I have long suspected that the ”hypoallergenic” claim on cosmetic labels was a lot of twaddle. When you read the label of a product so labeled, the ingredients are so similar to standard products it hardly seems there is any difference at all. The only thing I have noted personally is that “hypoallerginc” products have no discernable scent. This would lead one to think that there were no added fragrances (artificial frangrances are the most likely ingredient to cause skin irritation) but even this isn’t the case. Subtle-smelling fragrances are often added to mask the smell of the base petroleum ingredients. So what does hypoallergenic actually mean? I found this great little article from Skin MD which outlines exactly why this term is just marketing hype:
Implicit in the term “hypoallergenic” is that these products are less likely to cause allergic reactions than other cosmetic products and that these products will be gentler or even safer for the skin than other products.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) counsels that consumers should realize that no federal standards or regulations exist governing the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” In other words, the decision as to whether or not a cosmetic may be labeled as “hypoallergenic” lies solely with the manufacturer. And, this term may be applied without any demonstration or proof that the product causes fewer allergic reactions than others. Similar ambiguity applies to the labelling of cosmetics in Australia. A search of the Australian cosmetic standard
When labeling of cosmetics as “hypoallergenic” first became popular, the FDA attempted to regulate use of the term. In 1975, the FDA issued a regulation governing use of the term “hypoallergenic,” stating that a cosmetic product could be labeled “hypoallergenic” only if scientific studies on human subjects showed that it caused a significantly lower rate of adverse skin reactions than similar products not making such claims. The manufacturers of cosmetics claiming to be “hypoallergenic” were to be responsible for carrying out the required tests. But this regulation was subsequently declared invalid by U.S. courts, leaving manufacturers free to apply the term as they wish.
The FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors Fact Sheet notes that the ingredients used to make all cosmetic products are basically the same throughout the industry. Decades ago, harsh ingredients were sometimes used that indeed caused adverse reactions in some users, but these ingredients are no longer used in the cosmetic manufacturing process. Scientific studies demonstrating that certain products or classes of products cause fewer adverse reactions than others on the basis of “hypoallergenicity” are lacking.
The bottom line is that the term “hypoallergenic” has very little meaning and is primarily used as a marketing tool. It’s important to understand that it is impossible to guarantee that a cosmetic or skin care product will never produce an allergic reaction. Since the FDA does require that cosmetic ingredients be listed on product labels, consumers who have had allergic reactions or problems with a specific substance can avoid purchasing products that contain these substances.
Have you had any experiences with “hypoallergenic” products? Tell us what you think.Twitter It!
“We absorb up to 60% of what we apply to our skin” is an often cited factoid but is it actually true? Well I came across this research to show strong evidence that we do in fact absorb quite a bit of what is applied. Rates of skin absorption of contaminants in public drinking water were studied by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The study found that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of the total contaminant dosage. In another study the face was found to be 2-6x more permeable than other body surfaces such as the torso, and underarms and genitalia to be even more permeable. In fact, the underarms and genitalia showed up to a 100% absorption estimate (Kasting, 2005).
The studies showed that absorption rate varies depending on the compound. Some examples include, caffeine, which is absorbed by the skin at 48% while DDT is absorbed at 10%. Alarmingly fragrance ingredients, showed a 100% absorption rate (Robinson et al, 2000).
So there is basis to this information and in some cases, research implications are worrisome, particularly in regard to phthalates which are found in artificial fragrances. In any case regardless of actual percentage rates, it makes sense to know the ingredients in our skin care products so we know what we are applying and absorbing. As I am sure you all know my bias, you will understand that I think natural & organic products are the obvious choice as it immediately cuts out artificial preservatives, fragrances and color compounds that are either suspected or confirmed to be harmful to us.
Another gem from Lisa Phipps of Remedica fame and this one speaks to me! If I am going through a bad patch i.e. not looking after my skin or health in general (NEVER! I hear you say) I find that my T-zone becomes oily but strangely underneath my skin is dehydrated. Lisa explains why this happens:
As skin gets older or as our skin metabolics changes, we tend in general to produce less natural oil. Oil or natural lipids are necessary as part of our protective surface of the skin (Acid Mantle). This protective mechanism is a combination of sebum and sweat at healthy levels that act as a barrier against pollutants but also as a defence against dehydration. Destroying that balance or “starving” the skin of a balanced natural lubrication (sebum flow) can create many other problems with the skin, from developing over active sebaceous glands thus “oily” skin, under active sebaceous glands “dehydrated” skin, rough or flaky skin, sensitised skin, contribute to tired and sallow texture as well as making the skin more vulnerable to other cell mechanics that hasten the look of wrinkles and lines.
