From cats to candles, blankets to creams, it seems there’s a new, hypoallergenic alternative available everywhere you look these days. These products may be appealing because they promise fewer health risks to allergy-sufferers and enable them to do things they might not be able to do otherwise. But why are some products said to be safer for people with allergies than others? What makes something truly hypoallergenic?
“Hypoallergenic” is nothing more than an advertising gimmick meant to imply that a product is unlikely to give you an allergic reactions. It is important to understand however that hypoallergenic is not a medical or scientific term. The word was essentially invented in a 1953 cosmetics campaign to describe a new line of make-up. Since that time, various agencies and organizations have tried to regulate the use of the hypoallergenic label, but these attempts have been ruled invalid by US courts.
The truth? There are absolutely no accepted testing methods, ingredient restrictions, regulations, guidelines, rules, or procedures of any kind, anywhere in the world, for determining whether or not a product qualifies as being “hypoallergenic”. Any company can label any product they sell as “hypoallergenic” because there is no regulation that says they can’t, regardless of any supported “proof” they claim they might have. Since there is no “standard” of hypoallergenic measure there can’t be any proof. It is difficult to create standards for the hypoallergenic label in part because of the mysterious nature of allergies themselves. The root causes of allergies are not yet entirely understood. And because allergies are a disorder of the immune system, which is different in every person, no two people’s allergies are exactly the same.
The very products that claim to be “hypoallergenic” contain ingredients that can indeed trigger allergic reaction. With all the hype and ambiguity surrounding hypoallergenic ingredients please do not make cosmetic buying decisions based on hypoallergenicity. Know what your allergies/sensitivities are and look for quality products that don’t contain those ingredients.