An Inside Look at the Seal of Acceptance™

Two cosmetic products with the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance logo on the front of the bottles

By Clare Maloney

Published On: Jun 18, 2024

Last Updated On: Jun 18, 2024

For people with eczema, learning about the many possible ingredients that can trigger a flare — and how to avoid these ingredients when buying moisturizer, shampoo and other everyday products — can feel daunting. In an effort to simplify the process, the National Eczema Association (NEA) created the Seal of Acceptance™ program.

You might recognize that little blue symbol — the Seal — on some of your favorite skincare and/or household products, but what exactly does it mean? What makes a product qualified to receive the Seal? Here, we’ll give you a deeper look at what it means to obtain the Seal, including who reviews the products and how companies maintain the Seal standards to help you ensure you’re using quality products for your life with eczema.

Vetted products for sensitive skin

So what exactly is the Seal of Acceptance? Started in 2008, the Seal was created as a way to help consumers find eczema-friendly products. The Seal is a branded label displayed on personal care and household products that have been vetted by NEA. NEA awards the Seal to products that are deemed suitable for people with eczema or sensitive skin, based on sensitivity, toxicity and formulation testing data. 

Only products that have applied for and pass the review process are awarded the Seal. NEA does not solicit manufacturers to apply for the Seal.

Brands or product manufacturers must fill out an application form for each product they wish to have evaluated, which includes:

  • A full account of all active and inactive ingredients and concentration levels in the formula of each product
  • Clinical testing reports for the product
  • Product samples

Let’s dig into each part of the application and review process to get a better understanding of what they are and how products obtain the Seal. 

Step 1: Review of ingredients

As you can imagine, evaluation of a product’s formulation is a big part of the Seal review process. NEA has identified 18 ingredients in its Ecz-clusion list that are known irritants and allergens that cannot be included in a product that applies for the Seal. 

For a product to obtain the Seal, it cannot contain any of the following ingredients in any amount:

  • Bacitracin
  • Benzocaine
  • Citrus aurantifolia (lime) peel powder
  • Citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil
  • Citrus extract
  • Citrus limon (lemon) peel powder
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lidocaine
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methyl dibromo glutaronitrile
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Myroxylon balsamum / (Balsam of Talu)
  • Myroxylon pereirae resin / (Balsam of Peru)
  • Neomycin sulfate
  • Polymyxin B sulfate
  • Propolis
  • Shellac
  • Triclosan

In addition, products must not include:

  • Fragrance
  • Chemical UV absorbers (only physical sunscreen products containing titanium, zinc and iron will be considered)
  • Formaldehyde releasers   

These guidelines were set by the Seal Scientific Oversight Committee. This is a panel of leading dermatologists, allergists and eczema experts. In addition to setting the ingredient guidelines, the committee established the criteria and framework for the overall Seal review process based on the most current scientific information.

“For a product to obtain the Seal, it must meet the strict standards established by our Scientific Oversight Committee, including a review of ingredients and formulation data,” said Christine Anderson, director of Seal of Acceptance and department operations at NEA. 

“Ingredients are considered in relation to sensitivity and irritation,” said Anderson. “The concentration levels and the purpose of the ingredient within the formula is taken into consideration as well.”

Step 2: Clinical testing report

To be considered for the Seal, manufacturers must have completed a clinical testing report for each individual product. Clinical testing is a way in which manufacturers make sure their products are suitable. NEA does not conduct this testing; rather, the testing is completed by an outside company who recruits people to test the formula in a controlled environment. Product manufacturers are solely responsible for identifying and working with companies to obtain this testing.  

There are various types of clinical tests. NEA requires at least one of the following tests be completed by the manufacturer for each product formula:

  • Human Repeat Insult Patch Test (HRIPT): This is a test to evaluate the safety of skin sensitizers, also known as allergens, which are substances that can cause exposed individuals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to the substance.1
  • Cumulative Irritation Test (CIT): This is a test used to evaluate the skin irritation potential and safety of individual ingredients and formulas of leave-on skincare and cosmetic compounds.2
  • Safety In Use (SIU): This is a study where a product is used per its normal use instructions for a period of 2–4 weeks on participants in a controlled environment to assess for how well the participants tolerate the product.3

During the testing, NEA requires that the clinical testing report include information regarding the skin tones of individuals involved in the testing process. This is reported using the Fitzpatrick Classification of Skin Types, which represents six skin types classified by pigment and ultraviolet light sensitivity.4 This requirement allows us to assess if a reasonable representation of skin types and tones are taken into consideration during testing.

