Side effects of Camphor in skin products

Camphor is an active ingredient in many medications and skin products, while also being a well established folk remedy. It has a characteristic pleasant smell and is commonly used to treat problems associated with breathing and sinus as well as those related to poor blood circulation and pain in the joints. Camphor is also used as a rubefacient when applied on the skin and it causes a cooling effect. When applied to skin, it acts by stimulating the nerve endings for relieving the pain and itching, while the irritation that it can cause on the skin can also block the pain by a counter-irritation at the nervous system level. Camphor has local anesthetic effects as well. Topical use of camphor can even treat respiratory tract and heart disease symptoms and is also used for treatment of fungal infections of toenail and warts.

Side effects of Camphor in skin products
Exposure to camphor, whether by absorption through skin or by oral consumption, can however have serious health implications such as respiratory problems, chest pain, skin irritation and rashes and even be fatal in certain situations. But it is generally safe when absorbed through the application of creams and lotions on the skin or when inhaled, as it is present here in small amounts. Undiluted or concentrated camphor products should however be strictly avoided as it can cause toxicity and irritation. Also, camphor containing products should never be heated or micro-waved, as this is likely to cause an explosion and lead to severe burns.

Camphor toxicity
Camphor can easily penetrate through the skin, the placental barrier and the mucous membrane, and this may lead to a serious condition of hepatotoxicity. Laboratory tests also indicate that a generalized damage of the body tissue can occur due to camphor exposure and toxicity.

Side-effects on children
Further, even small doses of camphor exposure in children can have serious health implications and can also cause death in small, malnourished infants.

Even though the relatively lower concentration of camphor in cold medications such as Vicks Vaporub is not toxic enough and a very large exposure is needed to cause any health problems. The implication of using such medication on children is still debatable though, and even if these are not recommended for infants below 2 years, most parents are totally unaware of the possible issues with camphor toxicity and nevertheless use it on children as a cold remedy.

Application on broken skin
Particular care should be taken to not apply camphor (or any product having significant of camphor concentration) to broken skin, as this will accelerate the process of body absorption and therefore much easily cause camphor toxicity related health problems.

Side-effects on Pregnancy
Health effects of camphor application on the skin of pregnant women or at the time of breast-feeding are not known, although oral consumption can definitely be unsafe for both the mother and the baby. It is therefore recommended that camphor containing products in any form should be avoided during this period.


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