Date
24 May 2017
Parents tend to overreact when their kids get allergies and rush them to hospital for treatment. They also fall for such marketing traps that describe products for children as "hypoallergenic". Photo: CNSA
Parents tend to overreact when their kids get allergies and rush them to hospital for treatment. They also fall for such marketing traps that describe products for children as "hypoallergenic". Photo: CNSA

Must children use hypoallergenic products?

Children, it is often said, have a weaker immune system and need more protection. That is why many products in the market specifically target the young.

For instance, there are body wash products that say they have been “formulated for children’s needs”. That way parents are lured into buying them for their kids.

Amid the keen competition, marketeers are now insisting that “children should use hypoallergenic products”.

I beg to differ. It is true that the young, especially infants, have a more sensitive and vulnerable skin than adults when it comes to exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet light. 

However, it is difficult to quantify or analyze the actual degree of “vulnerability” of a child’s skin.

Thus, it is more of a subjective claim than a science-based finding.

Traditionally, products formulated for children have fewer chemicals, less fragrance and colors, and weaker cleansing functions. The existence of these products makes sense.

However, the market is now promoting that “hypoallergenic products” are the new formula for children.

While those with sensitive skin would see less inflammatory responses as fewer chemicals or irritants get into the dermis, children with normal skin would not have “nicer” skin after using these products.

Instead of relying on “hypoallergenic” products, parents should keep the following common irritating chemicals away from their children:

1. Preservatives: Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)

2. Antibacterial agent: Triclosan

3. Sunscreen ingredient: Oxybenzone

4. Plasticizers: Phthalates

A rule of thumb is that if your kids have sensitive skin, make sure the skincare products they use are free of these ingredients. If they have normal skin type, any ordinary products should do.

Children are stronger than what marketeers portray them to be.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 16

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/FC/CG

FHKAM (Paediatrics)

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