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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Companies Forget to Tell You About Hypoallergenic Products

The word hypoallergenic is a term that probably most of us have heard before. It is used in advertising and put on product labels of shampoos, moisturizers, make-up, and even jewelry. A product that causes less or no allergic reactions is what most people think the meaning of hypoallergenic is. But what does the word really mean?

The word first appeared in the 60s from cosmetics advertisers. It comes from the Latin prefix hypo, which translates to below or less. Less allergies is the actual translation of the word. Since it's inception the saying has been widely adopted and used by companies and advertisers 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 definition the products said to be hypoallergenic are required to produce fewer allergic reactions to the product than those that are not hypoallergenic. Consumers with sensitive skin, and even consumers with normal skin, may perceive that these products will be gentler to their epidermis than non-hypoallergenic cosmetics. There are no Federal rules or terms that govern the use of the saying hypoallergenic. A company can make the term mean anything they want it to. Manufacturers of products that claim to be hypoallergenic are not required to report substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to Food and Drug Administration. The word hypoallergenic has little meaning according to dermatologists even though it is a significant marketing term.

The FDA tried again to govern the use of the term on June 6, 1975 by still requiring cosmetics producers to do scientific studies but the procedures for the experiments were changed to lower the expense to the companies. Manufacturers who apparently didn't want any rules on the products they produced did not agree with this either. Cosmetic companies opposed the FDA choice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that the law was invalid. The judges said the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was unjust because of a lack of evidence that consumers perceived 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 forth by the government. Consumers have no guarantee that a product that says hypoallergenic is any less allergic than any other products. Suffice it to say, a business could produce a product that is hypoallergenic that is full of toxins and allergens. In 1974, the FDA attempted again to regulate products that claimed to be hypoallergenic. It said that a product could be deemed as hypoallergenic only if experiments were conducted on human subjects and it showed a blatantly lower reaction to allergies than products not making the claim. The FDA then said the cosmetics producers had to do these studies on their own and (most importantly) at their own expense. This as usual caused major upsets and manufacturers instantly filed suits against the decision, saying that the tests would cause an unfair economic burden on them. Clinique and Almay, two producers of hypoallergenic products, were the biggest challengers to the FDA.

The solo small victory 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 customers can stay away from chemicals that they are sure they are allergic to or have had problems with in the past. As consumers, we must know ingredients in the products we consume because apparently the companies who produce them aren't extremely concerned about our good health over their money margins. There is undoubtedly some products that exist that claim to be hypoallergenic actually are, but if you are a smart customer and concerned about you and your family's health, you will do the research yourself and not be reliant on these companies claims .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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