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Guthy Renker Corporation

What Manufacturers Are Forgetting to Tell People About Hypoallergenic Skin Care Products

Most of us have heard the saying hypoallergenic. Make-up, moisturizers, shampoos, and even jewelry put it on their labels and in advertisements. 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?

Beauty product advertisers initially used the word in the 60s. The word 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 term has been commonly adopted and used by companies and advertisers to sell products that claim to be gentler on the skin than other products similar to it. But is this really true?

By definition the products said to be hypoallergenic are required to create less allergic reactions to the product than those that are not hypoallergenic. People with oversensitive skin, and even consumers with regular skin, may be led to believe that these goods will be gentler to their epidermis than non-hypoallergenic beauty products. There are no Federal laws or terms that regulate the use of the word hypoallergenic. A company can make the term mean anything they want it to. Manufacturers of beauty products labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to report substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to Food and Drug Administration. The word hypoallergenic has little meaning according to doctors even though it is a significant marketing term.

On June 6, 1975, the FDA again attempted to control using the term hypoallergenic by still requiring studies be conducted, but with alterations to cut down on costs of manufacturers. Manufacturers who obviously didn't want any rules on the products they made did not like this either. Cosmetic manufacturers opposed the FDA decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which decided that the guideline was not binding. The court stated the definition of hypoallergenic the FDA gave was invalid because of such little evidence that people perceived the term in the way it is described by the organization. The final result? Manufacturers can continue to advertise and label their products hypoallergenic with no guidelines or laws set forth by the government. People have no assurance that a product that says hypoallergenic is any less allergic than any other products. Theoretically, a company could produce a product that is hypoallergenic that is full of toxins and allergy causing agents. In 1974, the FDA attempted again to control products that said they were hypoallergenic. They stated that a product could be labeled hypoallergenic only if experiments were done on human patients and it showed an obvious lower reaction to allergies than products not making the claim. The FDA then said the manufacturers had to conduct these studies on their own and (most importantly) at their own expense. This of course caused major upsets and companies without delay began suits against the decision, saying that the experiments would cause an unjust financial strain on them. Clinique and Almay, two producers of hypoallergenic products, were the biggest challengers to the FDA.

Requiring a list of ingredients the product contains on the box seems to be the only victory the FDA had against the cosmetics companies. As consumers, we must know ingredients in the products we consume because obviously the companies who create them aren't terribly concerned about our health over their profit margins. There is undoubtedly some products out there that claim to be hypoallergenic really are, but if you are a wise customer and concerned about you and your family's well being, you will do some studying on your own and not be reliant on unfounded companies claims .

Guthy Renker Corporation

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