The Hype of Hypoallergenic





Happy 2011 Everyone!

This is going to be a great year- i feel it in my fingers, i feel it in my toes.
Easy for me to say- though it was no less than 24 hours ago, that I was still in a food coma- darn 'em lobsters- so good with butter sauce.



Anyway, let us talk about HYPOALLERGENIC.
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It's BULLSHIT.

The cosmetic industry coined the word "hypoallergenic" to assure people that a product "will cause less allergies than average." 


Can you see the marketing genius in that?

This is a statement that I can misconstrue and twist in oh so many wonderfully wily ways!
Why, even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)  has given up governing the claim hypoallergenic because it is such a rich ground for weaseldom.


SO, here are your facts:

  1. There is no such thing as a product that will never cause allergies to no one.  None. Ever.  Period. 
  2. The weasel-dom of the hypoallergenic claim  plays on three things.  Who defines and what is defined as "less than average" and by what accepted type of measure.
    Isn't that stupendously wonderful?!  This is a slide-rule that changes over country and time and the menstrual cycle and mood swing of the tester and the testee.
  3. A brand claims hypoallergenic as a conscious marketing strategy.  Most usual suspects are either new entrants to the market who want to assure you that the lipgloss they churn in their garage is safe OR it can be an established brand that is stuck on a time-space warp with their ancient positioning and the new brand managers are too insecure to change it for fear of not having anymore to say about their brand aherm"clinique"aherm.
  4. A product can be "hypoallergenic" and not claim that they are.  It is because to claim "hypoallergenicity" means we pay to be hypoallergenically accredited.
  5. In the olden days, when we claim hypoallergenic, that meant we have shaved a lot of rabbits and tested them with the usual allergenic suspects.  Less rabbits die, more hypoallergenic it is.*  We keep testing till we get the result we wanted and we tested with all the possible ingredient suspects.
  6. Now, due to this darn "No Animal Testing" regulation (which btw, everybody is required to follow- so anybody who is claiming no animal testing isn't really claiming shit) - we just keep a list of what successfully tested as hypoallergenic previously.  Then we will tell you that we do not test on animals.  What we mean of course is we do not test on animals - anymore.  But to arrive at this list of hypoallergenic ingredients -  hell yeah- we did test on them rabbits!
  7. Let us say, for the sake of argument that we did a "valid" test, and yes, the products are indeed hypoallergenic- I have two issues with hypoallergenic still. 
  • First, everyone has different allergies from everybody else.  Why would i use a product that i paid so much for (because at the end of the day, it is the consumer who will pay for those hypoallergenic accreditation) with less potency just because it took into consideration someone allergic to Kiwi which is normally fine by me?
  • Second,  hypoallergenic is bullshit.

Professionally speaking, I am not one to recommend using the "hypoallergenic" argument in any of the cosmetic lines that i launch- except of course if my client is really a fly-by-night newcomer churning glosses in their murky backyard where i will probably insist that they pay to get hypoallergenic accreditation to help in future lawsuits.

So, to end this, the moral of the story is-
If you really are not the sensitive type, and there are 98 chances to 2 that you aren't, do not make a buying decision just on the merit of hypoallergenicity. Base your decision on other more meaningful qualities.

Happyallergenic new year everyone!


*Disclaimer:  Perhaps, the rabbits did or didn't die.  I will not know this for sure as I was too young when this practice was being done still.  But I state that to have more dramatic impact- the environmentalists lurv these kinds of things.  And i think the web experts think these controversial things where i tag dead rabbits makes for good SEO- whatever that SEO shit is.

20 comments:

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog. It makes me mad when people try to sell me things but I know it's all crap what they are saying thanks to you. :D

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  2. Rowena I love you :-D
    You are the first person to say (well, write) things as they are and who spells them out in such a way that it is easy to understand for everyone.
    I work at Lush Antwerp (well, until Wednesday, then my contract ends there) and I'm telling a lot of my customers where they can find your blog; just to make sure you reach a lot of people.

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  3. I missed you Rowena!!!!! excellent topic, I giggled a lot. It made me think about hypoallergenic pets--which clearly, do not exist. though who doesnt love a fluffy poodle?

    totally didn't know animal testing wasn't allowed!

    xoxo
    Yvonne

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  4. Rowena,

    Happy New Year! Welcome back! Enjoy reading your blog as always!

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  5. Hi Steph! Thank you for the vote of reassurance. My NY resolution is to blog more in 2011- that is as long as it is welcome, of course.:-)

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  6. Hi Veerle, i lurv you too!
    Thank you for helping spread the bullshit. Oh, and you work at LUSH, didn't realize we have that in Belgium, well, i haven't seen them in Brussels anyway. I must admit, i have not personally tried the brand- am i missing much?

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  7. Hello Yvonne! Thanks for making me feel wanted, filthy old mouth me:-) How was your holidays?
    Well, no animal testing is a standard in Europe, that i can confirm and if the brand is international, chances are it is compliant with this globally. But I must admit, i haven't really verified FDA on this one. I am not a very nitty gritty with regulations as someone normally takes care specially of that. Huge work!

