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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Cosmetics Producers Are Not Telling the Consumer About Hypoallergenic Skin Care Products

The term hypoallergenic is a saying that probably most of us have run across. Make-up, moisturizers, shampoos, and even jewelry use it on their labels and in advertisements. Most people think it means a product that is hypoallergenic won't react with their allergies. But what does the word actually mean?

Make-up advertisers first used the term in the 1960s. The word comes from the Greek prefix hypo, which means below or less. So the word translates to less allergens. Since it's invention the term has been commonly accepted and used by advertisers, manufacturers, and marketers to sell products that say they are more gentle on the skin than other products similar to it. But how true is this really?

By rule the cosmetics said to be hypoallergenic are required to produce fewer allergic reactions to the product than the products that are not hypoallergenic. Users with delicate skin, in addition to those with regular skin, may think that these products will be more gentle to their epidermis than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. There are no Federal rules or terms that standardize the use of the word hypoallergenic. A manufacturer can make the term mean anything they want it to. Makers of goods labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenic properties to Food and Drug Administration. The term hypoallergenic may have substantial market value in promoting skin care products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning.

The FDA attempted again to govern the use of the term on June 6, 1975 by still requiring companies to do experimental tests but the proceedings for the tests were altered to reduce the cost to the companies. This still didn't sit well with the manufacturers who evidently wanted no regulations on the things they were making. Cosmetic manufacturers opposed the FDA decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that the standard was no good. The judges said the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was invalid because of a lack of evidence that people thought of the term the same as it is described by the organization. The final outcome? Companies can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic with no rules or laws set up by the government. People have no way of knowing that a product labeled hypoallergenic is any less reactive than any other products. So really, a company could produce a product that is hypoallergenic that is loaded with toxins and allergy causing agents. The FDA attempted to put regulations on products that claimed to be hypoallergenic in 1974. It said that a product could be deemed as hypoallergenic only if studies were done on patients and it proved to be a blatantly lower reaction to allergens than other products. It then said the companies had to conduct these studies on their own and (most importantly) at their own cost. This of course caused big upsets and manufacturers without hesitation began lawsuits against the choice, saying that the studies would pose an unjust economic burden on them. The two most prolific challengers of this effort at regulation were Clinique and Almay, two manufacturers of hypoallergenic beauty products.

Requiring a list of ingredients the product has in it on the box seems to be the only triumph the FDA had against the cosmetics manufacturers. As consumers, we must be aware of ingredients in the products we use because apparently the companies who make them aren't terribly concerned about our good health over their profit margins. There is undoubtedly some products that exist that claim to be hypoallergenic actually are, but if you are a wise customer and concerned about you and your family's well being, you will do the research on your own and not rely on unfounded companies claims .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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