Ready for a rant? We all know marketers do plenty of things to walk the fine line between the truth and what sells – and makeup is one of the most guilty product categories. (Who hasn’t gotten a little pissed at a clearly Photoshopped mascara ad? Seriously, how is that not literally the definition of “false advertising”?!) One seemingly innocent category – the use of the term “hypoallergenic” in cosmetic packaging and marketing materials.
Hypoallergenic cosmetics are makeup products that the manufacturers and/or their marketing teams claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. Tons of makeup products advertise that they’re hypoallergenic, and in a sense, they’re right – all products available on the retail market in the US are FDA-approved and thus have fewer substances in them that will cause your skin to have an allergic reaction than, say, walking through a recently pesticide-spritzed overgrowth of ragweed. The truth is, there’s no real definition of “hypoallergenic” as far as FDA regulations go. The FDA attempted to regulate the term way back in the 70s, but their rules were later declared invalid. If you have sensitive skin, you know that one product can cause a reaction as easily as another.
It’s scientifically impossible to guarantee a makeup product will never produce an adverse or allergic reaction; however, the FDA has many rules in place about what substances can be included in cosmetics products, and the ingredients they allow for are less chemically harsh than ever before. Plus, the organization makes makeup manufacturers list all the ingredients on the product, so if you have a reaction to a product, write down the ingredients and keep track of which ones are in which products you have trouble with.
The bottom line is that a product advertising itself as being hypoallergenic doesn’t mean anything. Marketers use it to try and draw in girls with allergies, sensitive skin, or a penchant for things being pure, all-natural or “green”. (By the way, while “organic” does mean something, neither “natural” nor “green” mean anything on a product label either. I’ll rant about that later. ) The lesson: trust no one, not even your favorite makeup company.