Hypoallergenic doesn’t mean much
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.