Almost all ‘natural’ skincare products contain allergens, scientists warn: ScienceAlert

According to a study by a trio of dermatologists from Stanford University School of Medicine, nearly all “natural” skincare products sold at three major retailers in the United States contain allergens.

Nearly 90% of the 1,651 personal care products studied – including lotions, soaps and moisturizers – contained at least one of the 100 most common allergens known to cause contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is more than a passing irritation. This is an itchy red rash that, at worst, can blister, caused by exposure to substances that irritate or inflame the skin. The latter is an allergic reaction that occurs once the skin is sensitized to an otherwise harmless substance.

By some estimates, rates of contact dermatitis are on the rise worldwide, almost tripled in three decades since 1996.

Researchers say this rise in contact dermatitis, a rapidly growing skincare and beauty industry worth billions, and a lack of regulation on its marketing prompted the study.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not defined clean or natural, allowing vendors to freely advertise with these terms that imply safety and health benefits,” the dermatologist said. Peter Young and his colleagues at Stanford University. Explain.

So the researchers pulled product ingredient lists from the websites of three US retailers and compared them to an online database that lists common ingredients that people with contact dermatitis should avoid. The American Contact Dermatitis Society maintains the database.

Contact dermatitis is avoidable, as long as you can navigate and interpret the long list of ingredients found in skincare products and know which ones might make the skin worse. Easier said than done.

A typical skincare or cosmetic product may contain 15 to 50 ingredients. Research suggests people could apply over 500 different chemicals to their skin every day, depending on their skincare routine.

In other words, the more products you use, the more you expose your skin to potential allergens.

Many of the allergens identified in the study were fragrances – think lavender and other botanical extracts – which have become one of the main causes of contact dermatitis.

On average, skin care products contained between four and five known allergens. In total, 73 different allergens were listed 7,487 times out of the 1,651 products studied.

This is only based on product information available online, but it still gives you an idea of ​​the extent of the problem.

“These findings suggest a need for patient and healthcare professional education to ensure the public is aware of the products they apply to their skin,” Young and colleagues say. conclude in their paper.

Of course, this isn’t the first study looking at allergens in personal care products. In 2017, another American study revealed few moisturizers were allergen-freeand even “fragrance-free” products sometimes contain fragrances that can irritate the skin.

The problem has been on the radar of dermatologists for some timebut their message rarely seems to make it through the marketing buzz around natural products — which often emphasizes supposedly harmful ingredients the products don’t contain, hoping savvy consumers aren’t scrutinizing drug listings too closely. ingredients.

Additionally, labeling products as “natural” tells consumers nothing about an ingredient’s safety. Instead, it perpetuates a false divide between ingredients that may come from nature and synthetic compounds that may be chemically identical.

“Natural” is just a marketing buzzword that plays on a long history of human sourcing traditional medicines and nature’s cosmetics, making us think they’re somehow safer.

But marketing influences consumer perception, and that can have real consequences. A ” epidemic” contact allergies explodedfor example, when a more allergic preservative called methylisothiazolinone began to replace another safer preservative, parabens after they fell out of favor with the beauty industry due to now refuted claims based on very fragile science.

This is not to say that all marketing is a problem, although it is often misleading and sometimes, lying. Certain beauty influences have contributed to a real change of feeling towards sunscreen, now essential for beautiful skin.

But terms like “hypoallergenic” and “dermatologist tested” are concocted by the industry to give the appearance of medical credibility when there is no legal criteria that manufacturers must comply with in order to make these declarations. And that’s before we get to how marketing touts the health benefits of skin care.

“Consumers and physicians should demand that the clean beauty movement back its claims with evidence,” said two University of Pennsylvania dermatologists, Courtney Blair Rubin and Bruce Brod, wrote in an editorial in 2019.

The same is true today.

The study was published in JAMA Dermatology.

Donovan B. Sanford