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Hypoallergenic Cosmetics: Are They Really?

By HERWriter
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Cosmetics related image Photo: Getty Images

Many products claim to be hypoallergenic. The name hypoallergenic implies that the ingredients in the item will not cause an allergic reaction or that they are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. How do we know that they contain these less reactive substances? Is there really such a thing as hypoallergenic cosmetics?

The term hypoallergenic came from a cosmetic marketing pitch in 1953 as some substances in cosmetics had been found to be overly irritating to skin. In those days, hypoallergenic cosmetics could be tested on animals to determine whether they caused a skin reaction. Animal rights activists protested this type of testing so the term “cruelty free” was added to labeling to indicate no animals had been exposed.

The term hypoallergenic does not come from a medical or nutritional professional’s evaluation though today, it is often used to describe products, foods and even dogs that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. To date, there is no certification performed that supports a substance is hypoallergenic.

The United States Food and Drug Administration does not test or approve what goes into cosmetics; manufacturers are expected to prove and provide safe products to the public. In 1975 the FDA did attempt to enact regulations requiring that the term “hypoallergenic” could only be used after a company performed scientific studies on humans that showed the listed ingredients did not cause allergic reactions. However, the U.S. courts declared the regulation invalid so manufacturers are allowed to use the term hypoallergenic as it suits them.

Since new products listed as hypoallergenic are not required to be tested before they go to market, manufacturers may simply avoid using ingredients that have been found to cause allergic reactions or skin sensitivities in the past. In essence, hypoallergenic products may not be any better than those not touting this claim.

What to do to protect yourself:

Always do a patch test on any new product you try. Do not assume that items marked hypoallergenic are more protective than those that aren’t. If you have a reaction to a product, take note of the ingredients.

Add a Comment1 Comments

It is a shame the Government has to step in to protect users of cosmetics. Manufacturers. as well as the public, need the education of what is good for the largest organ of our body, and thus the largest absorber of the body . Would you put something on your skin that you would not put in your mouth?

January 4, 2011 - 11:46am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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