Frequently Asked Questions
What does "Hypoallergenic" mean?
I have very allergy-prone or easily-irritated skin. "Hypoallergenic" means less likely to cause allergies. In some countries, the term is not strictly regulated, but there are some best practices that are proven to be effective, all of which are practiced by VMV. Visit these links to learn more about what "hypoallergenic" means to us!
Allergen omission: VH-Rating system
The best way to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction - to make a product hypoallergenic - is to omit allergens (ingredients that are proven to cause reactions).
In 1988, VMV's founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist (a specialist in contact dermatitis and skin diseases) created the VH-Number Rating System as a standardized, objective measure of allergen omission.
The VH-Number Rating System shows how many allergens have been omitted from a product using independent, objective references: The North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). These highly specialized groups examine the results of thousands of patch tests to determine which ingredients/allergens are causing the most reactions. If an ingredient makes it to one of these lists, we don't use it. It's that simple.
Memorizing the list of allergens is impractical so the VH-Rating is arguably the simplest, most immediate, visible and reliable measure of hypoallergenicity.
If you have had a patch test, the VH-Rating System tells you if there are allergens present, and if so, which ones. For example, if you are interested in a product and see that its rating is VH -75/76*, you know it contains one common allergen. Find the asterisk on the ingredients list and you'll find which ingredient is the allergen. If your patch test shows that you're sensitive to that ingredient, do not use the product. If your patch test does not show the highlighted ingredient, then you should still be able to use the product.
If you haven't yet had a patch test but have a history of skin sensitivity, choose products with the highest VH-Rating.
Using the fewest number of ingredients
Simple formulations with as few ingredients as possible minimize the risk of cross reactions.
The quickest way to spot a high-risk product is to look at the ingredients list. The longer the ingredients list, the higher the likelihood that you may react to it.
It is a requirement at VMV that our formulations achieve their preventive and therapeutic goals with as few ingredients as possible. We're highly selective about our ingredients - each one has to achieve maximum results and no irritation.
Avoiding red flags
Fragrance is consistently at the top of allergen lists, and usually in the top 5.
Even if you don't see "perfume" in an ingredient list, the product could still have fragrances or masking fragrances (scents that don't smell "perfume-y" but cover up the odors of other ingredients). They could be written in their chemical names like benzyl alcohol, balsam of peru, geraniol or cinnamic alcohol. In lieu of shopping with a chemist in tow, take a whiff. If the product smells nice it's probably got a perfume. If it smells bland it's probably got a masking fragrance. If it smells like a lab, like chemicals, it's probably fragrance-free.
Lots of preservatives are allergens. Quaternium-15, parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, etc.) are top allergens. Try to steer clear of them altogether. CAUTION: many products achieve "preservative-free" status by piling on fragrances that have preservative properties.
Dyes are easy to spot: first, it's close to impossible to get a very bright color from mineral pigments, second, dyes are written as a color followed by a number and usually the word "lake", e.g. Yellow 6 Lake, Red 22 Lake or Blue 1 Lake. At VMV, some of our lip color, eyeshadows and blushes contain dyes - if you are allergic to dyes, choose from our wide selection of dye-free shades. All our foundations and powders are 100% dye-free.
Other well-known red flags are propylene glycol, rubber (common in cosmetic sponges), propolis (from bees wax) and tea tree oil
Avoiding allergenic naturals
Even the most organic fragrances are allergenic. Several tree barks, fruits and their peels, bee products and other natural extracts are highly allergenic.
If you've got sensitive skin, hypoallergenic products trump natural ones all the time. A common misconception is that "natural" and "organic" ingredients are not allergenic. In many cases, it is the opposite that's true. Bee stings, mangoes, shellfish, pollen, dander, peanuts are examples of different things that, even in their most natural and organic forms, can cause allergic reactions (some very severe) in people who are sensitive to them. And many natural ingredients are on the allergen list.
At VMV, we try to use natural, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever we can. But our first filter is always hypoallergenicity.
What are allergens?
Allergens are ingredients commonly found in cosmetic products, clothing, and lots of other materials used in consumer products (on mobile phone casings, laptop sleeves, gym equipment handles, slippers, clothing, underwear, goggles, etc.) and in life in general (plants, pets, etc.) that are known to cause allergic or irritant reactions in skin.
