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Derms Need to Think Twice About OTC Recommendations, Study Shows

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Moisturizers are crucial to the treatment of various dermatological conditions and they vary widely by price and product characteristics. In relation, patients often look to their dermatologists for OTC product advice. However, according to researchers from Northwestern University Chicago, Tulane University and the Feinberg School of Medicine, there is a lack of readily available comparison data on moisturizer efficacy. 

These researchers therefore reviewed publicly available data of the top 100 best-selling whole-body (i.e., not specified for the face, hands, etc.) moisturizing products sold by three major online retailers to assess consumer preferences, product characteristics and ingredient profiles; the work was recently pubished in JAMA Dermatology

Comparisons were made on costs, marketing claims, product vehicles and ingredients including potential allergens. A total of 174 moisturizer products were identified.

Interestingly, the most popular vehicles were lotions (102), followed by creams (22), oils (21), butters (14) and ointments (3). However, only 12% (n = 21) were free from compounds identified by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group as allergens. The three most common allergens found were: fragrance mixes (n = 87), paraben mixes (n = 75) and tocopherol (n = 74).

Most importantly, of the products claiming to be “fragrance-free,” 18 incorporated at least one fragrance cross-reactor or botanical ingredient. This underlines the need for dermatologists to more carefully consider the OTC products they recommend to patients. It also flags product manufacturers to consider "benign" natural ingredients and potential upstream ingredient interactions that might put compromised skin at risk.

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