MOST “hypoallergenic” and “fragrance-free” moisturisers contain potential irritants, experts have warned.
US researchers put popular creams and lotions to the test and discovered that many manufacturers could be putting people with sensitive skin at risk of rashes.
They found that 45 per cent of moisturisers claiming to be “fragrance-free” contained a botanical ingredient or fragrance cross reactor.
And 83 per cent of products claiming to be “hypoallergenic” included potentially allergenic chemicals.
Creams and moisturisers do not have to go through testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so manufacturers do not have to list every ingredient in their product.
When it comes to price, products with a “dermatologist recommended” label tended to cost 15p more per ounce than those that did not.
Study author Steve Xu, a resident physician in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “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.”
The study looked at the ingredients and performance of the top 100 best-selling moisturisers bought online and in stores.
They looked for the presence of ingredients represented in the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG), which determines if a product contains typical skin allergens such as fragrance mix, parabens (preservatives used in cosmetics) or tocopherol (organic chemical compounds containing vitamin E).
Only 12 per cent of the best selling moisturisers were free of NACDG allergens.
Moisturisers are a great solution for patients with skin disorders because they retain moisture in the skin, reduce inflammation, help prevent infection, are widely available and are largely affordable, Xu said.
“If manufacturers did list all the ingredients, their labels would be 75 pages,” Xu said.
“As it stands now, patients have a challenging time making an informed decision by glancing at the back of the bottle.
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“Our study highlights that and aims to make that search easier on consumers by informing dermatologists.
“There’s a huge loophole relating to fragrances, which is the number one cause of skin allergies related to cosmetics.”
The top three most affordable moisturisers that were free of NACDG ingredients, according to the research, were Ivory raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline original petroleum jelly and Smellgood African shea butter.
Products currently on the market that are free of typical skin allergens include white petroleum jelly, certain coconut oils that are cold-pressed and not refined, Vanicream’s hypoallergenic products and Aveeno Eczema Therapy moisturising cream, they said.
Xu added: “The more we know about the science behind moisturisers, the better we can guide our patients to what they like, what is safe and what is affordable.
“We could recommend a moisturiser that has no allergy risk and is affordable and effective, but if the patient doesn’t like it, it’s a wasted recommendation.
“We need to program into our minds to think differently and strike that fine balance between safe ingredients and user preference.”
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