Starling Skincare was built on the concept of offering allergen-free skincare to people like Nathalie and I who struggled to find clean brands that were committed to eliminating potential allergens from their ingredients list
Most skincare brands barely dip their toes in gluten free and synthetic fragrance free products. They might exclude gluten for instance (that’s kind of easy), but not other allergens like nuts, synthetic fragrance or soy (that’s much harder to accomplish). That’s really the norm out there right now – and a that’s a really low bar. It is clear: the allergen-free skincare choices out there are not enough for most allergy sufferers (food or environmental). No other brands really devote themselves to the work of skincare safety as it relates to allergies – even as incidence of food allergies and chemical allergies are on the rise, except our brand, Starling Skincare.
Here’s why I find this so troubling: In the US, it is documented that up to 8% of our children have an allergy to a food, or multiple foods. In the span between 1997-2011, the US saw a documented 50% increase in food allergies. One of the biggest changes for how kids became allergic in recent years – is the increase in kids having multiple allergy diagnosis. For instance if a child starts with only nut allergy today, they are more likely to suffer from an additional allergy in the future. That is a change in the trajectory of food allergies from even just 10 years ago.
It is notable that most young children will grow out of their allergies in time, but there is one allergen that only 20% of all kids will outgrow, and that is nuts.
We could hypothesize on how and why people develop allergies here ... but we will leave that to the medical experts, as there are many theories out there. The few theories that do rise to the top are weakened immunity, and inherited genetics.
Adult onset food allergies are also on the rise. A staggering 45.3% of all food allergy adults, are reported to develop another allergy after the age of 18. So if you have a food allergy as a child, you are likely to develop more allergies to food later in life.
Recently the NIH did complete a study spanning 5 countries around the world, including the USA, focusing on adults and their allergenic skin reactions. Some noteworthy information surfaced that shows this is a growing and very practical concern for adults:
* Food and Latex allergies account for approximately 35% of allergic reactions on the skin.
* Skin allergies were documented to have a measured impact on the allergy sufferer’s quality of life and skin comfort including: altered sleep, embarrassment, anxiety and fatigue.
* The ways that a skin allergy presents itself vary greatly, and can be mistaken for other problems not related to an allergy. For instance: acne, eczema, rosacea and the ubiquitous catch-all “dermatitis”.
One last point about this study: they did not measure known allergies to chemical compounds (such as preservatives, glycols, synthetic fragrance and dyes, to name a few). Only seasonal (pollen), atmospheric (i.e. mites) or food allergies. It is helpful this study took chemicals out and only took a deep hard look at the “other” allergens, to give this information.
We know (from our own experiences and learning about our customer's journeys), a skin allergy sufferer’s symptoms can often lead to the wrong diagnosis and create additional chances for reactions, skin barrier damage and even mental health issues.
For the skin allergy sufferer, the symptoms and conditions are very real and uncomfortable. Even worse, skin allergies are also often misunderstood by others. It is hard to be your own advocate when others are ill equipped to know what you are talking about and doctors are still not able to mine for the information you need.
As a chronic skin allergy sufferer myself, I spent years taking skin prick tests that tested for chemical compounds and came up short every single time (I was still deeply reactive to my skincare) – until I took a food allergy test. Many uncomfortable years later I finally tested positive for a nut allergy, and found out I was a celiac (also allergic to all wheat, rye, barley and oats). I was finally pin point what my gut problems were and how to fix them.
So here’s the really remarkable thing about my journey: I was in and out of dermatologist's offices for years before my diagnosis because my skin hurt and was MISERABLE, and NOT ONE DOCTOR ever thought I should get tested for allergies. They gave me hydrocortisone, sulfur and acne meds every time as the antidote to my skin eruptions. I thought my circumstances would improve, but they never did.
Ooh my skin was angry. Miserable with skin eruptions, an itchy scalp and generally feeling awful and anxious, I got to work and eventually I got smart. I pulled my own healthcare puzzle apart and put it back together. After much inspection of product labels, I realized that I was experiencing reactions when my skincare products included nut and gluten derivatives, and found the common threads. Eventually, I diagnosed myself for skin allergies, and then my doctors confirmed it. The biggest message here is: you must be your own health advocate and push for answers no matter what your concern.
My experience was such: Having skin allergies can be one of the most confusing and confounding experiences you will ever have. You will feel paranoid and worried about every food and skincare choice you make until you get the appropriate diagnosis.