So what oils should we consider using:
Olive, Avocado, Macadamia and Coconut oil are generally considered to be heavy on the skin. They are more likely to remain on the skin longer. While this does form a protective layer, they aren’t as readily absorbed and so may not be suitable as facial oils. However, they do make excellent body oils.
The lightest and finest facial oils are better absorbed and therefore better carriers for other fat soluble ingredients. They also supply essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals to the skin cells more readily. This doesn’t mean they are better, just that they have different properties. In most cases, oil based serums will be a blend of oils, all with different benefits, healing properties, consistency and odour.
The oils listed below are in order from lightest to heaviest:
One of the product formulators I admire, Lisa Phipps (creator of the Remedica range) recently wrote an article titled “Skin Care Truths”. I agree with so much of what Lisa has to say particularly about the use of skin nutritional oils and skin hydration. In this blog I have included some of Lisa’s comments about skin hydration and how to achieve well hydrated skin. Lisa writes:
Hydration means more than just drinking enough water.
While drinking plenty of water means assisting metabolic mechanisms such as optimum digestion, organ health and elimination of toxins, it is important to know that drinking buckets of water will not translate to plumped hydrated skin surface. When we want to obtain optimum hydration of the skin 3 things are necessary:
Examples of humectants range from 100% synthetics to synthetically modified naturals and 100% natural ingredients. Lecithin, glycerine, sodium lactate, sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) or some of my favourites. Water IS NOT a humectant. Water is an example of a natural chemical compound that when it evaporates it takes existing moisture with it. So when you apply a simple rose water or lavender water that is advertised as being a hydrating mist, unless the formula contains ingredients that when compounded assist in “occlusion”, retaining moisture or blocking loss of moisture they will have no real meaning to skin care other than temporary relief. Any topically applied Hydrating formula worth its money must be a combination of humectants and occlusives. Simply put, humectants function in water soluble environments such as a water base BUT occlusives function in oil soluble environments such as olive oil, jojoba, tamanu oil, baobab etc. Humectants attract water molecules from the atmosphere and bind that moisture to the skin however the occlusives retain or lock that moisture in so it is not then lost back to the surrounding air.
What is the difference between hydration and protection from dehydration?
Hydration means just that – hydrating the skin….attracting moisture from the atmosphere and binding that moisture to the skin. Protection against dehydration is the “occlusive” mechanism in place to support the skin from not loosing excess moisture. Natural products best used for protecting against dehydration are those formulated with higher lipid (oil), content. 100% oil products would of course offer the most protection against dehydration. The level of comfort to the skin and rate of absorption however would be determined by the individual formulation. Some oils are heavy and some oils are light. Rose hip is an example of heavy oil that is too dense and too nourishing for some skin. Baobab is an example of highly nourishing oil with a very fast absorption rate. This all comes down to personal preference.
When is the best time to concern oneself with protection against dehydration?
Well, of course as stated above, it is always important to incorporate “occlusives” in ones skin care but overall the easiest way to assist the skin in repair, nourishment and protection against dehydration is at night. We are vulnerable to dehydration while we sleep. Using an oil preparation while we sleep is an excellent and simple way to assist the skin in retaining moisture. As mentioned some oils are appropriate and some are not. It is important to always ask about the suitability of the oils in question for your skin type when purchasing.
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Apart from the myriad of other symptoms, the onset of menopause can cause considerable skin changes in women. Symptoms range from dry, itchy skin to increased oil, thinning skin and acne breakouts.
Changes in hormones, particularly estrogen are responsible for many of the body changes during menopause including skin issues. The role of estrogen in the skin is to stimulate the formation of collagen and oil production. As menopause approaches the levels of estrogen drop and dry skin becomes very common. Increased oiliness and acne-breakouts are less common but also may occur initially as the hormonal profile begins to change. In this case estrogen may drop relative to testosterone which then drives oilier skin. Then as all hormones lower, the body’s oil production decreases as does the oiliness. Due to the reduction in oil production, the oil’s skin-protective effect decreases as does the body’s ability to hold onto moisture.
While dry skin may occur anywhere on the body, from elbows to face to legs, even the nail bed, itchiness tends to be limited to hands.
While these changes are an inevitable result of menopause, there are many ways to manage the skin effects and slow permanent changes.
Manage Dry Skin
Manage Oily Skin
Maintain Skin Collagen Levels
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