Hypoallergenic Makeup

By staff

Is hypoallergenic makeup really non-allergenic?

Hypoallergenic comes from the Latin prefix hypo meaning “less than normal”, and this term might as well be the most overused and most abused term in the cosmetic manufacturing industry.

A makeup product claimed to be hypoallergenic implies that it is less likely to cause allergic reactions. There are no Federal rules that control the use of the term, so there is no assurance to consumers that the product is really what it says it is.

When a product is labeled as hypoallergenic, it is done only under the discretion of the manufacturers, and not of a higher regulating body. Some companies conduct tests before placing the hypoallergenic claim on the label, but there are others who do not. Some claim to be hypoallergenic just because they did not include perfumes and other problem-causing ingredients. Also, manufacturers are not required to submit a substantiation of their claims. The term, hypoallergenic, is just used as a marketing tool.

Other labels can also be deceiving. “Dermatologist-tested” only means that a skin doctor tested the product to see if it will cause allergies, and it does not mean that it was tested on several individuals. Even labels such as, “safe for sensitive skin”, “allergy tested”, “sensitivity-tested”, and “non-irritating”, offer no guarantee.

The basic ingredients in both hypoallergenic cosmetics and regular cosmetics are the same. There are no scientific studies that prove that hypoallergenic makeup indeed causes fewer allergic reactions. So in reality, there is no such thing as hypoallergenic makeup.

What cosmetic ingredients cause allergies?

Common culprits include cosmetic ingredients in perfumes, lipsticks, eyeliner, hair dyes, nail polishes, and sunscreen agents. Allergenic ingredients include substances in perfumes, as well as perfumes in makeup and skin creams; waxes and fats, particularly cocoa butter, in lipsticks; metallic compounds in eyeliner or eye shadow; tetrabromofluorescein in hair dyes; tosylamide, formaldehyde resin, and nail acrylates in nail polish; PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), hydroquinone or digalloy trioleate in sunscreen preparations; either mercury or hydroquinone in bleaching creams; and methyldibromo glutaronitrile and other preservatives in cosmetics that contain water.

Even makeup made from “natural” ingredients is not an exception. The ingredients in such herbal preparations are extracted directly from plants or animal products versus others that are produced synthetically. If you have an allergy to plants or animals, these natural extracts can definitely cause allergic reactions. Lanolin, which is extracted from sheep wool, is an ingredient in many moisturizers, and is also known to cause allergies.

The typical reaction is a case of allergic contact dermatitis which normally affects the skin where makeup is applied. The affected skin area becomes red, swollen, blistered, and intensely itchy.

How can a makeup allergy be avoided?

The best way to avoid having allergies to certain types of makeup or cosmetics is to read the ingredients thoroughly. Good thing because Federal regulations now require the ingredients used in cosmetics to be listed on the product label, so consumers can avoid substances that have caused them problems in the past.

So next time, if you have an allergic reaction to any cosmetic product, stop using it until you see a doctor. The doctor will help you determine which ingredient, or combination of ingredients, caused the allergy. Your next step would be to read cosmetic product labels carefully to check if they contain those particular ingredients. If they do, look for other brands.


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March 10th, 2012 | 3:56 pm

I get red, itchy eyelids when using eyeliner and eye shadow. I was tested for allergies and found out I am allergic to nickel. I purchased a “nickel free” eye pencil from Europe and it did not cause any issues for a while. Eventually, I again got red, swollen and itchy eyelids. I tried Clinque, Almay, Avon as well and they do not work for me. I will continue to try other products but this is getting expensive.

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