What does the hypoallergenic label really mean in cosmetics?

It is unlikely that anyone will deliberately use skin care products or cosmetics that cause an allergic reaction, but sometimes (despite their best efforts) side effects in the form of rashes and redness appear on the skin. When we don’t have the time or patience to scrutinize every label with a long list of ingredients, we most often rely on formulas labeled “hypoallergenic”. However, not everything is so simple here. Together with the experts, we understand what is really meant by the term “hypoallergenic cosmetics” and which components most often cause irritation on the skin.

What does the term “hypoallergenic” mean?

There are many vague standards in the cosmetics industry, and “hypoallergenic” is just one of them. The FDA does not define or regulate the use of the term “hypoallergenic” when it comes to cosmetics. This means that it technically falls under the category of marketing statements, meaning that each brand has the right to independently determine what the term means in the context of its product launch.

As for our country, at the moment in Russia the procedure for using this designation is also not regulated. Therefore, before buying a product, you need to check the composition for the absence of the above components in it. The hypoallergenic mark on the packaging does not give a 100% guarantee that the cosmetic product will not cause allergies.

According to Sofia Syrycheva, a chemical technologist at the Russian brand Art & Fact, most often we are talking about products that do not use fragrances, essential oils, aggressive preservatives or active ingredients in high concentrations.

Undoubtedly, this reduces the likelihood that your skin will react negatively to this product, since it is these components that are most often the causes of irritation, itching and rashes on the skin. But it is important to understand that on some media such a sign may be located solely for marketing purposes, – says the expert.

Different countries have different standards and lists of “prohibited”, therefore it is extremely difficult to obtain a certificate for the right to use the label “hypoallergenic” or “suitable for sensitive skin”.

Are products labeled “hypoallergenic” safe?

Unfortunately, not really. As cosmetic chemist Erica Douglas explains, there are many ingredients and chemicals that people can be allergic to. The best way to protect yourself is to know which ingredients you are sensitive to and always check the ingredients before use.

The basis for the creation of hypoallergenic cosmetics are natural ingredients that can be found in nature. Therefore, the negative effects from the use of such funds for most people are practically excluded. Nevertheless, it is worth understanding: “hypo” means “less”, not “absence”, which means that the risk of earning an allergy, although minimal, still remains,

– says Natalya Afanasyeva, deputy director of the X-Fit spa area in Russia.

Common Skin Care Ingredients

It is difficult to tell which ingredients in skin care products are the most common potential allergens. It’s important to begin with determining if you are allergic to certain foods, plants, or other natural ingredients that can enter your body through food, for example.

There are several “red flags” to look out for when looking for skin care products. Pay attention to flavors (including essential oils) and preservatives. These are generally the most common problem categories for sensitive skin. As experts explain, a new allergy can develop at any time.

So just because you have been using a product without problems for years does not mean that it is not the culprit for the rash. – say dermatologists.

The American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) releases a major allergen every year. Here are a few ingredients that have been blacklisted: parabens, propylene glycol, Peruvian balsam, cobalt, nickel, formaldehyde, acrylates (found in nail polishes), p-phenylenediamine (in hair dyes or henna tattoos), cocamidopropyl betaine (shampoos that cleanse detergents) and dyes.

What skin reactions can there be?

Allergies can be expressed in different ways. A common and easiest reaction is a feeling of discomfort after applying cosmetics, skin tightness. The most common allergic reaction to a cosmetic product is contact dermatitis.

This is a condition in which the epidermis is hypersensitive to a chemical or ingredient in a cosmetic product, causing a reaction such as irritation, burning, hives, rashes or inflammation. – doctors explain.

At the first manifestations of allergy, you should stop using the product and seek medical help if necessary.

Experts say that an allergic reaction to a personal care product usually produces a red itchy rash on the areas where the product was applied, but sometimes it can cover a wider area. For example, an allergic reaction to acrylic in nail care products sometimes first appears as a rash around the mouth or eyes, because we often touch these areas with our hands, and thinner skin is more sensitive to the allergen.

Allergic reactions to hair dyes, shampoos, and aerosols (such as essential oils) often manifest as puffy and itchy eyelids.

How do companies conduct tests?

As Natalya Afanasyeva explains, getting the title “hypoallergenic cosmetics” is not easy. After all, what ingredients should be excluded from the composition is not clearly spelled out anywhere. To do this, after the production stage, the company must submit the novelty for an independent examination to a dermatological laboratory or clinic. The products are tested on volunteers with sensitive skin prone to allergies. As a rule, some element from cosmetics is applied not on the face, but, say, on the knee or the bend of the elbow of the test participant and observed for about 24 hours: if there is no negative reaction, then the test was successful. Products that have passed all tests are certified, and a dermatology tested stamp is put on the jar.

How to test a new product yourself?

For a start, it is best to contact a dermatologist for a study that will help isolate the individual allergens causing the reaction. At home, you can also conduct an individual test. Before applying the product to your skin, try applying a small amount to the inside of your wrist or to the crease of your elbow. If after 24-48 hours no side reaction (bumps, burning or itching) appears, then the product can be used.

Some experts advise that such tests be carried out within seven days, since the allergic reaction does not appear immediately, but as the substance accumulates. A week will be enough to understand whether the drug is right for you or not.

For people with sensitive skin, experts recommend making a personalized skin care plan and reading labels carefully.

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