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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Businesses Do Not Tell the Consumer About Hypoallergenic Beauty Products

Many of us have heard the saying hypoallergenic. It is used in advertising and placed on product labels of shampoos, moisturizers, make-up, and even jewelry. consumers think it means a product that is hypoallergenic won't react with allergens. But what does the word really mean?

Beauty product advertisers initially used the term in the sixties. The term comes from the Grecian prefix hypo, which means below or less. Less allergens is the actual translation of the word. Since it's inception the term has been commonly adopted and used by manufacturers, marketers, and advertisers to sell products that say they are gentler on the skin than other products similar to it. But is this really how it is?

The FDA attempted to put standards on products that said they were hypoallergenic in 1974. It stated that a product could be labeled hypoallergenic only if experiments were conducted on test subjects and it proved to be a blatantly lower reaction to allergens than products not making the claim. The FDA then said the companies had to do these tests on their own and (most importantly) at their own cost. This obviously caused major upsets and companies immediately filed lawsuits opposing the choice, saying that the tests would cause an undue financial strain on them. The two most prolific opposition of this effort at standardization were Clinique and Almay, two manufacturers of hypoallergenic cosmetics.

By definition the cosmetics said to be hypoallergenic are forced to create fewer allergic reactions to the product than the products that are not hypoallergenic. Users with oversensitive skin, and also users with regular skin, may be led to believe that these products will be gentler to their skin than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. There are no Federal guidelines or terms that regulate the use of the term hypoallergenic. A company can make the term mean anything they want it to. Producers of cosmetics proclaimed hypoallergenic are not required to report substantiation of their hypoallergenic properties to FDA. The expression hypoallergenic may have considerable market value in popularizing beauty products to customers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has little meaning.

The FDA attempted again to standardize the use of the term on June 6, 1975 by still requiring cosmetics producers to do experimental studies but the procedures for the experiments were altered to reduce the cost to the manufacturers. This still didn't agree with the companies who obviously wanted no regulations on the things they were producing. Cosmetic manufacturers opposed the FDA choice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that the guideline was invalid. The court said the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was unjust because of such little proof that customers thought of the term in the way it is described by the organization. The final result? Manufacturers can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic without any kind of regulation or standard set forth by the government. People have no guarantee that a product labeled hypoallergenic is any less harsh than other products. A product could be loaded with toxins and allergy causing agents and a company could supposedly still make it.

The solo 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 avoid chemicals that they know they are allergic to or have had difficulties with in the past. As consumers, we must know ingredients in the products we consume because obviously the manufacturers who make them aren't very concerned about our health over their profit margins. There is undoubtedly some products that exist that claim to be hypoallergenic really are, but if you are an intelligent person and concerned for you and your family's well being, you will do some studying on your own and not be reliant on unfounded companies proclamations .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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