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 I had the chance to learn kintsugi urushi in Japan.

Through my posts, let me help you discover and appreciate this ancestral Japanese art as an art on its own.


One of the most frequently asked questions during urushi kintsugi training is: "Why don't you use gloves or protection?" Indeed, urushi lacquer is toxic, allergenic, and dangerous. However, I don't use gloves because I am immune.

Once the lacquer has hardened, it becomes non-toxic and can be handled safely. However, when it is fresh (ki urushi) and not yet hardened, dust deposits from dried lacquer, known as sabi, can be harmful. The urushiol it contains is the main culprit of urushi dermatitis caused by rhus.

What is "urushi dermatitis caused by rhus," or more precisely, "contact dermatitis induced by urushiol"? Urushiol is found in many plants, mainly in the Toxicodendron family (poison ivy sap contains urushiol, cashew nuts, the urushi lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum)). Urushi rash is a hypersensitivity reaction, and symptoms include itching. In more severe cases, it can cause skin inflammation, redness, blisters, and a burning sensation.

La dermatite de contact induite par l'urushiol
urushi dermatitis caused by rhus

urushi dermatitis caused by rhus
Urushiol dermatitis

This is why handling urushi must be done with caution. It is necessary to wear gloves, a mask, and work in a well-ventilated area, as even the fumes can be harmful to a sensitive person. In all circumstances during ki urushi handling, it is recommended to wear long-sleeved clothing or protective sleeves and to change gloves regularly during prolonged work. Don't forget to dispose of used cloths, wipes, and containers.

Some people are immune, but it is also possible to develop partial or total immunity over time through regular contact with small amounts of urushi. Many urushi craftsmen are immune, but it may take years of regular use. It's essential to keep in mind that urushi on your hands or clothes can cause a reaction in your loved ones.

Prophylaxis and Decontamination

In the event of exposure to urushiol, it is crucial to thoroughly clean any exposed area with cold soapy water. If symptoms of urushi dermatitis caused by rhus, such as skin rashes or itching, occur, consult a doctor or dermatologist promptly.



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