If you think that skin care products, soaps, and shampoos labeled "hypoallergenic" or "dermatologist tested" must be safe, it's time to reconsider. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate these terms. Nor does any other agency. And it's unlikely they will in the future. So what can you do?
You might hope that you could trust the companies that use these terms to self-regulate. Regrettably, you can't. In fact, a recent study conducted by medical students at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California showed just how untrustworthy these claims are.
Medical student Carsten Hamann and some of his colleagues looked at the ingredients in 187 personal care products, including shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, and diaper creams. All of these products were intended for children's use, and all had labels claiming they were "hypoallergenic," "dermatologist recommended/tested," "fragrance free," or "paraben free." They found that a whopping 89% of the products contained one or more chemicals known to cause contact dermatitis. More than 10% contained five or more of these allergens.
In fact, 21 of the products even contained methylisothiazoline, a preservative that's so allergenic that the European Union is considering banning it. The American Contact Dermatitis Society gave it the dubious honor of being named "allergen of the year" in 2013.
Manufacturers often use methylisothiazoline in place of parabens. Getting rid of parabens is a step in the right direction. But, obviously, replacing them with something even more allergenic is not.
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The last time the FDA tried to regulate the term hypo-allergenic was in the 1970s. Almay and Clinique took the FDA to court, saying the FDA had no authority to require such regulations and claiming the tests to back up the claims would be too expensive. They won, and it doesn't seem likely that the FDA will try to challenge these large companies again.
This leaves consumers to try to wade through lengthy ingredient lists on their own, which is especially challenging because allergens can often go by many different names. In Hamman's study, the 80 allergens analyzed appeared by 500 different names on ingredient labels.
Unless the FDA ever begins to regulate these products, consumers are on their own to determine what's safe and what's not. But I'm here to help you find products that will protect your skin and your health. Fortunately, I have a solution. Système 41 products, formulated by Janet Zand, OMD, LAc, are truly hypoallergenic. You don't have to risk getting allergic reactions from your skin care products. Thanks to Système 41, it's not necessary.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Chemical & Engineering News, 26 December 2014.