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Hypoallergenic Skin Care Products: A Call for Regulation

If you’re searching for hypoallergenic skin care products then you’re likely to have run across some excessive, exaggerated, and misleading claims.

Hypoallergenic claims

The term “Hypoallergenic” implies that a product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, but there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim. It’s not even regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). That’s right. There are no accepted tests, guidelines, restrictions, or rules of any kind for determining if a skin or hair care product qualifies as “hypoallergenic”.

Stricter guidelines needed

Change may be around the corner. In a recent article, Hypoallergenic Claims, published in Chemical & Engineering News, medical professionals call for regulation of the terms ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist recommended/tested’ on product labels. For those who need, or want to avoid allergens, this call for regulation is a step in the right direction.

The researchers tested 187 cosmetic products for 80 of the most common known allergens. One finding became very apparent: there are too many skin care products that tote the “hypoallergenic,” “dermatologist recommended,” fragrance-free,” and “paraben free” claims in a meaningless way. In fact, 89 percent of the products contained at least one known problem allergen on their ingredient list, 63 percent contained two or more, and 11 percent contained five or more.

Common allergens

The most frequently found allergens in these products were

  • cocamidopropyl betaine
  • antimicrobial propolis/beeswax 
  • phenoxyethanol 
  • tocopherol 
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • methylisothiazolinone

Avoiding an ingredient can be a challenge because a chemical may be marketed under different names. This regulation may help the consumer determine whether a product is safe for them to use. Read the label before using any skin care product and consult with your physician if an ingredient is questionable. Read more about common chemical irritants.


Britt E. Erickson, ACS News Service Weekly Press Pac: Dec. 17, 2014, Is the label ‘hypoallergenic’ helpful or just marketing hype?

Britt E. Erickson, Hypoallergenic Claims , Chemical and Engineering News, Dec. 15, 2014 issue.

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