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Acute effects from various human experience regardless of reliability are presented.

Additional information

Toxicokinetics, Metabolism and Distribution


In vitro permeability studies using human skin treated with 10% w/v resorcinol, reported there was a long lag time (80 min) (Roberts et al., 1977). A steady state permeability coefficient (Kp) of 0.00024 cm/h was calculated.

In a human volunteer study to measure absorption and metabolic disposition, 2% resorcinol (800 mg resorcinol/day, a maximal exaggerated use level) was applied topically in a hydro-alcoholic vehicle over an application area of 2600 cm2 twice a day, six days a week for four weeks to three male volunteers with one control volunteer (Yeung et al., 1983). The test substance penetrated the skin at a rate of 0.37 μg/cm2/hour. After two weeks of application, an average of 1.64% of the dose was being excreted in 24-hr urine specimens as the glucuronide or as the sulfate conjugate. There was no resorcinol or its conjugates in blood drawn at week 1, 2, 3, and 4.

In one female patient with leg ulcers treated dermally for 13 years with ca. 500g/week of an ointment containing 12.5 % resorcinol, 2.1 % of the applied dose was found in urine as glucuronide and monosulphate metabolites (Thomas and Gisburn, 1961).


Acute effects:

Following accidental oral ingestion of resorcinol (50 g) to a 27 yr old pregnant female (at 30 weeks of pregnancy) major clinical findings were: unconsciousness, drowsiness, and respiratory failure that required mechanical ventilation along with tonic-clonic seizures and hypothermia (Duran et al., 2004). In addition, the laboratory findings were leucocytosis, high bilirubin levels, severe metabolic acidosis and green-colored urine. The foetus was considered dead at 24 h after delivery. The mother’s recovered with supportive management. Basic approach to the patient with resorcinol poisoning should include the initial stabilization of immediate life-threatening problems and elimination of the toxin. 

In humans, the following symptoms of systemic intoxication are reported after dermal application of excessive doses of resorcinol to open or abraded skin: dyspnoea, tachycardia, cramps, liver and kidney damage, methemoglobin formation, hemolysis, cyanosis, hemolytic anemia, haemoglobinuria, hypothyroidism and local ochronosis and myxoedema (Becker, 1933; Berthezene et al., 1973; Bull, 1950; Cunningham, 1956; Garton, 1949; Guinet, 1967; Haenelt, 1925; Kalkoff, 1962; Katin et al., 1977; Luepke, 1979; Murray, 1926; Nothen, 1908; Thomas, 1961; and Wuethrich et al., 1970).  For babies and infants, dermal application of resorcinol can prove fatal when applied excessively.

Collectively these signs of toxicity in adults and children are rarely observed and confined to a period of time when resorcinol was utilised at high concentrations (up to 50%) and was applied to open wounds.

It is important to note that over application of dermatological preparations and creams was a problem in the early 20thcentury (EC, 2002).  These instances represent exaggerated usage conditions and are not considered of clinical relevance to humans under current practices and conditions of current uses. Since the 1950’s the regulation of resorcinol-containing topical ointments, the concentration of resorcinol has lowered to no more than 5% together with greater supervision by the prescribing professional where applicable and clearer product information. 

For the past thirty years topically applied resorcinol-containing applications, representing a significant number of years of patient and consumer years of exposure, have been demonstrated to be well tolerated when used within the limits of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review and as an approved acne ingredient up to 2% in combination with sulphur (US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 21 Section 310.545, Section 333.310; Section 333.320).

Data from human usage over the past 30 years has not shown thyroid effects in humans at therapeutic doses or industrial concentrations. 



Data are available regarding experience in human dermatitis/allergy clinical cases. Resorcinol is considered a moderately potent sensitiser, within the local lymph node assay but this does not correlate with a high incidence of reports in humans (Broeckx et al., 1987; Sosted et al., 2013; CIR 1986). When considering the extensive use of resorcinol, the human data suggest resorcinol is an uncommon/rare sensitiser.


Resorcinol has elicited positive skin reactions in a number of patch tests carried out on patients with dermatitis. Baer et al. (1955) examined 1694 dermatitis patients, and positive responses could be observed in 0.7-0.8% of them. In further case histories of 34 dermatitis patients, resorcinol was established as the cause after epicutaneous testing (Baer et al., 1995; Bandmann, 1966; Eiermann et al., 1982; Howell, 1946). Positive skin reactions to resorcinol were observed in 7 of 352 (1.9%) patients (Storck, Baumann, 1975). When patch tested with resorcinol (2% in petrolatum), 4 of 302 hairdressers (1.3%) suffering from contact dermatitis gave a positive reaction (Guerra et al., 1992). In a study by Blondeel et al. (1978), positive patch test responses could be observed in 4.5% of patients. Positive skin reactions to resorcinol were also observed in 0.4% of 1385 patients (Jarisch & Sandor, 1978). In 11 out of 2027 cases of industrial dermatosis in workers in the chemical industry, contact with resorcinol was suspected out of being the cause (Berg, Weichardt, 1953). 1.1% and 1.2% of contact allergy sufferers tested in Bratislava (Slovakia) during 1968-1972 and 1973-1977, respectively, reacted positively to resorcinol in the patch test (Hegy, 1979).

In 42 workers from a tire factory exhibiting hand dermatitis, an epicutaneous test with resorcinol performed in accordance with ICDRG proved negative (Abbate et al., 1989).

There are also a few case reports describing dermal sensitization caused by resorcinol. In one patient who developed contact dermatitis after application of Castellani paint to the skin, application of resorcinol (5% in petrolatum; ingredient of the paint) yielded a positive patch test after 48 hours (Marks, West, 1978). Three female acne patients suffering from contact dermatitis gave a positive patch test for resorcinol (2% in petrolatum) after 48 and 72 hours (Serrano et al., 1992). A person (hairdresser) suffering from contact dermatitis reacted positively to resorcinol (2% in petrolatum) in a patch test (Vilaplana et al., 1991). A female suffering from chronic psoriasis gave an allergic reaction within 48 hours of dermal application of a cream that, among other ingredients, contained 2% resorcinol. She had been treated with the same cream several times approximately 4 years earlier. In the open patch test performed subsequently, the patient gave a positive reaction to 2% resorcinol in petrolatum and negative reactions to all other cream ingredients (Waddell & Finn, 1981).


Thyroid: See information on specific investigations.