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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 20, 2018

Moisturizers labeled ‘hypoallergenic’ may still have toxic chemicals

By Lisa Rapaport, Reuters | Sep 14, 2017

Many moisturizers promoted as remedies for skin problems like eczema and labeled as ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ may still contain chemicals that can cause irritation, a recent U.S. study suggests.

Researchers asked Amazon, Target and Walmart to name their top 100 best-selling whole-body moisturizers sold online. Then the researchers assessed how well these popular products moisturized the skin, whether or not their ingredients might trigger allergic reactions and how much they cost.

Only 21, or 12 percent, of the 174 individual products tested were free of allergens, the study found.

Many of the moisturizers contained fragrances and chemicals known as parabens and tocopherol, all of which can cause rashes and worsen skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

This means patients can’t assume that moisturizers marketed as hypoallergenic, fragrance-free or even dermatologist-recommended will actually help skin conditions, said lead study author Dr. Steve Xu of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Ultimately, there is no such thing as a zero-risk cosmetic product,” Xu said by email.

The study found products marketed to appeal to people with skin problems like eczema and psoriasis tended to cost more, even though they didn’t necessarily avoid ingredients that could make these conditions worse.

Half of the products labeled “dermatologist recommended” cost at least 79 cents an ounce, while moisturizers without that description were typically 59 cents an ounce, researchers report in JAMA Dermatology.

When moisturizers claimed to be “phthalate free,” they tended to cost about $1.38 an ounce, compared to 59 cents an ounce without that distinction.

At the same time, there wasn’t a statistically meaningful difference in pricing based on whether or not the moisturizers were free of known allergens identified by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG), which determines if a product contains typical skin allergens such as fragrance mix, parabens or tocopherol.

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