The FDA Does Not Regulate Hypoallergenic Products

“Hypoallergenic” is a popular term often used to market skin care products and cosmetics. The term literally means something that has little chance of causing an allergic response. But can a skin care product or cosmetic truly be “hypoallergenic”? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is no.
Why Use the Term “Hypoallergenic” at All?

It’s just a nice way of saying, “Our company can legally use this term because the FDA doesn’t regulate it.” Companies can display the term “Hypoallergenic” in big, bold letters on the front of any product, and they do not have to present any proof what so ever that the claim is true.

Although it does sound promising and reassuring, a “hypoallergenic” skin care product or cosmetic is actually just another marketing scheme meant to play on the psychology of consumers. Sound tricky? It is.

Skin Care and Cosmetic Product Labeling

Skin care products and cosmetics are now required to list each ingredient on the label. This ensures that the consumer knows exactly what’s in the product they’re purchasing. If a consumer is allergic to citric acid for instance, then he or she knows to avoid using the product if it contains that ingredient.

Because of the “Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” and “The Fair Packaging and Label Act”, the debate over “hypoallergenic” skin care and cosmetic products fell by the wayside. Since products were required to list all ingredients, the consumer could then decide for themselves if they were allergic to a product or not.

The “Hypoallergenic” Magic Trick

Let’s say I make a body lotion. I want to market this body lotion as “hypoallergenic”. I can make this claim legally because some consumers who buy my skin care product will not be allergic to it. Therefore, my body lotion is “hypoallergenic” to these consumers who are not allergic to the ingredients I’ve used. And for the people who are allergic to my product? That’s where the required labeling comes into play.

What This All Means in a Nutshell

If a company can make a skin care product or cosmetic that never causes an allergic response, then the product is officially “hypoallergenic”. And we all know what that means. Perfection is an unattainable goal, truth is relative, and so the useless “hypoallergenic” marketing campaign marches on.