Making music could be bad for your skin


Playing a musical instrument increases your risk of suffering from a variety of skin complaints, according to a study published this week in BMC Dermatology. These conditions can usually be averted by correcting your technique or by making slight alterations to your instrument.

Dr. Thilo Gambichler, a consultant dermatologist at Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, UK systematically searched the published literature for studies on instrument-related diseases in musicians. He found that the most common disorders were allergic reactions to specific components of an instrument, or irritant skin conditions caused by prolonged intense contact with an instrument.

"The skin is important in the positioning and playing of a musical instrument," write the authors of the study. "During practicing and performing there is a permanent contact between the instrument and the musician's skin of varying intensity. Apart from aggravating previous skin conditions, specific dermatologic conditions may develop that are directly caused by playing a musical instrument."

The most frequently reported skin conditions were allergic reactions to specific components of instruments. These included allergies to rosin, which is used to wax the bows of stringed instruments, and to the cane reeds used in clarinets and saxophones. Flautists, and brass and string players with an allergy to nickel reportedly suffered from dermatitis of the lips, chin or hands, which in some cases promoted chronic eczema.

Altering the brand of rosin, or changing to plastic or gold mouthpieces, plastic polystyrene reeds, or bronze strings could avert these conditions.

Many of the reports Gambichler uncovered described cases of "fiddler's neck". This is a chronic irritant condition where an area of skin on the side of the neck that is in contact with the violin or viola becomes thicker than normal, and discoloured giving it a leathery, bark-like appearance. Similarly, guitarists may suffer from "guitar nipple", otherwise known as irritant mastitis. This condition can be avoided by changing the positioning of the guitar.

Gambichler writes: "By becoming familiar with the known conditions associated with specific instruments, clinicians will be better able to diagnose and treat musicians who have skin problems affecting their performance."

He adds: "Since most of the epidemiological data on skin problems in musicians originate from studies on orchestral musicians, we aim to conduct a survey on skin problems suffered by non-orchestral instrumentalists, including jazz, rock, and pop musicians."


This press release is based on the following article:

Contact dermatitis and other skin conditions in instrumental musicians
Thilo Gambichler, Stefanie Boms, Marcus Freitag
BMC Dermatology, 2004, 4:3
To be published 16 April 2004

Upon publication this article will be available free of charge according to BMC Dermatology's Open Access policy at:


For further information about this research, please contact Dr Thilo Gambichler by email at [email protected]

Alternatively, or for more information about the journal or Open Access publishing, contact Gemma Bradley by email at [email protected] or by phone on 44-207-323-0323

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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