Warning! Your Moisturizer Might Not Be What It Says It Is

A new study just busted those labels' claims big time.

moisturizerVGstockstudio/ShutterstockIf you have sensitive skin, you know how important it is to find skin care products that aren’t irritating. Unfortunately, even if you’re following these skin care rules for people with sensitive skin, the search for the perfect products might be harder than you realized. A recent study found that moisturizers don’t always live up to their claims.

Northwestern Medicine researchers analyzed the top 100 body moisturizers from Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target to figure out which would work best and wouldn’t trigger reactions for people with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. The results in the journal JAMA Dermatology found that a shocking number of products didn’t live up to their claims—so you might be better off sticking with this simple miracle relief for eczema.

Finding a hypoallergenic product is already tough—only 12 percent of the bestselling moisturizers were free of potential allergens flagged by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group. But the shocking part is, even most hypoallergenic products didn’t make the cut. A whopping 83 percent of products claiming to be hypoallergenic actually contained an NACDG allergen.

If your skin is sensitive to fragrances, a “fragrance-free” label might not actually protect you either. Forty-five percent of those moisturizers actually did have a botanical ingredient or cross-reactor. (Check out these other signs your skin care products are actually bad for you.)

Anyone on the lookout for healthy skin products should also be wary of a dermatologist-recommended product, says study author Steve Xu, MD, MSc, resident physician in Northwestern Medicine’s dermatology department. “We looked into what it means to be ‘dermatologist-recommended,’ and it doesn’t mean much because it could be three dermatologists recommending it or 1,000,” says Dr. Xu in a statement. If you want truly derm-backed advice, try these skin care tips dermatologists actually use.

Anyone on the hunt for a moisturizer that works for them is probably better off asking a dermatologist than relying on the back of a bottle. “If manufacturers did list all the ingredients, their labels would be 75 pages,” Dr. Xu said.

To help your product hunt, the researchers did pinpoint the three cheapest allergen-free moisturizers. For a safe bet, try Ivory raw unrefined shea butter, Vaseline original petroleum jelly, or Smellgood African shea butter. Pair them with these must-use moisturizer rules to keep your skin glowing.

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.