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  8. Hi cathy Lee! And I enjoy seeing the familiar comments from the familiar names. happy new year to you too!

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  9. Word in the net-ether is that while cosmetic companies no longer test finished products on animals, it is still perfectly legal for their suppliers to be testing the various components the cosmetics are made from on animals before they sell them to the cosmetic manufacturers. A certain company with a rep for stealing secrets and processes from smaller companies remained strangely silent about whether or not their ingredient sources used animal testing when asked by a very popular set of sister make up artists on YouTube (as did some other companies asked), even though it cost them the endorsements of these very popular ladies. Now that's got to tell you loud and clear, that regardless of any laws requiring that cosmetics not be tested on animals, the various ingredients used to make those same cosmetics are sure as hell still being tested on animals before being sold to the cosmetic manufacturers. So, no matter what they claim or what the law decrees, their products still allow animal testing, they just do it one step removed.

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  10. There is one in Brussels, I just have no idea where exactly. (looked it up for you, it's at Kleerkopersstraat 38. Not that I've ever heard of that street, but still)
    I love the products and the phylosopy; but I haven't a clue whether they're full of BS or not. I do know that they use labels and ink that are biodegradable (and that's something only insiders know) so if they want to go so far as to do that, I'm pretty much all for it.
    They try to use as little chemicals as possible, so I love that too. I'm just not sure what to believe anymore these days.

    Anyways, if you were to walk past the store just go inside and take a look for yourself. You can always ask for free samples from just about anything. I hope you'll grow fond of the brand, as I did. With Lush I finally found a product to help control my acné that actually works and isn't agressive at all.


    Lots of love
    Veerle

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  11. Even as a man, I have to say, I LOVE this blog!! It's thoroughly dry and entertaining!

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  12. I just came across your blog and I love it! I was wondering if in a future blog post you would share your thoughts on foundation primers. After trying many primers with little to no results I am beginning to think that they were invented to make us buy another product that we don't really need. I would love to hear what you think. Thanks!

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  14. Hello Sandi!!!
    Your comment deserves one serious blog post about animal testing. And i refuse to do a blog without having really all the facets covered. But I will soon, i am interviewing spokespeople in both groups as well as been reading all the papers in the web and the marketing hypes and shock videos out there.
    Though the arguments of the con are well marketed with nudity, shocking videos, celebrities and wild marketing antics, i wish to see through all the marketing BS and present the real issues devoid of emotional propaganda- on both sides.

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  15. Hi Veerle! I will check it out one of these days and will let you know. Thanks for the heads-up! And I hope you a good moving to AMsterdam!

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  16. Hi Anup Raniga!
    Thank you for the thoughtful comment and for owning up to it like a man!!!
    Actually, you are not alone, I believe I have 3 registered male followers and my engineering professor and some serious alpha males out there admit to reading and loving my blog- they are just not as man enough as you are to put it in writing. I hope you stay around. You are most welcome here!

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  17. Hi Sarah!
    Welcome to beauty and the bullshit and am really happy every time someone new decides to drop me a comment. Really. So, thank you!
    There are quite a lot of things to write about, i have quite a number of topics in line and must admit primers i have thought of writing last (after the pencils, nail polishes, shadows).
    But i will, i promise and will see how to insert it sooner:-)

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  18. Thanks so much Rowena, love the blog!

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  19. I didn't even need this post to know this. But it does up your credibility - although my 'grain of salt' was quite small. Anyhow, I truly have allergic skin. So when the average make-up sales rep points at such and such a brand (most often one - you named it) saying "oh you check there products out" I smile and say "thanks"; knowing that they just don't know any better. So, 'hypo-allergenic" statements on products is something I have just rolled my eyes at a considered a joke that I was about to engage in argument over. But with patience, I have found a brand with truly low-allergy inducing ingredients in their products. If you I ask I will tell you. Also, with patience companies still willing to develop new things (you've named them), have refined the ingredients down and I have been successful in finding products that I can use. My life is superficially prettier now :-) - and I don't feel left out. The upside, over the years not buying makeup I've saved so much money! So, marketers you didn't get me! lol, but you can make up for it now - hurry - entice me! Cheers!

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  20. edited version aka readable:

    I didn't even need this post to know this. But it does up your credibility - although my 'grain of salt' was quite small. Anyhow, I truly have allergic skin. So when the average make-up sales rep points at such and such a brand (most often one - you named it) saying "oh you should check their products out" I smile and say "thanks"; knowing that they just don't know any better. So, 'hypo-allergenic" statements on products is something I have just rolled my eyes at and considered a joke that I was not about to engage in an argument over. But with patience, I have found a brand with truly low-allergy inducing ingredients in their products. If you I ask I will tell you -Avene. Also, with patience companies still willing to develop new things (you've named them), have refined the ingredients down and I have been successful in finding products that I can use. My life is superficially prettier now :-) - and I don't feel left out. The upside, over the years not buying makeup I've saved so much money! So, marketers you didn't get me! lol, but you can make up for it now - hurry - entice me! Cheers!

    ReplyDelete