“Hypoallergenic” Cosmetics: What Are They?

In the pool of options for cosmetic products, one of the most popular selling and advertising points is the use of ‘buzz words’ like; all natural, organic, cruelty-free, hypoallergenic, and alcohol free. Do we really know what all these words mean in terms of the ingredient contents?

Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that manufacturers claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. Consumers with hypersensitive skin, and even those with “normal” skin, may be led to believe that these products will be gentler to their skin than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. Although the term “hypoallergenic” may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, dermatologists say it has very little meaning.

There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term simply means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are NOT required to submit proof of their hypoallergenicity claims to the FDA.  FDA’s  regulation on “hypoallergenic” cosmetics was first issued as a proposal in February 1974. It said that a cosmetic would be permitted to be labeled “hypoallergenic” or make similar claims 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. Clearly, we already see the concerns with such a  system of accountability; offering no objective assurance of claims by a given manufacturer. Read more


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