Skin Care

By Arielle Shipper

A recent study by the American Academy of Dermatology found that one in five Americans is “sensitive” to ingredients commonly found in cosmetic products. In this world of increasing sensitivity to, and awareness of, allergens nothing is more important than finding skincare products that clean, moisturize and protect while remaining mercifully free of common irritants.

VMV Hypoallergenics skincare has been pioneering the field of hypoallergenic cosmetics in Asia since 1979, and recently opened their first store/spa in the US on the little stretch of Broadway just above Union Square. In addition to a full skincare line which includes everything from makeup to your daily SPF, a spa in back is staffed by experts who will pamper you into hypoallergenic heaven. We got the scoop on what sets VMV apart (aside from a 0.1% reaction rate in over 30 years!) from CC Verallo-Rowell, daughter of founding physician Dr. Verallo-Rowell.

BN: What differentiates your hypoallergenic formulas from those of other brands?
CC: VMV was founded in 1979 by dermatologist and dermatopathologist Dr. Verallo-Rowell. As our founding physician, she leads all of our research, R&D, and clinical studies. We do not purchase our products from outsourced laboratories or factories. We have control over our ingredient selections, our formulation integrity, how and where exactly our products are made, and the post-market surveillance of our products. Our standards are so respected that we are regularly contracted to do clinical studies for other companies, even some of the leading pharmaceutical and laser multinationals.

The main thing that differentiates our hypoallergenicity is that we rate it using our VH-rating system. Every few years a list of top allergens is published by dermatologists; we use the most recent list of 76 allergens as a reference to create products with as few as possible. A product rated VH-76 means it is without all 76 common allergens.

BN: How do you ensure that all of your products are hypoallergenic?
CC: We patch test every raw ingredient, final formulation, and even product packaging/accessories (i.e. a brush that comes with makeup). Our clinical studies are double-blind, and we also conduct usage testing with appropriate “populations,” like rosacea/redness products for patients that actually have rosacea to ensure that they like the products.

BN: Are there any specific ingredients that you stay away from? Any special formulas or production techniques that you employ (i.e. the skincare equivalent of production in a facility without tree nuts or soy?)
CC: Dr. Verallo-Rowell’s name is not licensed out; she creates all of our products and we own our factory, which allows us to guarantee the quality of our ingredients and manufacturing. Even our mixers are exclusive to the brand to prevent our formulations being exposed to containers where fragrances or other allergens were stored or mixed.

BN: What are some common allergens that appear in skincare products?
CC: Fragrance is always ranked at the top of allergen and photoallergen lists. Even if you do not see the word perfume in an ingredient list, the product could still contain fragrances to cover up the odor of other ingredients. In lieu of taking a chemist in tow to decode chemical names like geraniol or cinnamic alcohol, take a whiff: if the product smells nice or pleasantly “like nothing,” it probably has perfume.

Lots of preservatives–like Wauternium 15 and parabens are also top allergens, so we try to steer clear of them altogether. Expert tip: many products achieve “preservative-free” status by piling on fragrances, which have preservative properties.

BN: What allergy-sensitive products or techniques do you use during facials?
CC: Clients fill out a VERY long form before getting a facial, almost like what you would fill out at a doctor’s office. The reason for this is that we have a lot of clients who come in with allergies, and we want to make sure we’re addressing everyone’s issues and goals. It’s also our way of making sure we customize a facial for each person.

All of our facials are also clinically validated: they were actually developed at our research center, where my mother oversaw their development to ensure they achieve the goals we set (cleansing, brightening, blemish busting) while not causing irritation.

The Superskin Facial
After hearing what VMV was all about, the natural next step was to try out their hypoallergenic facial on my own admittedly sensitive skin. I filled out the long form as promised, giving the usual information on medical conditions in addition to details on my skincare routines, water consumption, and even daily hobbies.

My aesthetician Holly went over the form with me in-depth so that she could customize a facial to both my skincare needs and lifestyle. That’s what is special about a facial at VMV: each one is tailored to a client’s needs, from respect for individual allergies and skin-types to custom-mixed face masks.

I was gently cleansed, steamed and extracted, then received a massage with virgin coconut oil that led me to believe the Superskin Facial should be renamed “Full Body Pampering.” As Holly explained, virgin coconut oil is an ingredient in many of their skincare products because it’s hypoallergenic and moisturizes without feeling heavy or greasy, plus it smells great too! VMV’s Know It Oil is pressed from fruits that have just fallen off the tree to maximize nutrients, and is available for sale at the store and online.

One sweet smelling customized mask (more virgin coconut oil, honey and clay), an additional moisturizing layer and a quick application of SPF 70 for sun protection and my skin was positively glowing. I was even able to attend a birthday party that night wearing nothing but a light coat of mascara. Newly purchased from VMV, of course!

VMV Hypoallergenics, 868 Broadway at 18th Street, 212-217-2762, http://www.vmvhypoallergenics.com/

Originally published June 2012
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