The Validated Hypoallergenic Cosmetics Rating System: Its 30-year Evolution and Effect on the Prevalence of Cosmetic Reactions

Its 30-Year Evolution and Effect on the Prevalence of Cosmetic Reactions

Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell


Dermatitis. 2011;22(2):80-97. 

In This Article


For those who wish to follow similar guidelines, the following outlines the limitations of the use of the VH rating system.

First, the system rates only cosmetics with ingredients lists on product labels. Fortunately, self-regulation by many cosmetic companies and regulatory bodies worldwide now mandate this. The United States,[72] European Union members,[73] Canada,[74] and Japan,[75] as members of the International Cooperation on Cosmetic Regulation, follow this rule;[76] so do Australia[77] and 10 countries in Southeast Asia (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) that signed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme[78] in 2003 and started to implement it in 2008. In June 2010, Chinese-made and imported cosmetics marketed in China were mandated to list all ingredients (including lead, mercury, and pigments). Manufacturers that fail to meet this requirement are to be suspended from the Chinese market.[79] As of 2009, India and some other countries that manufacture cosmetics for the global market had not yet mandated ingredient lists.[80]

Second, ingredients basic to cosmetic formulations (acidifiers, chelating agents, emollients, emulsifiers, humectants, solvents, and surfactants) are reported to cause CCD but not often enough to be a part of the list studied by the patch testing groups. Customized products can be a service for these patients.

Third, the patch testing groups have increasingly identified more CCD allergens in shorter periods of time, which, for companies intending to use the VH rating system, can mean more frequent reformulations and retestings, often involving whole product lines. Careful reviews are needed to assure the absence of the VH-listed allergens in raw ingredients, packaging materials, manufacturing methods, and other possible sources of contamination. These practices are time consuming and expensive but need to be done by manufacturers committed to producing hypoallergenic cosmetics.