Sensitive Skin Product Series – How many ingredients?

When More is not Merrier!

This is a 13-part series focused on understanding and using products for sensitive skin, an important topic given the generous amount of moisturizers that go onto the skin of a child with eczema. Marcie Mom met Laura Verallo Rowell Bertotto, the CEO of VMVGroup, on twitter and learnt that her company is the only hypoallergenic brand that validates its hypoallergenicity. VMV Hypoallergenics is founded in 1979 by Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell who is a world renowned dermatologist. Dr. Vermén created the VH Rating System which is the only validated hypoallergenic rating system in the world and is used across all the products at VMV. In this interview, Laura answers Marcie Mom’s questions on understanding how many ingredients a product should have.

Marcie Mom: Given that a child with very sensitive skin/eczema can be allergic to many ingredients, it makes sense that the fewer ingredients, the less likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction. Is there an average number of ingredients a moisturizer is likely to have?

Laura: There is no one average to give because different formulations necessitate different quantities of various things like emulsifiers, stabilizers and so on. For example, a shampoo might normally need to have a longer ingredients list than, say, a lipstick, because the shampoo contains so much water and needs more preservation, whereas a lipstick or concealer is mostly wax and therefore needs less preservation. A good bet is to compare similar products, e.g. two toothpastes. If toothpaste A has 10 ingredients and toothpaste B has 25, then A is probably the safer bet. Of course, toothpaste A could have allergens and toothpaste B could have no allergens…

In a nutshell: hypoallergenicity is a highly complex concept with many, many moving parts and it would be unreasonable to expect any mother or any consumer to master (or even familiarize herself with) all of these myriad issues. As we are mostly “lay” moms who want to care for children with very sensitive skin, it’s not a matter of mastering this complexity or of finding one magic bullet. It’s a matter of choosing products with as many of the good-practices as possible. If I were to summarize the safest best practices into a simple checklist, this would be it:

1)             Look for zero or as few allergens as possible. Your best bets for this are a) a patch test when your child is old enough and b) a VH-Rating.

2)              Avoid the most consistent top allergens: paraben, fragrance, masking fragrance, dyes, “coca”-surfactants

3)            Choose shorter ingredient lists (but check them against #2 above).

4)             Try to opt for brands with real clinical legitimacy. Published studies in well-known medical journals and presented studies in the large medical conventions are a good bet. At least you’ll know that their claims are backed by research that has objectively been considered scientifically valid enough for presentation and publication…so you might at least feel more comfortable trusting their claims.

Marcie Mom: Great checklist! I’m so happy that we’ve understood lots and understand so much better when we read the product label. Our next interview will move on to practical application of the moisturizers!

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