Cosmetics and personal care manufacturers have no idea how frightening allergies are and should stop bashing 'freefrom'.

Ruth Holroyd takes issue with Cosmetics Design Europe

If you didn't read the recent article on the Cosmetics Design website entitled, "Free-From claims are based on fears and should stop", you might not understand what I mean, so....

To cut a long story short, members of a cosmetics panel believe that cosmetics and skin care manufacturers should not be allowed to make claims about ' freefrom' because this implies the other normal products may contain dangerous ingredients.

Well, watch out smellies industry, because if regulations go the same way as they have for food allergens you'll have to contend with a lot more labelling issues.


FreeFrom Skincare Awards winners 2015


Here are a few of Cosmetic Design's complaints – with my response to each...

"Freefrom claims are based on fears, but the paraben manufacturers, for example, should invest in the science to back up the safety of parabens and prove it."
Dr Barbara Olioso, Green Chemist Consultancy

Good luck with that one. The more I read about parabens the more I think THEY should be banned.

Why don't the manufacturers of parabens conduct research to prove they're safe? I wonder if it's because they daren't!

My skin reacts to products containing some perfumes, all parabens, anything with nuts will make my skin blister and itch. Sometimes I don't even know what is causing me a problem but I get contact dermatitis from a lot of skincare products. I know this is often not caused by an allergic reaction but instead a skin sensitivity but it's still painful, unsightly and can cause a serious eczema flare up. I don't complain about this, I just find a product with simpler ingredients that doesn't irritate my skin and I'm happy.

The vast majority of the population will not even be noticing these new labels that claim cosmetics are freefrom gluten, nuts, parabens or their most hated phrase 'nasties'.
But for those of us blighted with sensitive skin these labels and the manufacturers who make them are a godsend.
Don't punish them for trying to do something good for the few of us who want and need to make a choice.

"The freefrom route is a lazy route. Fear sells a product". Barbara Brockway, IMCD.

Well this is absolute rubbish. It is extremely expensive to bring a product to market in such a competitive industry so, to say a company is lazy to aim at a small group of the population who choose to learn and understand the ingredients in the products they are using is nonsense.  Most of the companies making 'freefrom' products are small independent producers. This smacks more of a group of greedy bullies trying to force their smaller competitors out of the market.

And don't get me started about fear. Have you any idea how often and how much I fear coming into contact with nuts? They are my worst allergy. I have many more allergies but I really do fear that this one might kill me one day.

"..A freefrom claim is not a scientific one - it is not based on science" The past president of the UK Society of Cosmetic Scientists and Noble Matthew, and independent consultant who used to work for Johnson & Johnson..

What has science actually got to do with this? A product either contains an ingredient or it doesn't. I'm no scientist, but have you spoken to a dermatologist, Mr Matthew? People regularly have allergies to the ingredients in skincare products and cosmetics diagnosed via patch skin testing. The skin is a huge organ and it absorbs a whopping 80% of what we put onto it so anyone not bothering to check what ingredients they put on their skin are crazy in my book.

None of you can confirm the long term affects of any of your ingredients so just pray you are not creating a ticking time bomb for all those who don't have an instant reaction because, rest assured, all these things are getting absorbed. They might not cause a problem now but what about in ten or twenty years' time?

Scientists have proven that some kids with eczema  can become sensitised to proteins in foods and products they come into contact with and this lead to severe allergy and anaphylaxis. This proves that the skin can absorb allergens.

It was very heartening to see Liz Earle wading into the debate and standing up for the manufacturers. I agree with her. And her skincare products don't irritate my skin because she doesn't use 'nasties'.

"We strongly suggest that safety shouldn't be used as route to commercial benefit as it suggests other products are inherently unsafe." Chris Fowler, Cosmetics Toiletry and Perfumery Association.

No it doesn't. It just acknowledges that certain products are unsafe for some people, like me, who are sensitive to these ingredients.  Some of these ingredients are very unsafe for me to use. One such product, Aqueous Cream, recommended for eczema skin has now been scientifically proven to be so bad for sensitive skin it is no longer prescribed while the MHRA advise against its use for eczema.

This is a quite simple product which is unsuitable and unsafe for those with eczema. It should be labelled as such and the ingredients (SLS) should be be clearly marked.

The skincare industry's lack of awareness reminds me of the wine industry.

Many of the experts that I have met are simply not aware that the wine they're selling contains milk – and certainly do not accept that any milk present could cause a reaction. But I KNOW that is does. It does not cause anaphylaxis, but does cause a night of hives, itching and all over red body rash so it is very nice for this to be labelled so that I can avoid it.

All alcohol should now have allergens labelled but the industry is still catching up with the labelling and education. They fought the changes in regulations too but ultimately common sense won.

So what is so wrong with skincare producers labelling and marketing their products in such a way that I can easily and discover what's in them?

It has taken me years to find some truly lovely natural products which I can use on my eczema skin. So I am not going to sit back and let some rich, ignorant bullies tell me that the very labels I need so much should be banned.

We are not all blessed with asbestos skin – so leave us alone. It seems to me that the only real 'fear' here is that these cleaner freefrom products make your products look bad. So stop complaining about the 'freefrom' products and clean up your own products instead.

Ruth contributes a diary piece every month to FoodsMatter and is a prolific blogger at What Allergy?

December 2015

If this article was of interest you will find many other articles on unlikely allergies and allergy connections here – and links to many relevant research studies here.

For more on the more 'mainstream' allergies check in to our 'allergy and intolerance home page' – and for ideas on alternative foods go here.

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