Your Moisturizer’s “Hypoallergenic” Claim Might Not Be Trustworthy, Study Reports

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If you have sensitive skin, you probably already know the labels to look for: hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and dermatologist-recommended are probably at the top of your list. Unfortunately, products don't always live up to their assertions.

After analyzing 174 best-selling moisturizers, researchers found that 83 percent of those labeled as hypoallergenic contained at least one potentially allergenic chemical.

According to a new study, anyone who experiences irritation despite using a moisturizer aimed at sensitive skin might want to clean out their beauty cabinet because some big-name products with big claims of gentleness still contain irritants or potential allergens. Yeah, not cool.

After analyzing 174 best-selling moisturizers at some major retailers, researchers found that a whopping 83 percent of those labeled as hypoallergenic contained at least one potentially allergenic chemical. In addition, 45 percent of products labeled fragrance-free contained at least one chemical that could cause irritation. And when it comes to the whole "dermatologist-recommended" thing, you might as well just ignore it completely unless it's coming from your IRL derm: 95 percent of products with this label contained at least one allergen.

“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 1,000,” said lead author Steve Xu, MD, in a press release.

Only 12 percent of the best-selling products lived up to their labels.

Obviously this isn't great news—especially if you suffer from a skin disorder like eczema or psoriasis. Because only 12 percent of the best-selling moisturizers lived up to their labels, finding a one you can trust isn't going to be easy (until manufacturers share their entire ingredient lists with the public, that is).

Board-certified dermatologist Rajani Katta, MD, told the American Academy of Dermatology the best way to go about testing a new product on sensitive skin is to apply a small amount on your forearm throughout a week to see if you have a reaction. If your skin looks and feels good, you can go ahead and use it elsewhere on your body.

Even though the study didn't reveal which brands had mislabeled their products, Xu did mention some affordable products that came out safe for sensitive skin: Ivory Raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline Original petroleum jelly, Smellgood African shea butter, all of Vanicream's hypoallergenic products (including its moisturizing skin cream), and Aveeno eczema therapy moisturizing cream.

It seems like "hypoallergenic" is kind of the new "natural" in terms of being a misleading, and potentially meaningless, label. So while you wait on more trustworthy ways to shop, do your research, spot test, and keep your skin healthy as best you can.

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