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Definition: Hypoallergenic

According to the dictionary, hypoallergenic means "little likelihood of causing an allergic response," but try telling that to someone with super-sensitive skin. Just because this chance is lessened provides no guarantees and, upon further digging, there's evidence that this word has been misleading consumers for decades.

It seems the term was first used in a cosmetics campaign in 1953 to claim one product was gentler and safer than its competitors. In 1975, the FDA issued a regulation that "hypoallergenic" could only be used if scientific studies on human subjects showed that it caused a significantly lower rate of adverse skin reactions than similar products not making such claims. The manufacturers were responsible for testing (but not held accountable) and, in no time at all, not only was that regulation declared invalid in court, the term permeated the entire industry . . . and it still does today.

The bottom line: There may be a small bit of truth to this, but it comes with a hefty chunk of marketing razzle-dazzle. I don't know about you, but I'm gonna keep spot-testing on my sensitive skin and scalp to take no chances.


Join The Conversation
Queenlythings Queenlythings 8 years
I came across your great article on my Google alert bulletin. It is very true that hypoallergenic is one of those terms which is now pretty meaningless. So many companies use it to denote that a product is suitable for sensitive skin even when that product might contain perfume (the major culprit in causing sensitivity) or has 40 ingredients in it, making it impossible for someone to ascertain if they might have a problem with it. In addition to patch testing a little bit of a new product on your skin first (this is very important you guys!) before slathering it all over, what you can also do is learn to read labels. Go for products with as few ingredients in as possible, avoid essential oils, choose perfume-free products and keep away from very hi-tech ingredients. It will save you money and pain!
bbns60 bbns60 8 years
Considering that I had to stop today and pick up some Paul Mitchell Shampoo One and The Conditioner (the only thing I can use when my allergies are acting up, or they change a formula in something......I HATE when they do that), I can tell you hypoallergenic doesn't mean squat.
emalove emalove 8 years
I know, me too, Margiepargie.
margiepargie margiepargie 8 years
i have really sensitive skin, so "hypoallergenic" is never enough of a guarantee for me!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I'm bad, I've never spot tested ever. Ha.
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