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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Cosmetics Producers Do Not Tell the Consumer About Hypoallergenic Products

Most of us have heard the word hypoallergenic. Make-up, moisturizers, shampoos, and even jewelry use it on their labels and in advertisements. A lot of consumers think it means a product that is hypoallergenic won't react with their allergies. But is this really what it means?

Cosmetics advertisers originally used the saying in the 1960s. The word comes from the Grecian prefix hypo, which means below or less. So the term translates to less allergies. Since it's creation the saying has been widely adopted and used by manufacturers, marketers, and advertisers to sell products that claim to be softer on the skin than other products basically the same. But is this really the truth?

The FDA attempted again to govern the use of the expression on June 6, 1975 by still requiring cosmetics producers to do scientific tests but the procedures for the experiments were altered to lower the expense to the companies. Manufacturers who obviously didn't want any rules on the products they manufactured did not like this either. Cosmetic manufacturers challenged the FDA choice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that the standard was not binding. The court stated the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was unjust because of such little proof that people thought of the term the same as it is described by the organization. The final outcome? Cosmetics producers can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic with no guidelines or standard set up by the government. People have no guarantee that a product that says hypoallergenic is any less allergic than other products. A product could be full with toxins and allergy causing agents and a company could theoretically still make it. The American Food and Drug Administration has said, Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that producers claim create less allergic reactions than competing products. Users with delicate skin, and even consumers with normal skin, may be led to believe that these products will be more gentle to their skin than non-hypoallergenic beauty products. There are no Federal laws or definitions that regulate the use of the expression hypoallergenic. A manufacturer can make the term mean whatever they want it to. Makers of goods proclaimed hypoallergenic are not required to prove substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to Food and Drug Administration. The term hypoallergenic may have substantial market value in promoting skin care products to customers on a retail basis, but doctors say it has little meaning.

The FDA sought out to put laws on products that said they were hypoallergenic in 1974. The FDA said that a product could be labeled hypoallergenic only if tests were done on patients and it proved to be a blatantly lower reaction to allergies than products not making the claim. They then stated the cosmetics producers had to conduct these experiments on their own and (most importantly) at their own cost. This of course caused major upsets and cosmetics producers without delay began lawsuits opposing the decision, saying that the tests would pose an undue economic hardship on them. Clinique and Almay, two manufacturers of hypoallergenic products, were the most prolific challengers to the FDA.

The one small triumph that the FDA seems to have had is that at least now manufacturers now have to put the ingredients on the labels of the products so that consumers can stay away from substances that they are sure they are allergic to or have had problems with in the past. As consumers, we must be aware of ingredients in the products we use because apparently the manufacturers who make them aren't terribly concerned about our good health over their profit margins. There is without a doubt 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 well being, you will do the research on your own and not be reliant on these companies proclamations .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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