With rates of skin cancer on the rise, people with eczema need to be prepared to self-screen for any trouble spots that flaring skin may make it hard to identify
Published On: Sep 21, 2018
Last Updated On: Jul 13, 2021
Even if you’re an educated consumer, and even if you routinely shop for products that are all-natural, organic and fragrance-free, a product’s claims may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Even if you’re an educated consumer, and even if you routinely shop for products that are all-natural, organic and fragrance-free, a product’s claims may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
What’s more, finding out what’s really inside the tubes, bottles and boxes we buy can be surprisingly challenging.
Labels aren’t as transparent as we’d like them to be, mainly because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wields limited authority over cosmetics and personal care products. The FDA requires ingredients to be listed on package labels, but very few labels list the specific ingredients within general categories, such as “fragrance,” “flavor” and “inactive ingredients.”
Let’s consider “fragrance,” a common ingredient that appears on many personal product labels. People with eczema are often allergic to fragrance, yet it’s almost impossible to find out which fragrance-related chemical is the culprit. By listing this seemingly simple category on a label, the manufacturer can mask hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals.
Descriptive language on product labels can also be deceptive. Watch out for questionable terms, such as:
Household product labels can be even harder to decode than those on personal products. As with cosmetics and skincare products, the household products we use all the time typically contain dozens of unregulated chemicals.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission regulates labeling for a wide range of household products, including cleaning products, car wax, battery acid and drain openers, among others. All such products are required to list their main ingredients, including those known to be hazardous.
They also need to list instructions on how to use a product, and how not to use it, along with first-aid information. But household product manufacturers suffer no legal or regulatory consequences when they fail to provide a complete list of ingredients.
If all this sounds grim, don’t despair. There may be no foolproof way to see “what’s in there” in every case, but there’s a lot you can do to become label-literate and protect your skin and your health in the process.
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a good place to start exploring the world of cosmetics and personal care products, and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review and Cosmetics Info websites are highly informative as well. Use these resources to look up a product or ingredient and see if it has known toxic effects.
And in the real world, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re buying the gentlest, most skin-friendly personal care products on the market to keep allergic reactions at bay. Just pay attention to the following guidelines:
And you can also become a label-savvy consumer when it comes to household products:
Finally, check out NEA’s Product Directory at nationaleczema.org/eczema-products. Our directory includes an extensive list of personal and household products that have earned the NEA Seal of Acceptance™.
NEA’s Seal of Acceptance Review Panel awards the seal to products created for people with eczema and other skin sensitivities that meet the Seal of Acceptance criteria. The panel has also flagged ingredients that should be avoided.
Note that NEA’s acceptance of a specific product isn’t an outright endorsement of that product. Everyone reacts differently to personal care and household products, so trial and error remains your best strategy for identifying and eliminating triggers, wherever they may lurk.