Study Finds That Many Hypoallergenic Moisturizers Are Not Actually Hypoallergenic

Study Finds That Many Hypoallergenic Moisturizers Are Not Actually Hypoallergenic
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Updated 6 months ago

There is a 1 in 4 chance that you or someone you know is affected by a skin condition. Conditions like psoriasis, eczema, sensitive skin or dermatitis. In March, the American Academy of Dermatology released a report on the 85 million Americans who spend $75 billion a year treating and preventing their skin disorders. A new report however has found that those with skin disorders might be paying a whole lot extra for no added benefit and unwanted additives. 

In a new study from JAMA Dermatology researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine tested the ingredients of the top 100 best-selling moisturizers sold by major online retailers Target, Walmart, and Amazon. 

For those with skin conditions it's best to look for products advertised as fragrance free, hypoallergenic or dermatologist recommended. The study found that while these products came at a premium they didn't necessarily match their descriptions. The lead author of the study Dr. Steve Xu stated that  “We looked into what it means to be ‘dermatologist-recommended,’ and it doesn’t mean much because it could be three dermatologists recommending it or one thousand.”  

In fact "dermatologist-recommended" is not a regulated phrase and manufacturers are free to label their products as such with little supporting evidence.

On average, the study found that dermatologist-recommended products cost 20 cents more per ounce, and further 95% of those products tested contained at least one ingredient identified as an allergen by the  North American Contact Dermatitis Group. Fragrance free products present their own complications. While fragrances might not be added, products that may use flowers or citrus fruits might produce their own fragrances nonetheless.  

 "The impact of skin disease in this country is staggering, affecting one in every four Americans each year and taking a toll on lives, livelihood and our economy," 
Henry W. Lim President of the American Academy of Dermatology 

According to Xu  "the difference in price between the least and most expensive moisturizers was 9,400%," and only 12% of the 100 tested products met the NACDG standard of allergen free. Furthermore, products labeled "natural" or "organic" may sound safer to consumers but one such labeled product in the study contained the highest number of possible allergens or irritants. 

While inaccurate labeling makes it difficult for consumers to find the right product, manufacturers can't necessarily list all ingredients.  “If manufacturers did list all the ingredients, their labels would be 75 pages,” said Xu. 

So how are consumers supposed to navigate a minefield of inaccurately or incompletely labeled products and avoid potential allergens or irritants? 

 Xu's hope is that his research will help dermatologists give better informed recommendations to their patients.  “Rather than creating a set of rules for patients, we suggest to dermatologists to be as specific as possible in recommending both a brand and product type to their patients”  

The studied identified Ivory raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline, and Smellgood African shea butter as the least expensive and most affordable products free of NACDG listed allergens.