Are Hypoallergenic Products Really Any Better For You?

Do you wonder if hypoallergenic skin care and cosmetic products are really better for your skin? Hypoallergenic is a term used to refer to products that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. As it turns out, the use of this term is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to Byrdie. This means that it's up to the discretion of every skin care and cosmetic brand to decide what "hypoallergenic" means for their products.

There are many ingredients in personal care products that have the potential for causing an allergic reaction. "Typically, most brands use the term 'hypoallergenic' to signify that a product contains fewer [allergens]," Erica Douglas, a cosmetic chemist at Sister Scientist, told Byrdie. The problem, Douglas states, is that allergies are personal, so "it is impossible to be for certain that a product will not cause an allergic reaction in 100% of users." So where does that leave us consumers? 

Common ingredients that cause allergies

Unfortunately, skin care and beauty products labeled as hypoallergenic nonetheless could contain ingredients that are allergy-inducing for some of us. It's not that uncommon for people to experience contact dermatitis, for example, after using hypoallergenic-labeled products like soap, moisturizer, or even makeup, according to cosmetic chemist Erica Douglas (per Byrdie). 

The best way to protect yourself from an allergic reaction to a personal care product is to know what ingredients you're allergic or sensitive to prior to use, Douglas told Byrdie, "and always check the ingredient panels to survey said ingredients."

Common allergens are fragrance, parabens, and dye, so you want to make sure your products are free of those, if you have skin sensitivity. "Parabens can cause allergic reactions, especially if a consumer has inflammatory conditions like eczema or psoriasis," cosmetic chemist David Petrillo told Well+Good. "Sulfates, benzyl alcohol, and things like citronellol, which is used in rosy fragrances, can also be a problem." If you're not sure which ingredients you're allergic to, you can order a sample and patch test on the inside of your arm to see if a skin reaction occurs within 24 hours.