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Hypoallergenic Products: Are They Really Safer?

Do you use cosmetics that claim to be "Hypoallergenic"?

If so, I am curious to know what feelings that term conjures up for you. When you see that claim on a product, are you led to believe that those cosmetics are superior to their non-hypoallergenic counterparts in any way? 


For example, if you suffer from sensitive skin and have a history of reacting to cosmetics, you might naturally feel drawn to seeking out hypoallergenic skincare products. Perhaps there is a sense of security when you see that word?


In my opinion, at the very least, I think it's safe to say it makes the consumer feel more confident that the product in question is less likely to cause a reaction. 


With that in mind, I am curious about two things:


  • Does the word "hypoallergenic" naturally lead to an assumption on the consumer's part that the product is safer? In other words, do you assume that the ingredients are not only benign with less chance of reaction but that they are safe as well (as in nontoxic)?


  • Does the word "hypoallergenic" actually mean anything? If so, what exactly?


Let's see what the Canadian Government has to say about it: (Resource)


"Hypoallergenic" is neither a legal nor a scientific term. It simply means that the manufacturer has chosen ingredients to produce a finished product with minimum potential for causing allergy. This does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, since people are allergic to a wide range of substances. There are no non-allergenic cosmetics. If you experience an allergic reaction to a cosmetic, try switching to a different brand.


The United States Food and Drug Administration (commonly called the FDA) goes into more detail on its stance. Here is what they have to say on the subject: (Resource)


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.


There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term "hypoallergenic." The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA.


The term "hypoallergenic" may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning.


With that said, regardless of what governments in North America have to say about it, and in the spirit of encouraging you to conduct your own research, let's do some digging of our own.


Google the term "hypoallergenic skincare products," and you will see list upon list by major retail companies making their top suggestions for the best hypoallergenic products on the market. (Click here for an example of such a list). 


Open the list and click on a product like this one, which topped the charts at #1. Find the full ingredient list, and see for yourself. Do you know what all of these ingredients are? Do you see any that you don't recognize? Do any sound questionable, or raise any red flags? Perhaps you could do a quick bit of digging on that ingredient to determine its safety yourself? 


In a nutshell, make no mistake; virtually every product I viewed as "hypoallergenic" had what I would consider toxic ingredients.


In my humble opinion, if I had sensitive skin (and even if I didn't!), I would entirely avoid almost every single one of these products due to the potentially harmful preservatives, chemicals, and even fragrance (yes, even if the product claims to be fragrance-free!!). More on that confusing topic in the future, perhaps.


As always, I can not stress enough that reading the full ingredient list should remain your top priority as a consumer to safeguard your well-being and ensure the cosmetics you use are indeed the right choice for you. 


In conclusion, I would like to offer some advice to help you on your journey towards making more informed consumer choices:


Regardless of your skin type, choose cosmetics whenever possible with ingredient lists that are simple, short, and safe. If you have hypersensitive skin, all the more reason to do so!


If you react to many things, does it not make sense to simplify your skincare regime and choose cosmetic formulas that feature recognizable ingredients? This way, if you react, you will have a narrow list to identify the culprit. With time and experience, you will gain a better understanding of what does and does not work for your unique skin concerns. Conversely, it is very challenging to know the cause of your adverse skin reaction when the ingredient lists you use are a mile long! 


So that's my two cents on the topic of hypoallergenic skincare! I hope you found it helpful. As always, I would love to hear from you! Has this marketing term fooled you? Comment below with your experience, comments, or questions!


Until next time,

Sarah xo

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