So back to why I am writing today: doctors aren’t educating their clients on the pitfalls of contact allergens, and skincare companies are glossing over the seriousness of food allergies and how they relate to skincare. Skincare companies also gloss over the solution and provide the allergy sufferer with a false hope and a lot of frustration with disingenuous messaging. And, let’s face it: There is not enough data out there, and food allergy education is a pie in the sky concept in general. We are just lucky that ONLY NOW our kids with allergies get a choice now at school for lunches. But I digress.
There aren’t any FDA regulations that define what the words hypoallergenic or allergen-free mean, and we see companies really take liberties for what it means to them. As a consumer, you should be aware of this and realize there can be inconsistencies in what these terms mean to different brands.
I also want to emphasize why Starling is different from other companies out there claiming to be allergen-free or hypoallergenic.
Just the other day I was reading a blog from a very well-known and big clean skincare company. The blog was about their brand being hypoallergenic. I was very excited to see a brand speak of allergies so I dug in and read more. However, I was disappointed at the end of the read, because the only culprits they discussed was chemical compounds like fragrance, parabens and dyes. There was no mention of ANY food allergens like nuts, wheat or soy – three of the most prevalent food allergies. Yet, this brand made the claim they are hypoallergenic. Why is there such a missing link between food allergies and skin?
If you have allergies like me, when you read hypoallergenic, you think “ah, this will be safe for me”! Sadly, this is often not the case.
This brand has several shampoos, conditioners, lotions and lip care products that contain nut oils. They offer a kids line alongside the adult products. They are clean and that is awesome, but for an allergy sufferer, they are not safe. By using the word hypoallergenic (along with dermatologist tested) as one of their key brand attributes, they give the impression of being SAFE – but for food allergy sufferers they are not. They go as far to state “hypoallergenic and dermatologist” tested literally on every page of their site. This would be confusing and misleading for anyone searching for allergen-free products.
The point here is that allergies can take on a life of their own, and there is not one roadmap for ingredient exclusions for the allergen community at large. Skin allergy consumers must be their own advocates and religiously read labels, and watch for symptoms. They must become experts on botanical names, and be aware of product names that are created within a derivative. This can be tricky, stressful and there can be a lot of room for error!
THIS, my friend, is why we built Starling Skincare.
Nathalie and I were frustrated with the skincare industry and their loose hypoallergenic messaging and blatant disregard of food allergies. We were tired of the POV on skin allergies being pushed that essential oils and chemicals are the only allergens that are troublesome to the general population. We were concerned that major skincare brands used ingredients like nuts for baby and kid’s products – when we know they are the most likely segment of the population to develop allergies. We were genuinely worried about giving our customers the safest and most effective choices, while understanding their sensitive skin’s nature. Lastly we knew exactly how exhausting all of this can be.
We were tired of the uncertainty in skin safety standards and the lack of allergen intelligence in the skincare industry, so Starling Skincare decided to make better rules when it comes to allergens and the skincare we create. One that would take the guesswork out of skincare for anyone who suffers from skin allergies.
Lisa Larson Murphy & Nathalie Yavonditte – Founders with Henri, Starling bestie
So, if you are wondering: Here are all of our ingredient and irritant exclusions that we follow for every product we make:
Starling Skincare Food Allergen Exclusions: Peanuts, All Tree Nuts, Shea Butter, Gluten, Wheat, Rye, Barley or By-Products, Oats, Soy, Dairy, Sesame, Avocado, Shellfish.
Starling Skincare Chemical Allergen & Potential Irritant Exclusions: Synthetic Fragrances, Retinyl Palmitate, Detergents, Dyes, Drying Alcohols, Toluene, Pore-Clogging Emollients, Mineral Oil, Ethanol, Glycols, Sulfates, Parabens, Harsh Exfoliants (AHA, BHA, Salicylic Acid), Phthalates, Silicones, BPAs, Formaldehyde, Carcinogens, Triclosan, Aluminum, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroquinone, Coal-Tar Derivatives, PEGS, PFAS, BHA, BHT, Petroleum, Parafin, Chemical Sunscreens, Colorants, Heavy Metals, Petroleum Derived Ingredients,Talc, Nickel, Latex
We are a small batch brand and we make all of our products in Connecticut. What that means to anyone who has a food allergy is we are extremely aware of cross-contaminants. We ensure every ingredient we use is tested for purity and free of cross-contamination. We also ensure in production that our ingredients do not come in contact with potential allergen contaminants, since we control our own facility 100%, and control what is on our lines at all times.
With Starling products, you will experience: