Tackling the topic (with patients)
Talking with patients about the safety of controversial skincare ingredients can be a long, losing battle, if patients who are saturated with online information, according to Dr. Friedman.
“What would be useful is a centralized, database or website, where a physician could easily download a factsheet with the evidence laid out in plain English, and say these are the facts, these are the studies,” Dr. Friedman says. “I think we as dermatologists need the right tools because it’s a he-said, she-said kind of conversation.”
Dr. Levin says she looks for over-the-counter (OTC) skincare and haircare companies that go the extra mile and do studies showing that the products are gentle or have extra skin and hair benefits. These studies should include studies on atopic skin or even mature skin, she says.
“There are many companies out there that do that. Dove, for example, Cetaphil, CeraVe are companies that have done that kind of work,” Dr. Levin says.
Especially the bigger companies can afford to do what it takes to develop and evaluate products with safety records.
“At P&G we will not market a product until we have thoroughly evaluated each ingredient for safety. We have nearly 1,800 scientists and technicians in 16 research and development centers globally who work diligently to ensure our products are safe. We use the same science-based process to evaluate the safety of our ingredients as regulatory agencies around the world,” says Scott E. Heid, Ph.D., senior science fellow at P&G.
Dr. Lupo says she, personally, tests skincare products and has staff members do the same.
“We evaluate for efficacy, tolerability, allergy, etc.,” Dr. Lupo says.
Dermatologists who have questions about the safety of OTC product ingredients can ask. Some companies offer a direct line for dermatologists with questions. That number at P&G, for example, is 800-358-8707, or dermatologists can email [email protected].
Dermatologists in general should feel at ease with having patients use researched products from credible, established companies, Dr. Friedman says.
“Beyond the risk for allergic contact dermatitis, my feeling is (these ingredients) are safe,” Dr. Friedman says.
More articles in our package on OTC product ingredients: