allergy due to colophony (VIII). The sensitizing potency of commercial products: an investigation of French and German modified-colophony derivatives. Contact Dermatitis 29(4):189–191PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hausen BM, Mohnert J (1989) Contact allergy due to colophony. (V). Patch test results with different types of colophony and modified-colophony products. Contact Dermatitis 20(4):295–301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hausen BM, Krohn K, Budianto E (1990) Contact allergy due to colophony (VII). Sensitizing studies with oxidation products of abietic and related acids. Contact Dermatitis 23(5):352–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Helm TN, Taylor JS, Adams RM, Fisher AA, Nethercott JR (1993) Skin problems of performing artists. Am J Contact Dermatitis 4:27–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henriks-Eckerman M-L, Suuronen K, Jolanki R (2008) Analysis of allergens in metalworking fluids. Contact Dermatitis 59:261–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hjorth N (1961) Eczematous allergy to balsams allied perfumes and flavouring agents. Munksgaard, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  42. Holmbom B (1978) The behavior of resin acids during tall oil distillation. J Am Oil Chem Soc 55:876–880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Holmbom B, Avela E, Pekkala S (1974) Capillary gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of resin acids in tall oil rosin. J Am Oil Chem Soc 51:397–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Illing HP, Malmfors T, Rodenburg L (2009) Skin sensitization and possible groupings for ‘read across’ for rosin based substances. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 54(3):234–241PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kanerva L, Rintala H, Henriks-Eckerman K, Engstrom K (2001) Colophonium in sanitary pads. Contact Dermatitis 44(1):59–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Karlberg AT (1988) Contact allergy to colophony. Chemical identifications of allergens, sensitization experiments and clinical experiences. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh) 139:1–43Google Scholar
  47. Karlberg AT (1991) Air oxidation increases the allergenic potential of tall oil rosin. Gum rosin contact allergens also identified in tall oil rosin. Am J Contact Dermatitis 2:43–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Karlberg AT, Dooms-Goossens A (1997) Contact allergy to oxidized d-limonene among dermatitis patients. Contact Dermatitis 36(4):201–206PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Karlberg AT, Gafvert E (1996) Isolated colophony allergens as screening substances for contact allergy. Contact Dermatitis 35(4):201–207PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Karlberg AT, Liden C (1985) Clinical experience and patch testing using colophony (rosin) from different sources. Br J Dermatol 113(4):475–481PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Karlberg AT, Liden C (1988) Comparison of colophony patch test preparations. Contact Dermatitis 18(3):158–165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Karlberg AT, Liden C (1992) Colophony (rosin) in newspapers may contribute to hand eczema. Br J Dermatol 126(2):161–165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Karlberg AT, Magnusson K (1996) Rosin components identified in diapers. Contact Dermatitis 34(3):176–178. OPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Karlberg AT, Boman A, Holmbom B, Liden C (1986) Contact allergy to acid and neutral fractions of rosins. Sensitization experiments in guinea pigs and patch testing in patients. Derm Beruf Umwelt 34(2):31–36PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Karlberg AT, Bohlinder K, Boman A, Hacksell U, Hermansson J, Jacobsson S, Nilsson JL (1988a) Identification of 15-hydroperoxyabietic acid as a contact allergen in Portuguese colophony. J Pharm Pharmacol 40(1):42–47PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Karlberg AT, Boman A, Hacksell U, Jacobsson S, Nilsson JL (1988b) Contact allergy to dehydroabietic acid derivatives isolated from Portuguese colophony. Contact Dermatitis 19(3):166–174PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Karlberg AT, Boman A, Nilsson JL (1988c) Hydrogenation reduces the