Common allergens are those that tend to cause reactions the most. These are determined by studies that examine the patch test results of thousands of people in multiple clinics and testing centers in different countries.
A common misconception is that "natural" and "organic" ingredients are not allergenic. In many cases, it is the opposite that's true. Bee stings, mangoes, shellfish, pollen, dander, peanuts are examples of different things that, even in their most natural, organic forms, can cause allergic reactions (some very severe) in people who are sensitive to them. And many natural ingredients are on the allergen list.
I have very allergy-prone or easily irritated skin...
If you have very allergy-prone or easily irritated skin, we have two suggestions:
Ask your dermatologist for a patch test.
Choose VMV products with the highest VH-Ratings.
A patch test is a painless procedure that shows which ingredients you in particular need to avoid. This significantly reduces the expense, frustration, and skin trauma of trial and error.
If you are in the USA, ask your dermatologist if s/he uses CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program of the American Contact Dermatitis Society). If your physician does use CAMP, s/he'll be able to give you a list of not just your allergens but of specific products that you can use.
We source our ingredients from trusted providers around the world; most come from the highest-quality purveyors in Europe and the USA.
We choose ingredients based solely on their hypoallergenicity, efficacy, quality, beneficial merit, and sustainability...not on their aesthetic properties or other "marketable" claims.
This punctiliousness is heightened by our policy of using the least amount of ingredients possible (which helps increase a product's hypoallergenicity). So our ingredients give maximum benefits without having to pile them on, a practice that increases the likelihood of irritations and cross-reactions.
How we test
You'll see this phrase on all our products. It means that the product was tested using our patch test protocols at VMV HYPOALLERGENICS®; this means using standard patch test protocols practiced by your doctor and leading experts and then building on top of them.
We patch test each ingredient and raw material that goes into every product we make, the final formulation itself, and even the ancillary things that touch your skin: like puffs, sponges, and brushes.
We also use packaging that does not contain allergens such as rubber or certain metals as much as possible. If, for the sake of stability, we must use a packaging material with an allergen (such as a colorant), we make sure that it does not touch the product itself and that the product can be handled without much contact with the problematic surfaces. We also test packaging to confirm that its harmful components do not leak into the formulations inside them.
In Vitro and In Vivo:
In vitro means testing done in a laboratory. Many of our tests are in vitro, but we're proud to say that we also do an extensive amount of in vivo testing.
In vivo means testing done with human volunteers in actual-use conditions. Our Armada sun and light protection products, for example, are subjected to in vivo sunscreen studies to give you protection factors proven in actual-use conditions, not merely in laboratories with simulated skin. We do that, too, but we're proud to be one of the few companies to always do in vivo sunscreen studies (which we've been doing since the 1980s).
Our own clinical studies are further supported by other independent studies published in respected dermatological journals and publications.
For example, our Re-Everything anti-aging line features kinetin, a growth hormone that performed (with our unbuffered glycolic acid and other active ingredients) excellently in our own randomized, double-blind clinical study. But we still scoured published studies on kinetin in order to further support our decision to use it in our formulations. Finding a wealth of legitimate published research on kinetin, combined with our own evidence-based studies, we decided it was the right choice for Re-Everything.
No animal testing.
Our standards are so high that we have no shortage of volunteers (the human kind) who are eager to try new products. Plus, we do extensive laboratory (microbial, stability, etc.) testing to ensure both efficacy and safety. If you're interested in trying new formulations or procedures, contact the VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics.
We do Evidence-based Studies:
"Evidence-based" is the most respected protocol for product testing, including randomized, double-blind clinical testing on statistically relevant pools of subjects over a specific time period
I received an email confirmation, why was my order not processed?
We're very sorry when this happens, but even well-maintained sites like ours sometimes experience technical glitches.
Like all electronic systems, ours may experience lag or the rare crash.
Sometimes this occurs due to updates or maintenance, an unexpected spike in traffic, or other problems that cannot be foreseen. If we discover that we have a problem processing your order, we will send you an email to explain what happened, and let you know what your options are. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience that a technical glitch might cause.
