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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Cosmetics Producers Are Not Informing the Customer About Hypoallergenic Products

Most of us have heard the term hypoallergenic. Make-up, moisturizers, shampoos, and even jewelry use it on their labels and in advertising. Many people think it means a product that is hypoallergenic won't react with their allergies. But what does the term really mean?

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

The American Food and Drug Administration has said, Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that companies say create fewer allergic reactions than other products. People with oversensitive skin, in addition to consumers with conventional skin, may perceive that these products will be gentler to their skin than non-hypoallergenic products. There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the saying hypoallergenic. The term can mean anything a specific business wants it to mean. Producers of goods proclaimed hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA. The saying hypoallergenic may have considerable market value in boosting sales of beauty products to consumers on a retail basis, but doctors say it has very little meaning.

The Food and Drug Administration attempted again to control the use of the expression on June 6, 1975 by still requiring manufacturers to do scientific studies but the proceedings for the experiments were changed to lower the expense to the companies. This still didn't agree with the companies who apparently desired no regulations on the things they were making. Cosmetic companies challenged the FDA decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which decided that the law was not binding. The judges said the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was invalid because of such little evidence that customers thought of the word 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 rules or laws set forth by the government. Customers 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. The FDA attempted to put standards on products that said they were hypoallergenic in 1974. It stated that a product could be proclaimed hypoallergenic only if tests were done on human patients and it proved to be a significantly lower reaction to allergens than products not making the claim. The FDA then said the manufacturers had to conduct these experiments on their own and (most importantly) at their own cost. This of course caused major upsets and companies instantly filed suits against the choice, claiming that the studies would pose an undue financial hardship on them. Clinique and Almay, two manufacturers of hypoallergenic products, were the most aggressive challengers to the FDA.

Requiring a list of ingredients the product contains on the box seems to be the only triumph the FDA had against the cosmetics companies. As consumers, we must have a knowledge of ingredients in the products we consume because apparently the companies who create them aren't terribly concerned about our well being over their money margins. There is undoubtedly some products that exist that claim to be hypoallergenic actually are, but if you are a wise customer and concerned for you and your family's well being, you will do the research yourself and not rely on these companies proclamations .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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