allergenicity of colophony (rosin). Contact Dermatitis 19(1):22–29PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Karlberg AT, Gafvert E, Hagelthorn G, Nilsson JL (1990) Maleopimaric acid – a potent sensitizer in modified rosin. Contact Dermatitis 22(4):193–201PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Karlberg AT, Gafvert E, Liden C (1995) Environmentally friendly paper may increase risk of hand eczema in rosin-sensitive persons. J Am Acad Dermatol 33(3):427–432PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Karlberg AT, Brared-Christensson J, Borje A, Harambasic E, Matura M (2007) Methyl esterification of 15-hydroperoxyabietic acid does not affect the patch-test result in colophonium allergic patients. Contact Dermatitis 56(6):355–356. Scholar
  61. Khan L, Saeed MA (1994) 13beta,14beta-dihydroxy-13alpha-isopropylabietic acid, an elicitor of contact allergy. J Pharm Sci 83(6):909–910PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Koh D, Lee BL, Ong HY, Ong CN, Wong WK, Ng SK, Goh CL (1995) Colophony in bindi adhesive. Contact Dermatitis 32(3):186PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Koh D, Leow YH, Goh CL (2001) Occupational allergic contact dermatitis in Singapore. Sci Total Environ 270:97–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lagrelius M, Wahlgren CF, Matura M, Kull I, Liden C (2016) High prevalence of contact allergy in adolescence: results from the population-based BAMSE birth cohort. Contact Dermatitis 74(1):44–51. Scholar
  65. Liden C (1984) Patch testing with soldering fluxes. Contact Dermatitis 10(2):119–120PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lindberg M, Edman B, Fischer T, Stenberg B (2007) Time trends in Swedish patch test data from 1992 to 2000. A multi-centre study based on age- and sex-adjusted results of the Swedish standard series. Contact Dermatitis 56(4):205–210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Lyon CC, Tucker SC, Gafvert E, Karlberg AT, Beck MH (1999) Contact dermatitis from modified rosin in footwear. Contact Dermatitis 41(2):102–103PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Matos J, Mariano A, Goncalo S, Freitas JD, Oliveira J (1988) Occupational dermatitis from colophony. Contact Dermatitis 18(1):53–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Matura M, Goossens A, Bordalo O, Garcia-Bravo B, Magnusson K, Wrangsjo K, Karlberg AT (2003) Patch testing with oxidized R-(+)-limonene and its hydroperoxide fraction. Contact Dermatitis 49(1):15–21PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Matura M, Skold M, Borje A, Andersen KE, Bruze M, Frosch P, Goossens A, Johansen JD, Svedman C, White IR, Karlberg AT (2005) Selected oxidized fragrance terpenes are common contact allergens. Contact Dermatitis 52(6):320–328. Scholar
  71. Meding B, Swanbeck G (1990) Predictive factors for hand eczema. Contact Dermatitis 23(3):154–161PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Meding B, Toren K, Karlberg AT, Hagberg S, Wass K (1993) Evaluation of skin symptoms among workers at a Swedish paper mill. Am J Ind Med 23(5):721–728PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Meding B, Ahman M, Karlberg AT (1996) Skin symptoms and contact allergy in woodwork teachers. Contact Dermatitis 34(3):185–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Mortz CG, Bindslev-Jensen C, Andersen KE (2013) Prevalence, incidence rates and persistence of contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis in The Odense Adolescence Cohort Study: a 15-year follow-up. Br J Dermatol 168(2):318–325. Scholar
  75. Nilsson U, Berglund N, Lindahl F, Axelsson S, Redeby T, Lassen P, Karlberg AT (2008) SPE and HPLC/UV of resin acids in colophonium-containing products. J Sep Sci 31(15):2784–2790. Scholar
  76. Nilsson U, Karlberg AT, Lassen P (2009) Development of an analysis method for quantification of colophonium components in cosmetic products. Danish Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  77. Pereira TM, Flour M, Goossens A (2007) Allergic contact dermatitis from modified colophonium in wound dressings. Contact Dermatitis 56(1):5–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Raison-Peyron N, Nilsson U, Du-Thanh A, Karlberg AT (2013) Contact dermatitis from unexpected exposure to rosin from a toilet seat. Dermatitis 24(3):149–150. Scholar
