Makeup and marketing terms-"hypoallergenic"?"noncomedogenic"? - the Fashion Spot
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Makeup and marketing terms-"hypoallergenic"?"noncomedogenic"?
I opened this thread, because I've seen the terms "hypoallergenic" and "non-comedogenic" being used alot and thought I should bring some attention to what these terms really mean.

"Hypoallergenic" is a marketing term. It doesn't really mean anything. If you look at the word itself , "hypo" means "less than", so in actuality, when a cosmetics company uses "hypoallergenic", it is really saying that a product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction in a person than another product would. But less likely than what other product? Since there are no FDA or international guidelines pertaining to how a product is determined to have a lower risk of allergic reation than another, the word "hypoallergic" is basically just a fluff word.

I checked the FDA site and they state the same thing. The FDA did a one time try to establish guidlines, but it was challeged by both Clinique and Almay:

FDA tried to publish regulations [in 1975] defining hypoallergenic to mean a lower potential for causing an allergic reaction," says Bailey. "In addition, we were going to require that companies submit information to FDA establishin g that in fact their products were hypoallergenic." However, two cosmetic manufacturers, Almay and Clinique, challenged the proposed regulations in court, claiming that consumers already understood that hypoallergenic products were no panacea against allergic reactions. In July 1975, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld FDA's regulations, but the two companies appealed. On Dec. 21, 1977, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the district court's ruling.
I don't really think it would really matter if there were guidelines anyway, as individual people are allergic to many differnt things and to different degrees. I think that there is no product that exists that could be completely non-allergenic to all people.

Quote above from an FDA safety report dealing with the term "hypoallergenic" -1991-- Interesting info here.

I was also interested in the term "noncomedogenic", maning that it doesn't clog the pores, causing zits or "comedones". The question is whose pores will it not clog? I had a harder time finding out if there are any standard for Comedogenicity. I did find a bunch of info-- from the dermadoctor - has a comprehensive chart of the comedogenicity of various ingredients.

How is comedogenicity determined? It is rated on a scale between 0-5. The lower the number, the less likely that the ingredient will clog your pores. The test is performed by applying the ingredient to the inside of a rabbit’s ear for 3 weeks . This skin is much more likely to show sensitivity more quickly and definitively than human skin. At that time, a small biopsy is taken and comedones are counted.

When looking at a comedogenicity rating, it may include a second scale noting the irritation potential of the ingredient in addition to its ability to form comedones. Therefore, you may find two sets of numbers indicating the comedogenicity level first, and the irritation level second.

It is important to understand certain points about this subject. First, just because an ingredient or product is designated as comedogenic does not mean that everyone is automatically going to develop acne or clogged pores. Many people are going to tolerate the presence of that ingredient in their product just fine. It simply means that those who have a real problem with clogged pores are more at risk by using that ingredient.

Because a product contains one or two comedogenic ingredients, the product as a whole may not be comedogenic. This is a frequent question here at, so I want to stress this point. It is the concentration of these ingredients that must be called into question, not merely their listing under the ingredient label. If the ingredients under consideration are located near the end of the ingredient list, they are present in extremely low levels and highly unlikely to cause problems. Typically the only reason they are present at all is to formulate a smoother, more aesthetically pleasing product.

When looking at a product to determine if it is comedogenic, you must know about the ingredients themselves and not just go by what a portion of their name implies. For instance, the words “oil” and “wax” sound heavy, but some oils and waxes are not necessarily bad for the skin. Much of the naming process has to do with chemical structure. Mineral oil is a good example of such an ingredient. Many people avoid it like the plague, but its comedogenicity and irritation rating are both 0!

Paula Begoun, "the cosmetics cop", has a wealth of information for anyone interested in de-fuzzing the language of the cosmetics industry and getting an idea of what you're putting on your skin.

I have a close relative who is a marketing exec. for a giant international cosmetics company. People send thousands of pics weekly, showing what the company's expensive "hypoallergic" and "non-irritating" products have done to them, and much of her job is to decide how to market them in order to hide or "gloss over" these ill-effects

Hope this is helpful to someone

Last edited by paprika_hiccup; 22-01-2005 at 05:24 PM.
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Oh, thank you paprika! I had no idea. I was actually wondering about the different terms because I was looking at a bunch of moisturizers and getting confused, so I really appreciate this information.

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Join Date: Feb 2004
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No problem eloes-- I was doing the research anyway, so I thought I'd share.

Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that the info. on any of these site is more or less factual than any other info. available. I think it is really important to look at the source of any info. It's very hard, and getting ever harder, to get non-biased info., and the world of cosmetics is not excluded from this. It takes alot money to do research and this money has to come from somewhere. Alot of the research money is coming from the cosmetic companies themselves, suggesting some pressure for the conclusions to be on a side that will make money for these same companies. Other individuals, like Paula Begoun (link above), are not really individuals, but are figure-heads of companies. She, too, is acting in her own best interest in relating her "philosphy" to the consumer, as she has a line of products she'd like you to buy as well.

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