What does ‘Hypoallergenic’ actually mean?


The term ‘Hypoallergenic’ is used frequently when referring to a range of personal products and sometimes even animals. By definition, anything with the label ‘hypoallergenic’ is designed to be less likely to cause an allergic reaction. So in theory, anything labeled hypoallergenic should be better than products or materials without the label, right? Or is it a misleading term used in marketing? 

The reality of ‘Hypoallergenic’: 

Hypoallergenic’ means less allergy-causing, not none. When referring to products, hypoallergenic just means the ingredients tested did not give an allergic reaction to the subjects that were testing the product. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the product won’t cause an allergic reaction or is ‘allergy-proof’.

 As of right now, there are no federal standards or even definitions that govern the term “hypoallergenic”, meaning as of right now hypoallergenic can mean whatever that particular company wants it to mean. 


According to the FDA current laws do not require manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic to submit substantiation of their ‘hypoallergenicity’ claims. In most cases with cosmetics, anything with the label ‘hypoallergenic’ does not mean the cosmetic will not cause an allergic reaction or be better than another cosmetic product without the label. 

From a marketing perspective, “hypoallergenic” may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning. In addition to the “hypoallergenic” label, cosmetics that have the label ‘safe for sensitive skin’, and ‘allergy tested’ doesn’t actually mean it’s safer than products without those labels. 

For cosmetics, there is one basic fact: there is no such thing as a “nonallergenic” cosmetic–that is, a cosmetic that can be guaranteed never to produce an allergic reaction.

Cleaning Products:

Just like cosmetic products, manufacturers of ‘hypoallergenic’ cleaning products do not have to prove that the product will not cause an allergic reaction. When cleaning products have the label ‘hypoallergenic’ it typically means most of the allergic reaction prone ingredients (fragrances, and dyes) were removed. 

Some of the most common ‘hypoallergenic’ cleaning products are detergents. Even though detergents with the hypoallergenic label omit dye and fragrance in their ingredient makeup, it still has enzymes that can cause allergic reactions and cannot remove allergens from your laundry. 


In theory, all food is hypoallergenic if you aren’t allergic to the proteins within the food. There isn’t a specific brand of food that is hypoallergenic, it just depends on your personal allergies. For example, if you are not allergic to sunflowers, sunflower oil is hypoallergenic. 

Check the ingredients:

As of right now no product or food is totally allergy free and will not potentially cause allergic reactions. Since there is no way to completely prevent a potential allergic reaction or irritation reading the label is the best way to see what is ‘hypoallergenic’ for you. 

For personal and cleaning products the most common allergens are fragrances, dyes, and enzymes. In the case of some cleaning products, they tend to have the ‘green label’ meaning they have more soy, so if you are sensitive to soy this is something to avoid. In the case of some personal products and cosmetics, sometimes companies add extra fragrance to mask out the scent of chemicals that tend to cause allergic reactions. Sometimes this includes formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers (quaternium-15). Luckily for cosmetic products, the FDA requires all manufacturers to provide an accurate ingredient list on all of their products. 

In reality, there is no way to ensure that a product will not cause an allergic reaction so it’s better to know what ingredients are ‘hypoallergenic’ for you.

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