  79. Sadhra S, Foulds IS (1995) Allergic potential of neutrals in unmodified colophony, and a method for their separation from resin acids. Br J Dermatol 132(1):69–73PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sadhra S, Foulds IS, Gray CN (1996) Identification of contact allergens in unmodified rosin using a combination of patch testing and analytical chemistry techniques. Br J Dermatol 134(4):662–668PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Sadhra S, Foulds IS, Gray CN (1998) Oxidation of resin acids in colophony (rosin) and its implications for patch testing. Contact Dermatitis 39(2):58–63PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Salim A, Shaw S (2001) Recommendation to include ester gum resin when patch testing patients with leg ulcers. Contact Dermatitis 44(1):34PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Scherrer M, Junqueira AF (2010) Allergic contact dermatitis to natural resin rare among gum rosin extractors? Contact Dermatitis 62(1):64–65PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Schnuch A, Uter W, Geier J, Gefeller O (2002) Epidemiology of contact allergy: an estimation of morbidity employing the clinical epidemiology and drug-utilization research (CE-DUR) approach. Contact Dermatitis 47(1):32–39PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Shao LP, Gafvert E, Karlberg AT, Nilsson U, Nilsson JL (1993) The allergenicity of glycerol esters and other esters of rosin (colophony). Contact Dermatitis 28(4):229–234PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Shao LP, Gafvert E, Nilsson U, Karlberg AT, Nilsson JL (1995) 15-hydroperoxydehydroabietic acid – a contact allergen in colophony from pinus species. Phytochemistry 38(4):853–857PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Sharma PR (2006) Allergic contact stomatitis from colophony. Dent Update 33(7):440–442PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Soltes EJ, Zinkel DF (1989) Chemistry of rosin. In: Zinkel DF, Russel J (eds) Naval stores. Production-chemistry-utilization, Pulp Chemicals Association, New York, pp 261–345Google Scholar
  89. Suhng EA, Byun JY, Choi YW, Myung KB, Choi HY (2011) A case of allergic contact dermatitis due to DuoDERM extrathin(R). Ann Dermatol 23(Suppl 3):S387–S389. Scholar
  90. Suuronen K, Aalto-Korte K, Piipari R, Tuomi T, Jolanki R (2007) Occupational dermatitis and allergic respiratory diseases in Finnish metalworking machinists. Occup Med (Lond) 57(4):277–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Thyssen JP, Linneberg A, Menne T, Johansen JD (2007) The epidemiology of contact allergy in the general population – prevalence and main findings. Contact Dermatitis 57(5):287–299PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Tsuruta D, Sowa J, Tsuruta K, Ishii M, Kobayashi H (2011) Allergic contact dermatitis caused by gum rosin and wood rosin in Tako-no-Suidashi ointment. J Dermatol 38(10):993–995. Scholar
  93. Turner JM (2010) 2008 International Yearbook, Forest Chemical Review. In: Turner JM (ed) 2008 International Yearbook, Forest Chemical Review. Kriedt Enterprises, New Orleans, p 7Google Scholar
  94. Uter W, Geier J, Frosch P, Schnuch A (2010) Contact allergy to fragrances: current patch test results (2005–2008) from the Information Network of Departments of Dermatology(*). Contact Dermatitis 63(5):254–261PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Watsky KL (1997) Airborne allergic contact dermatitis from pine dust. Am J Contact Dermatitis 8(2):118–120PubMedGoogle Scholar
  96. Widstrom L (1983) Contact allergy to colophony in soldering flux. Contact Dermatitis 9(3):205–207PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wujanto L, Wakelin S (2012) Allergic contact dermatitis to colophonium in a sanitary pad-an overlooked allergen? Contact Dermatitis 66(3):161–162. Scholar
  98. Yu DS, Kim HJ, Park YG, Bae JM, Kim JW, Lee YB (2017) Patch-test results using Korean standard series: a 5-year retrospective review. J Dermatol Treat 28(3):258–262. Scholar
  99. Zinkel DF (1975) Chemicals from tree. Chem Technol 4:235–241Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dermatochemistry and Skin Allergy, Department of Chemistry and Molecular BiologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department of Dermatology, Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations