JAMA Letter Cautions: Most 'Natural' Skin Care Contains Allergens

Many of the allergens identified were fragrances and other botanicals, according to ScienceAlert, which have become a leading cause of contact dermatitis.
Many of the allergens identified were fragrances and other botanicals, according to ScienceAlert, which have become a leading cause of contact dermatitis.

The prevalence of personal care product-related dermatitis increased 2.7-fold between 1996 and 2016, according to a Research Letter published in JAMA Dermatology. The authors, from Stanford University School of Medicine and the Permanente Medical Group of Sacramento, attributed this increase to natural skin care products, "which have been marketed to consumers concerned about the effects of chemicals on the skin, such as irritation and allergic reactions," they wrote.

See related: Do Recent Moves in Clean Beauty Mandate a Sanctioned Definition?

The authors examined the ingredient lists of 1,651 products on the U.S. market, including lotions, soaps and moisturizers, a ScienceAlert detailed. The researchers found that nearly 90% contained at least one of the top 100 most common allergens known to cause contact dermatitis; on average, products contained between four and five.

Many of the allergens identified were fragrances and other botanicals, according to ScienceAlert, which have become a leading cause of contact dermatitis. In the JAMA letter, the authors added: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not defined clean or natural, allowing sellers to freely advertise with these terms that imply safety and health benefits."

See archived: Building Natural Products

This finding may come as no surprise to many readers. Columnist Karl Laden, Ph.D., previously explained that creating a product with three, four or more botanical additives means a final formula contains more than 200 different chemicals.

"While a botanical may look better than chemical names on the ingredient label, applying so many other chemicals [contained therein] to skin does not fit with one of the tenets of the clean beauty movement; i.e., apply only what is needed," he wrote. "... By making the claim natural seem special, however, we are suggesting that chemical ingredients are less safe or less pure, when they are not."

The Research Letter concluded there is a need to educate patients and health care professionals to ensure the public is informed about the products they apply to their skin. The ScienceAlert added, "...But marketing always sways consumers' perceptions, and this can have real consequences. ..."



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