Contact with the skin is inevitable or desirable for daily life products such as cosmetics, hair dyes, perfumes, drugs, household products, and industrial and agricultural products. Whereas the majority of these products are harmless, a number can become metabolized and/or activate the immunological defense via innate and adaptive mechanisms resulting in sensitization and allergic contact dermatitis upon following exposures to the same substance. Therefore, strict safety (hazard) assessment of actives and ingredients in products and drugs applied to the skin is essential to determine I) whether the chemical is a potential sensitizer and if so II) what is the safe concentration for human exposure to prevent sensitization from occurring. Ex vivo skin is a valuable model for skin penetration studies but due to logistical and viability limitations the development of in vitro alternatives is required. The aim of this review is to give a clear overview of the organotypic in vitro skin models (reconstructed human epidermis, reconstructed human skin, immune competent skin models incorporating Langerhans Cells and T-cells, skin-on-chip) that are currently commercially available or which are being used in a laboratory research setting for hazard assessment of potential sensitizers and for investigating the mechanisms (sensitization key events 1–4) related to allergic contact dermatitis. The limitations of the models, their current applications, and their future potential in replacing animals in allergy-related science are discussed.
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