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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Manufacturers Do Not Tell People About Hypoallergenic Products

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

Cosmetics advertisers originally used the expression in the sixties. The term originates from the Greek prefix hypo, which means below or less. So the saying means less allergens. Since it's inception the expression has been widely accepted and used by advertisers, manufacturers, and marketers to sell products that claim to be less reactive on the skin than other products basically the same. But is this really true?

The American Food and Drug Administration has stated, Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that companies say create fewer allergic reactions than competing products. Consumers with sensitive skin, and also consumers with regular skin, may be led to believe that these products will be more gentle to their epidermis than non-hypoallergenic beauty products. There are no Federal guidelines or definitions that regulate the use of the expression hypoallergenic. A company can make the term mean anything they want it to. Producers of goods that claim to be hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenic properties to Food and Drug Administration. The word hypoallergenic has insubstantial meaning according to doctors even though it is a substantial marketing term.

In 1974, the FDA tried again to control products that said they were hypoallergenic. They said that a product could be labeled hypoallergenic only if experiments were done on patients and it showed an obvious lower reaction to allergens than other products. It then stated the companies had to conduct these tests on their own and (most importantly) at their own expense. This of course caused major upsets and companies without hesitation filed lawsuits opposing the decision, claiming that the experiments would cause an undue financial strain on them. Clinique and Almay, two manufacturers of hypoallergenic products, were the most prolific challengers to the FDA.

On June 6, 1975, the FDA again attempted to control using the term hypoallergenic by still requiring tests be conducted, but with changes to cut down on costs of manufacturers. Manufacturers who evidently didn't want any laws on the products they manufactured did not like this either. Cosmetic companies challenged the FDA choice in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which decided that the standard was no good. The judges said the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was unjust because of such little evidence that consumers thought of the term in the way it is described by the organization. The final outcome? Manufacturers can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic without any kind of guidelines or laws set forth by the government. Consumers have no way of knowing that a product that says hypoallergenic is any less reactive than other products. Suffice it to say, a company could produce a product that is hypoallergenic that is loaded with toxins and allergens.

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 know ingredients in the products we use because obviously the manufacturers who create them aren't extremely concerned about our lives over their profit margins. There is undoubtedly some products out there that claim to be hypoallergenic actually are, but if you are a wise consumer and concerned for you and your family's well being, you will do the research on your own and not rely on unfounded companies proclamations .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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