Cosmetics Ingredients: What — and How Much Of It — Is Really In a Product?

Marcie Mom from EczemaBlues.com interviews Laura, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics, to find out more about product claims and why they’re important when choosing your skin care…particularly if you or your child has eczema.

Q: Is the Ingredients List on cosmetics packaging compulsory and regulated? Does the it cover all ingredients? Or can companies pick and choose what they want to reveal?

A: In many countries, cosmetics are regulated by the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or an equivalent governing body. If regulated, the rule is usually that cosmetics must list all ingredients, following a specified format, and must use only the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) names of ingredients. A few countries do not require that ingredients be listed — in full or in part — and/or do not have requirements regarding the names used or formatting.

Q: Why is there no percentage beside each ingredient?  That way parents can compare and choose the product with the least amount of an allergen. Also, I read that if a product contains an allergen it might not trigger a reaction if its concentration is too low. I also read that some products use an exceptionally high concentration of certain irritants. How can consumers find out the concentration of an allergen or irritant in a product?

A: Concentrations are not included in part because of proprietary concerns — a company would not want its exact formulation copied and some FDAs have rules prohibiting the registration of the same formulation under different brand names. If a product is a drug, however, it usually does have to disclose percentages, but only of the active ingredients.

An easy way to get an idea of how much of an ingredient is in the formulation is to look at where it is on the ingredients list. Many regulatory bodies require that ingredients be listed from most to least.

Finally, the percentage of an irritant or allergen is relevant mostly if someone only has an irritant reaction to it. Irritant reactions do have a relationship with the concentration of the ingredient, frequency of exposure, time on the skin, etc. For example, you could be using an allergen most of your life and not really react to it or just have mild irritant reactions like dryness. But if you are allergic to a substance or develop an allergy to it, any percentage of it for any amount of time on the skin will cause a reaction. Which is another reason why a patch test is so important.

This article was originally published in eczemablues.com as one of a multi-part series focused on understanding and using products for sensitive skinInspired by her daughter Marcie who had eczema from two weeks old, Mei (aka MarcieMom) started EczemaBlues.com with the mission to turn eczema blues to bliss. In this series of interviews, MarcieMom interviews Laura, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics, to learn more about product claims when choosing products to care for skin with eczema.


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