Step 3: Product samples

The product samples are another part of the review process. NEA receives product samples from the manufacturers to ensure there is no fragrance present and to allow for reviewers to use the product as intended. The product samples, along with the clinical testing reports, are then sent to a panel of doctors who are part of the Seal reviewers selected by NEA.

Step 4: The Seal Review Panel 

This is the stage where experts weigh in on products. This includes the Seal Scientific Oversight Committee and Seal Review Panel. These doctors are selected by NEA for their expertise in dermatology, specifically eczema and sensitive skin care, and they hold MD, PhD and DO credentials.

The Seal Scientific Oversight Committee works independently of the Seal Review Panel. The Seal Scientific Oversight Committee sets the standards and criteria for the Seal Review Panel to use. The Seal Review Panel is the ultimate decision maker in whether or not a product is accepted to receive the Seal.

When selecting the Seal reviewers, NEA strives for diversity in geography, gender, specialty in medical fields (dermatologists and allergists) and race/ethnicity, while simultaneously prioritizing expertise.

The Seal Review Panel reviews all the materials holistically, including:

  • Review each product application submission to ensure clinical testing requirements are met, as well as carefully evaluate testing reports and any adverse reactions as it relates to irritation and sensitivity in the participants.
  • Review product samples as they are intended for use.
  • Ensure products are free from fragrance and don’t contain any ingredients on the Ecz-clusion List.

Step 5: Products are licensed annually

Products are reviewed and awarded the Seal on an ongoing basis.  When a product is awarded the Seal, NEA enters into a one-year license agreement with the manufacturer allowing them to utilize the Seal logo on accepted products in the U.S. and Canada markets. 

Product manufacturers are allowed to renew their license annually. However, to ensure a product still meets our high standards, a manufacturer must:

  • Provide an up-to-date ingredient list
  • Sign an attestation indicating there have been no changes to the formula since they first applied
  • Report if there have been any adverse reactions on a particular product/ingredient submitted to the FDA

If there is a change in formula, even a minor one, the manufacturer must restart the application process with new clinical testing.

Find what works for you

The Seal was created to help empower you to find products that are suitable for you and your family. The rigorous testing and review requirements help ensure that every product with the Seal has been vetted specifically for eczema and sensitive skin. 

“While the Seal can help eczema-friendly products be more easily identifiable, eczema is different for everyone and what works for one person might not work for another,” said Anderson. “Identifying a product with the Seal is an important first step, but it should be followed by trying the product to see how well it works for you.”

The Seal of Acceptance™ Program is intended to provide broad guidance on personal care products suitable for individuals with eczema and/or sensitive skin when used as intended per the product label. Individuals with eczema and/or sensitive skin have the responsibility for identifying ingredients in any product that could potentially irritate their skin and/or trigger potential allergies. Healthcare-related questions should be referred to a physician or other healthcare provider, including questions regarding product ingredients, as well as whether use of the accepted product(s) is suitable.


  1. Basketter DA. The human repeated insult patch test in the 21st century: a commentary. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2009;28(2):49-53. doi:10.1080/15569520902938032
  2. Walters RM, Khanna P, Hamilton M, Mays DA, Telofski L. Human Cumulative Irritation Tests of Common Preservatives Used in Personal Care Products: A Retrospective Analysis of Over 45 000 Subjects. Toxicol Sci. 2015;148(1):101-107. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfv158
  3. Safety In-Use Studies. ALS Global. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.
  4. Ward WH, Lambreton F, Goel N, et al. Clinical Presentation and Staging of Melanoma. Codon Publications. 2017; TABLE 1, Fitzpatrick Classification of Skin Types I through VI. doi: 10.15586/codon.cutaneousmelanoma.2017.ch6

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