The Hype of Hypoallergenic

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy 2011 Everyone!

This is going to be a great year- i feel it in my fingers, i feel it in my toes.
Easy for me to say- though it was no less than 24 hours ago, that I was still in a food coma- darn 'em lobsters- so good with butter sauce.

Anyway, let us talk about HYPOALLERGENIC.

The cosmetic industry coined the word "hypoallergenic" to assure people that a product "will cause less allergies than average." 

Can you see the marketing genius in that?

This is a statement that I can misconstrue and twist in oh so many wonderfully wily ways!
Why, even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)  has given up governing the claim hypoallergenic because it is such a rich ground for weaseldom.

SO, here are your facts:

  1. There is no such thing as a product that will never cause allergies to no one.  None. Ever.  Period. 
  2. The weasel-dom of the hypoallergenic claim  plays on three things.  Who defines and what is defined as "less than average" and by what accepted type of measure.
    Isn't that stupendously wonderful?!  This is a slide-rule that changes over country and time and the menstrual cycle and mood swing of the tester and the testee.
  3. A brand claims hypoallergenic as a conscious marketing strategy.  Most usual suspects are either new entrants to the market who want to assure you that the lipgloss they churn in their garage is safe OR it can be an established brand that is stuck on a time-space warp with their ancient positioning and the new brand managers are too insecure to change it for fear of not having anymore to say about their brand aherm"clinique"aherm.
  4. A product can be "hypoallergenic" and not claim that they are.  It is because to claim "hypoallergenicity" means we pay to be hypoallergenically accredited.
  5. In the olden days, when we claim hypoallergenic, that meant we have shaved a lot of rabbits and tested them with the usual allergenic suspects.  Less rabbits die, more hypoallergenic it is.*  We keep testing till we get the result we wanted and we tested with all the possible ingredient suspects.
  6. Now, due to this darn "No Animal Testing" regulation (which btw, everybody is required to follow- so anybody who is claiming no animal testing isn't really claiming shit) - we just keep a list of what successfully tested as hypoallergenic previously.  Then we will tell you that we do not test on animals.  What we mean of course is we do not test on animals - anymore.  But to arrive at this list of hypoallergenic ingredients -  hell yeah- we did test on them rabbits!
  7. Let us say, for the sake of argument that we did a "valid" test, and yes, the products are indeed hypoallergenic- I have two issues with hypoallergenic still. 
  • First, everyone has different allergies from everybody else.  Why would i use a product that i paid so much for (because at the end of the day, it is the consumer who will pay for those hypoallergenic accreditation) with less potency just because it took into consideration someone allergic to Kiwi which is normally fine by me?
  • Second,  hypoallergenic is bullshit.

Professionally speaking, I am not one to recommend using the "hypoallergenic" argument in any of the cosmetic lines that i launch- except of course if my client is really a fly-by-night newcomer churning glosses in their murky backyard where i will probably insist that they pay to get hypoallergenic accreditation to help in future lawsuits.

So, to end this, the moral of the story is-
If you really are not the sensitive type, and there are 98 chances to 2 that you aren't, do not make a buying decision just on the merit of hypoallergenicity. Base your decision on other more meaningful qualities.

Happyallergenic new year everyone!

*Disclaimer:  Perhaps, the rabbits did or didn't die.  I will not know this for sure as I was too young when this practice was being done still.  But I state that to have more dramatic impact- the environmentalists lurv these kinds of things.  And i think the web experts think these controversial things where i tag dead rabbits makes for good SEO- whatever that SEO shit is.