Sensitive Skin Product Series – Understanding Cross-Reactivity

I ‘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, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon, also an author, esteemed researcher and speaker. 

Sensitive Skin Skincare Product Interview series with Dr Vermen Verallo Rowell VMV Hypoallergenics
  1. Sensitive Skin Product Series – What is Hypoallergenic?
  2. What does Natural Skincare Product mean?
  3. What is considered Organic and Non-Comedogenic?
  4. What does Suitable for Eczema Children mean?
  5. What is Patch Testing (for skincare product ingredients?)
  6. How do you read ingredients on skincare product label?
  7. What does Irritant-Free mean?
  8. What ingredients in skincare product to avoid?
  9. How is Coconut Oil used in skincare?
  10. What is product cross-reactivity?
  11. How many ingredients in a skincare product?
  12. How to use skincare products on Sensitive Skin?
  13. How to manage the diaper area?
Keeping to a company that you can trust can help minimize cross-reactivity (picture from vmvhypoallergenics.com)
Keeping to a company that you can trust can help minimize cross-reactivity (picture from vmvhypoallergenics.com)

Cross-Reaction of Skincare Ingredients

Marcie Mom: I read that there is a possibility of cross reaction between different companies’ products. My baby uses two brands and so far, all seems well.

Is there a way for a parent to compare the ingredients and assess if there’s a high likelihood of cross reaction?

Laura: I think our previous interviews would lead to this answer being “yes it’s possible but only if you really want a chemistry degree and a specialization in contact dermatitis” 🙂 Comparing ingredients may not be enough…it would be impossible, for example, to be sure that the product of company A was mixed in a container used only for fragrance-free products; company B’s formula may be mixed in containers shared with other formulations that DO contain fragrance.

Cross reactants also require some knowledge of chemistry. You’d need to know that beeswax and propolis are related. Cocamide-DEA and Coca-betaine are coconut-derived allergens but are allergens not because of the coconut but because of the chemicals used in the processing.

Let’s tackle the logic first. When a reaction occurs, a contact dermatologist will ask you for a history that will include “what are you using”?

The more products you list, the harder it is to determine what the culprit is that is actually causing the reaction.

We’ve heard dermatologists share stories of patients being convinced their reaction was due to a new product they just tried, because they’d been using all their other products for years without a problem…but after getting a patch test, discovering that the patient was actually allergic to ingredients in all the OLD products, with the NEW product being the safest for the patient! More products means more factors to consider when trying to identify the culprit/s responsible for the reaction.

The other concern is a corporate one. If a customer came to VMV and asked if they could use one of our products with one from another company, it would be irresponsible for us to guess at an answer. We do not outsource any of our R&D, research, clinical studies or manufacturing, so we can answer for our products and processes. We know where we source our ingredients and their quality. Many raw materials are actually combinations of ingredients and we are highly specific about the breakdown of our raw materials (a kojic acid can have traces of parabens, for example, so we won’t use it). We know how our plant is cleaned and which raw materials are stored near each other. We know which products we can mix in shared containers. We know what tests we do. But we simply have no way of knowing any of the above for any other company. It would be unfair of us to guess and we truly would have no way of knowing if any of our products might cross react with theirs.

On the other hand, if you email us regarding a concern, our team is trained to help you based on their knowledge of skin, allergens and our products. It would be unreasonable to expect them to have the same training for other companies’ products (and if one of our employees came from another company, they might even be legally constrained against sharing or utilizing any of that knowledge when they work for us).

One Brand vs Many

Sticking to one brand (ours or someone else’s) at least gives you the advantage of having a customer support option that is familiar with all the products you are using. Also, if the brand does not outsource its manufacturing, it should have a better knowledge of all its ingredients and practices, and could possibly help you better. Sticking to one brand increases the likelihood that ingredients are sourced from similar suppliers with similar quality, etc. And, again, in the case of a reaction, sticking to fewer products lessens the factors to filter out when trying to determine the cause.

Marcie Mom: Thank you again for providing valuable insight into cross-reactivity, thus helping parents make a decision if we choose to buy from more than one company.

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