In Sensitive Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChem2 Comments

Skincare lingo can sound really fancy, pretty sciency and just darn impressive. All that can even be without TRULY KNOWING what it actually means. Hypoallergenic is one of those words. Because it gets pride of place on specialist skincare, the word hypoallergenic feels like it is an ABSOLUTE endorsement that this product is great for sensitive skin types. But what does hypoallergenic actually mean? How is a hypoallergenic product different from one that doesn’t say hypoallergenic on the packaging? And most importantly WHAT is a product labelled as hypoallergenic actually going to do for YOUR skin?

What Hypoallergenic actually means and what does it promise your skin?


A product that gets the badge of hypoallergenic is one which is better suited for sensitive skin types. Not only that, but people who suffer a lot from allergic type reactions, that just means reactions that a normal person wouldn’t suffer. Having sensitive skin, is like a little alert that you have allergic skin tendencies and need to be ‘more careful’ than someone with normal type skin about what lotions and potions you use.


If you have allergic or a sensitive skin type, all it means is your skin is a bit of a diva, it likes a bit of attention and is prone to over-reaction. Simply put, it might be worth considering an audition to stage school *wink wink*. When you react to a skincare product, skin is thinking that there is an intruder around, and it wants to kick-them out as FAST as possible. Its the same kind of response your body gives if  you’ve picked up a virus, there is something around that your body sees as foreign and it attacks. That means you get an ‘immune response’. When this happens on your skin, it reacts, usually in one of these ways;

  • Redness & heat (that’s like a rush of healing blood to the skin).
  • Swelling (that is your body releasing healing fluids to the site of attack).
  • Itching (this is your body alerting you to the intruder, your body is hoping you will scratch the irritant off of your skin).
  • Rash (there are 100’s of skin irritants, and they all have slightly different reactions in your skin, the rash, can be a combination of all the symptoms above)

The MOST common skin reaction is a NETTLE sting, OWCH! If you brush past one of these bad-boys, you pick up some of its tiny little furry needles on your skin, these give you a little injection of something called histamine. Our bodies are allergic to histamine, histamine triggers our immune system and makes everything inflame! That little phrase of Histamine, probably rings a bell, that’s because for a lot of allergic reactions we pop an anti-histamine! Bingo!


A hypoallergenic product is one which has much, MUCH less chance of being alerted to as in ‘Intruder’ by your skin. A hypoallergenic product is SO skin friendly that your skin should not notice that it’s there! Skin still gets to be the star, and it doesn’t need to have a drama-queen worthy fit to get your attention. A hypoallergenic product should do everything for your skin that its ‘normal-skin-type’ counterpart would do, but with LESS chance of getting up-set skin. Smiles all around!

Hypoallergenic products are formulated to MISS OUT a lot of ingredients that are known to be irritants, for this reason a lot of hypoallergenic products leave out things like fragrance and common irritants like SLS, sodium lauryl sulphate (found in a lot of shower gels). It’s a strange thought that some skincare uses known irritants ‘ey! It’s all about the sliding scale of sensitivity, some skin can just tolerate it, but you should be careful not to use TOO many products with irritants in them, as the more you use, the more your sensitivity-scale slide’s to sensitive.

MORE: ‘Why everyone should treat their skin as sensitive once in a while!’


This is the surprising part, to put the super-skin-loving phrase of hypoallergenic on a skincare bottle, you technically have to meet with ZERO test requirements or rules.  The phrase hypoallergenic is not ‘policed’ by anyone. That means no regulating authority take responsibility for setting standards that have to be met to deem a skincare product as hypoallergenic.

That sounds pretty shocking right! Well, most skincare companies WILL do testing to use the term hypoallergenic, it is up to that individual company as to what the PASS mark will be for them to feel comfortable labelling as hypoallergenic. To feel comfortable, most skincare companies will test their product on a group of people and monitor if anyone has sensitivity or allergic type skin reactions. The number of people the product is tested on is complexly up to the skincare company, it could be a handful of 25 people, or it could be a few hundred, maybe 300.  There are no rules, so the skincare company make their own.

PRO-TIP: For this reason, if you do have VERY sensitive skin, it is a great idea to do a patch test on your skin, and wait a couple of days to check that your skin is A-OK with that lotion.

PRO-TIP: These types of claim, often come with that handy little asterisk*, the one that, when you follow to the small print [on a TV advert or Magazine press] will generally tell you how many people agreed with that claim, or how many people that product has been tested on to support that it works. That’ll give you a little reassurance.


Hypoallergenic products are specially designed for skin-types that are reactive, are sensitive and are sometimes/a-lot-of-the-time allergic to skin products. Having dry skin can also mean that you have sensitive skin, as dryness can be a skin reaction to a sensitising skincare ingredient. Basically if you suspect your skin is miss-behaving and just not acting like its normal self, it’s a great idea to reach for something labelled as hypoallergenic. Although it doesn’t guarantee your skin won’t react, it is MORE likely that your skin will behave when you use it.

MORE: ’10 AWESOME ingredients for SENSITIVE skin’

Do you look out for the hypoallergenic label on your skincare?