The ability to be sensitized to experimental contact allergens declines significantly with increasing age, from as early as age 40 years. In contrast, the rate of contact allergy to chemical allergens (haptens) in cosmetic products significantly increases with age. This has been explained previously on the basis of greater cumulative exposure in the older age groups. However, outbreaks of contact allergy to preservatives in cosmetic products recorded soon after their introduction to the market have also shown a significantly higher rate among older adult age groups. This association with increasing age cannot be readily explained by exposure history or pattern, and is not compatible with a sensitizing/stimulatory reaction that degrades with age as the sole immune response. From this, the existence of a second, tolerizing/regulatory arm to the immune response to cutaneous haptens that possibly becomes less effective with age at a higher rate than the sensitizing/stimulatory arm can be inferred. This reinforces the view that current clinical and experimental observations of allergic contact dermatitis are best explained by an immune system with the functional ability to produce both sensitizing/stimulatory and tolerizing/regulatory responses.