The answer to these question is ‘maybe’ and ‘sometimes’. To clarify, we need to look at what is a real hypoallergenic product and what is not and how marketing claims affect this.
The cosmetic and therapeutic product market is fairly controlled when it comes to making product claims. In Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) controls what product claims can be made. This is equivalent to the FDA in the US.
In a nutshell any product claiming that it can make changes to the skin is therapeutic. Any product that mentions a specific skin disease such as psoriasis, eczema or tinea is therapeutic. Therapeutic products must undergo stringent testing and processing methods before being registered or listed as therapeutic. This process is not only mammoth but also costly. These products can be identified because they have an R (for registered) or L (for listed) on their product label.
In Australia, cosmetic products and what claims they can make, is governed by NICNAS. A cosmetic product cannot make claims about actual changes to the skin. It cannot mention a specific skin disorder such as dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema or herpes in its advertising. Cosmetic products can make claims such as “repairs skin damage brought on by a harsh environment” or “improves the appearance of the skin” or “helps moisturize the skin”.
How Does The Word ‘Hypoallergenic’ Fit In And What Does It Really Mean?
The word ‘hypoallergenic’ seems to have evaded being harshly regulated and can be used to promote cosmetic products. For consumers, this can however lead the door open for some confusion.
Consumers expect that a hypoallergenic product, will be soothing to the skin and that it will be beneficial to people who are prone to allergy or sensitivities. A hypoallergenic product is likely to be purchased by someone is either treating an irritated skin or who is trying to avoid an allergy related skin conditions such as eczema.
In the US, the magazine of the American Chemical Society has reported that both consumers and scientists are calling for change. As Australia often follows suite, it will be interesting to see the result. The last time changes to the classification of the word ‘hypoallergenic’ was attempted was in the 1970’s. The regulatory changes were challenged by big business – Almay and Clinique.
The article discusses a study done of 187 personal care products formulated for children. It found that most products contain at least one allergen, regardless of whether they are marketed as hypoallergenic. The trend away from using parabens (which has become unpopular due to unsubstantiated claims about breast cancer) has resulted in companies trying to find another preservative that is as stable and effective. Some of these new preservatives can cause an allergic reaction.
So As A Consumer, How Do You Know If A Product Is Really Hypoallergenic?
Firstly you need to be aware that natural does not mean it is less likely to cause allergy – in fact the opposite is often true. Chemical ingredients can be specifically designed to be low allergenic. Natural products cannot and the less processing they undergo, the more likely they are to contain natural allergens.
Secondly, most products that claim to be hypoallergenic tend to contain fewer perfumes and active ingredients. They are able to be produced very cheaply, because the costly ingredients such as those that produce nice smells or actions are excluded. They are primarily moisturizers with water and oil bound together by an emulsifier, containing a preservative and usually a bit of glycerine for its moisturizing benefits.
How Are Specifically Formulated Hypo-allergenic Products Different?
In addition however, they can have added active ingredients which contain anti-inflammatory properties. An anti-inflammatory such as quercetin is a naturally occurring plant ingredient that is brilliant at turning off the itch.
True hypoallergenic products may also contain ingredients that repair the skin, which is especially useful if you have a problem with the skin barriers function (such as with eczema). They may also contain ingredients that fight off infection – something that commonly occurs with allergic and irritated skin. They might also contain high quality humectants which pulls fluid into the cells to moisturize.
These products are not the cheap ones that you will find at your supermarket. They contain quality ingredients that make them expensive to manufacture.
Among the best hypoallergenic ingredients are bisabolol and allantoin. They are renowned for their soothing effect.
Also look for soothing ant-inflammatory ingredients such as;
• aloe vera
• black pepper
• burdock root
• cranberry seed oil
• pumpkin seed oil
• white willowbark
With so many anti-inflammatory ingredients, how does Healthy Skin Clinic choose which ones to put into its products to produce a truly hypo-allergenic product?
Firstly we look at the research behind each ingredient including;
• what skin disorders it has been used to treat and at what strength.
• what properties does the ingredient contain and in what percentage are they found.
For example ingredients that contain the powerful anti-inflammatory, quercetin are a favourite.
Secondly we look for what other benefits this ingredient can add to our product. For example, the ingredient might be known for its;
• wound healing abilities
• ability to stimulate cell renewal
• anti-microbial effects
• essential fatty acid content
• valuable nutrient properties
• ability to decrease swelling
• ability to reduce IgE antibodies (found in allergy prone skin)
• moisturizing abilities
Some ingredients will have contra-indications such as “do not use in pregnancy”, so this is a negative aspect of an ingredient which will be taken into account when formulating a product.
Rest assured any product that Healthy Skin Clinic claims to be ‘hypoallergenic’ contains real anti-allergy and soothing ingredients that help to improve the look and feel of the skin.