Let’s talk about one of the biggest cons of the beauty industry: hypoallergenic products.
That innocent little word makes you think those lotions and potions are safe even for the most sensitive of skin, and won’t ever cause any irritation or allergic reaction whatsoever.
But, that’s just wishful thinking. I don’t care what the label says, the truth is, it’s impossible to formulate a product that won’t cause a negative reaction to someone.
You could use the gentlest ingredients out there, and still someone will react badly to them. There are people out there who are allergic to water, and it’s pretty hard to find something more gentle and natural than that!
So, what does hypoallergenic really means?
Nothing. Nada. Niente. There is no standard definition of the term hypoallergenic. No agency, governmental or otherwise, that policies its use. No rules to determine what products can be labelled hypoallergenic or not. You know what that means?
Anyone can put the word hypoallergenic on any product. Someone could create a nasty thing chock full of alcohol and sodium lauryl sulfate, which are two of the most irritating ingredients used in beauty products, and still label it as hypoallergenic. Isn’t that a joke?
Yet, that’s how it is. The word hypoallergenic is just a marketing tool (the term itself was coined by advertisers, which says it all, really).The word hypoallergenic is just a marketing tool. The term is NOT regulated in any way.Click To Tweet
But, wait! Don’t companies claim they do tests to determine if a product is hypoallergenic?
Yep, some companies (the more serious ones) do. But, with no strict standards to meet to determine whether a product can be labelled hypoallergenic or not, every company can devise its own test. Some may test a new product for irritations on 20 people. Another company on 200 people.
If one of them has a negative reaction, the brand may tweak the formula. If no one is harmed, they’ll sell it as hypoallergenic. But, no matter on how many people they test it (and the more the better), there is still no guarantee the product won’t cause a negative reaction to others. We’re all different, and we all react differently to the same substance.
Being allergic to water is pretty rare, for example. So, chances are, none of those folks who tested the cream is allergic to it. But, what if you do, and, because you read hypoallergenic on the label, put it on your skin without checking the ingredient list first? It’s going to be very nasty, isn’t it?
So, how can you choose products that won’t irritate your skin?
There are several things you can do to protect yourself:
1. Check the ingredients
I know, those ingredient lists are long and boring, and most of the names on there don’t make any sense. But, if you know you can’t tolerate or have an allergy to something, checking the ingredients to make sure the product you plan to buy is free from it is the ONLY way to stay safe.
2 Go minimal
If your skin is particularly sensitive, choose products with very short ingredient lists. The less stuff is in there, the less likely it is to cause problems.
3. Do a patch test
Even if you followed all the tips above, you should still do a patch test. Why? Because you may not know you’re allergic to something yet. Or maybe you didn’t recognize the name on the label (some ingredients can have up to 5 or 6 names, and they’re all complicated and hard to remember, of course). Or, maybe you can tolerate an ingredient in small doses, but this particular lotion has a high amount of it and will trigger an irritation. You don’t want to end up with a red, itchy rash all over your face, do you? Do the patch test.
The Bottom Line
Hypoallergenic doesn’t mean anything. If you want to be sure a product won’t cause an irritation, check the label for any ingredients you know your skin hates. And, always do a patch test!
Have you ever reacted badly to a hypoallergenic product?
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