Many people feel safer buying products labeled as hypoallergenic. It’s hard not to be influenced by products with hypoallergenic claims. With all the product safety regulations, most people assume that “hypoallergenic” means something. The term hypoallergenic conjures images of perfect, pristine ingredients and extensive testing, resulting in a safer product than products without the claim.
If only this were true!
In reality, there is no Federal standard by the FDA or the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) that governs the term hypoallergenic.
According to the FDA, the term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. No regulatory body requires manufacturers to substantiate claims of being hypoallergenic. The FDA does not require third-party testing or even proof of any sort of testing.
History of FDAs Regulation Attempts
In the 1970’s, the FDA proposed regulation requiring cosmetic makers to conduct tests to substantiate hypoallergenic claims. Unfortunately, product manufacturers challenged the regulation in the courts and ultimately, the courts ruled against the FDA. Since then, the FDA has not succeeded in regulating the term.
The upshot being that hypoallergenic is simply a marketing term.
As a result, manufacturers can make hypoallergenic claims without any supporting evidence. And, as a consumer, you have no assurance that a “hypoallergenic” product will produce fewer allergic reactions than other products. You also have no assurance that these products will be more gentle to your skin.
How to Protect Yourself
You can take steps to protect yourself by reading the product ingredients and avoiding unhealthy, toxic substances. The FDA requires manufacturers to list most cosmetic ingredients on the label, with one exception. The exception is important. It allows manufacturers to list the generic term “fragrance” rather than the real substance.
The ability to obscure substances on labels poses problems because the term fragrance can represent over 3000 substances, some toxic and unhealthy. Clearly, not anything like you’d expect in a truly hypoallergenic product.
How do you protect yourself?
The best way to avoid unhealthy products is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep database. The database provides assessments and ratings for products. It will highlight any ingredients that may cause skin irritation, hormone disruption, asthma, cancer and more.
To summarize, as a consumer, you are not protected by product labeling regulations. You cannot trust the term hypoallergenic, but you can take steps to find the safest products.
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