If you have sensitive skin – in other words, you turn pink or red after using anything stronger than water – hypoallergenic products seem to have been sent from the Heavens to tame our angry outer layers. Right? Turns out, not so much. The beauty term has been taken to task for false labeling by health officials, consumer advocates, and environmentalists alike. And that’s just the tip of the hypoallergenic iceberg.
What exactly does it mean to be hypoallergenic? It is supposed to infer that a product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction and that it is gentler on skin. In reality, it means virtually nothing. The decision to call a product hypoallergenic lies solely with its manufacturer. What’s more, the producer is not required to prove any evidence that product causes fewer allergic reactions.
Consumer Reports gets right to the point. There are no standards for a product to be labeled hypoallergenic. According to the consumer advocates, the label has no meaning. It is not verified or even labeled consistently throughout the industry. In fact, medical officials assert that it is nearly impossible to guarantee any beauty product won’t cause an adverse reaction. Hypoallergenic is merely a marketing tool, and the only way to really police your product is to read ingredient labels. Fortunately, the FDA does require ingredient labeling of the beauty industry.
So hypoallergenic apparently means nothing for consumers. However, cruelty-free does. This means that a company does not directly use animal testing in the making of their products. Opinions on animal testing run deep and varied – some would argue that any animal testing is completely unacceptable, while others allow that some testing is necessary to protect human interests.
PETA demands the immediate halt to all animal testing, as well as the consumption of animals. You can read more about their reforms here. The organization also maintains a strict list of products and companies that oppose animal testing. Click here for that specific resource.
Other groups maintain a different approach to ending animal testing. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has proposed minimizing animal testing and cruelty with reforms that, while not entirely eliminating the practice, prevent an abuse of the system. According to EWG, “the real problem is the chemical industry, which conducts repeated animal studies that sacrifice hundreds of thousands of animals as a part of a deliberate strategy to delay government action against specific chemicals.” Further, animals are bred, sold and tested each year with the same chemicals – even though we know what the reactions are. Human safety is not guaranteed by veritable animal-testing mills.
Among other reforms, the EWG proposes making public all the chemical toxicity data generated by the beauty industry. Further, they propose that the industry use animal-based tests judiciously and substitute non-animal tests whenever possible.
Ultimately, while the EWG supports the end to animal testing, it maintains “it is a long way off and we need health and welfare protections for people and animals right now.” You can read more about the EWG’s reforms here.