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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Manufacturers Are Forgetting to Tell the Consumer About Hypoallergenic Products

Many of us are familiar with the saying hypoallergenic. Make-up, moisturizers, shampoos, and even jewelry use it on their labels and in advertisements. Most consumers think it means a product that is hypoallergenic won't react with allergens. But what does the term actually mean?

The expression first appeared in the sixties from cosmetics advertisers. The word comes from the Latin prefix hypo, which means below or less. Less allergies is the literal translation of the word. Since it's invention the term has been widely adopted and used by marketers and companies to sell products that say they are more gentle on the skin than other products similar to it. But how true is this really?

The FDA attempted to put regulations on products that said they were hypoallergenic in 1974. It stated that a product could be labeled hypoallergenic only if tests were done on test subjects and it proved to be a blatantly lower reaction to allergens than other products. It then said the companies had to conduct these tests on their own and (most importantly) at their own cost. This obviously caused major problems and cosmetics producers without hesitation filed suits against the choice, claiming that the studies would cause an unfair economic hardship on them. The two biggest challengers of this attempt at standardization were Almay and Clinique, two producers of hypoallergenic products.

On June 6, 1975, the FDA again tried to control using the term hypoallergenic by still requiring studies be conducted, but with changes to reduce costs of manufacturers. This still didn't work with the companies who obviously desired no regulations on the products they were producing. Cosmetic manufacturers opposed the FDA choice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that the law was invalid. The judges stated the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was unfair because of such little proof that customers thought of the term in the way it is described by the organization. The final result? Cosmetics producers can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic with no guidelines or laws set forth by the government. People have no way of knowing that a product labeled hypoallergenic is any less allergic than any other products. A product could be maxed out with toxins and allergy causing agents and a company could theoretically still make it. By definition the products described as hypoallergenic are forced to create fewer allergic reactions to the cosmetics than those that are not hypoallergenic. Users with hypersensitive skin, in addition to consumers with ordinary skin, may think that these goods will be gentler to their epidermis than non-hypoallergenic beauty products. There are no Federal regulations or definitions that control the use of the term hypoallergenic. A company can make the term mean whatever they want it to. Makers of products labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenic properties to FDA. The word hypoallergenic may have substantial market value in popularizing skin care products to consumers on a retail basis, but physicians say it has little meaning.

The one small victory that the FDA seems to have had is that at least now manufacturers are now required to put the ingredients on the labels of the products so that people can avoid chemicals that they are sure they are allergic to or have had problems with in the past. As customers, we must be aware of ingredients in the products we consume because obviously the companies who create them aren't very concerned about our good health over their money margins. There is no doubt that some products out there that claim to be hypoallergenic actually are, but if you are a smart consumer and concerned for you and your family's health, you will do some studying yourself and not be reliant on these companies proclamations .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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