Study: ‘Hypoallergenic’ Moisturizer Labels May Not Be Accurate

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When you shop for moisturizers, how do you know if they’re hypoallergenic?

“I just look at the ingredient list. I normally research the products before I buy them. I definitely have sensitive skin, so it’s a concern of mine,” says one woman walking through Market Square.

“I look for also paraben-free and sulfate-free because I have extremely sensitive skin,” says another.

Problem is, it can be hard to tell from the label.

“Many moisturizers will say hypoallergenic or fragrance-free, but some of the standards for that are relatively loose,” says Dr. Brian Horvath of Horvath Dermatology.

A study looked at the 100 most commonly purchased moisturizers at Amazon, Walmart and Target. Even though they might be labeled “hypoallergenic” or “fragrance-free,” 83 percent actually did have an allergen that could cause a skin reaction.

“Very frequently, I’ll have people coming in with a red, scaly rash around their eyelids, and it ends up being a moisturizer or some sort of cosmetic they were using,” says Dr. Horvath.

The problem is that some ingredients may be present is such small amounts, they don’t make it on the label. But it’s enough to be an issue.

“The actual labels to them would be dozens of pages if they included everything that was actually there,” Dr. Horvath said. “Right now, particularly in cosmetics, the FDA has a very minor oversight role. They’re very limited in what they can do.”

Also, don’t be misled by the term “dermatologist-recommended.”

“The meaning of a dermatologist recommendation is sort of limited. It might just be one dermatologist in one place. It doesn’t mean by any means all dermatologists recommend it,” explains Dr. Horvath.

The study was also able to identify certain creams that generally don’t irritate.

“Vanicream is one that is very hypoallergenic. Aveeno eczema cream is also hypoallergenic, and just plain Vaseline petrolatum jelly which pretty much no one will ever react to,” says Dr. Horvath.

More from Dr. Maria Simbra

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