I sent an inquiry through Customer Service, why have I not heard from VMV?
As reliable as they normally are, electronic messages and forms can sometimes fail to get delivered. Or, technical problems on the side of your Internet Service Provider can cause bumps in communication that can result in an email or online form not being routed or delivered properly. VMV will usually respond to your message within 24 hours. If you do not hear from us within three days of submitting your message, we may not have received it, so please try again.
I forgot my password, help!
You can recover your password information by clicking on the login link, clicking on "Forgot Password", and entering the email address associated with your account.
Please enter the email address that you used for registration. Your account information will be sent to you shortly afterwards submitting your information.
I'm having problems checking out, what do I do?
If you're experiencing issues with our checkout, it may be a slight technical glitch on our side. Please try again by refreshing the page and see if the checkout works then. If not, then immediately contact Customer Service.
Problems with checkout may also be due to your browser. While we try to be compatible to all browsers available, Internet Explorer does tend to give us the most problems. We suggest that you use Safari, Chrome or Firefox.
We also suggest that you update your browsers to their latest versions and security updates.
Help, you still haven't answered my question!
If you are unable to find information about your question or concern in our FAQ, please email our Customer Service team.
What is the VH-Rating System?
The VH-Rating System works like this:
The higher the number, the more allergens are ABSENT from a product and the better the chances that you won't develop a rash or other skin problems.
The minus sign followed by a number shows the current maximum number of known allergens. The current highest VH Rating is VH - 76/76 (contains 0 of all 76 known allergens).
If a product contains one allergen, its VH-Rating would change to VH -75/76* (contains one allergen out of 76). The asterisk is repeated on the product's ingredient list so you can quickly identify which is the included allergen (it's underlined, too, so you can't miss it). If you've had a patch test, one glance at the ingredient list can tell you if you can still use the product (if, for example, the included allergen is vitamin E but you're allergic to parabens). If you haven't had a patch test, select the higher VH-Rated product.
VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® was the first brand to rate its hypoallergenicity with the VH-Rating System. In 1988, VMV's founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist (a specialist in contact dermatitis and skin diseases) created the VH-Number Rating System as a standardized, objective measure of allergen omission.
The VH-Rating System is proprietary (an original VMV "skinnovation"). It is the only hypoallergenic rating system of its kind and VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® is still the only brand rating its hypoallergenicity.
The VH-Number Rating System helps clients select the right level of hypoallergenicity for their needs.
The VH-Number is a little like an SPF for hypoallergenicity. Much like SPF, the higher a VH number is, the more protected you'll be from allergens. VH tells you that a product has been Validated as Hypoallergenic (VH), and the minus sign and number show you how many allergens are absent from the formulation. The higher the VH-Number, the more allergens are absent from a product, and the more hypoallergenic it is.
The VH-Rating System is based on objective and independent references for allergens: the lists of the most common allergens regularly published by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA).
VH -76/76 = Validated Hypoallergenic MINUS all 76 of 76 allergens.
VH -75/76* = Validated Hypoallergenic minus 1 allergen (the product has 75 of 76 allergens omitted), indicated in the ingredients list by an asterisk.
Why is it important to identify the allergen in the ingredients list? Because knowing which allergen is present can help expand your product options.
For example, if your patch test shows that you are sensitive to parabens but not to dyes (which are known allergens), and a product contains a dye, it's VH-Rating would be VH-75/76*. With the asterisk, a quick glance at the ingredients would show you that the allergen isn't one that you are sensitive to, and the product should still be safe for you to use.
If you have not had a patch test and have a history of sensitivity, choose higher VH-Ratings.
NOTE: We are all individuals and you may be sensitive to an ingredient that is not yet considered an allergen. If you have a history of skin sensitivity, your best bet is to ask your doctor for a patch test.
Most VMV products are rated VH -76/76: all 76 known allergens are absent. If we must use an ingredient that appears on the allergen list, it is usually present in the smallest possible concentrations, ranked low on the allergen list, and indicated by an asterisk so that you can quickly identify if it's an ingredient that you are allergic to.
While lower VH ratings can work for many people, you can choose products with higher VH numbers if you have a history of allergies or hypersensitivity. This is the beauty of the VH-Rating System: you are empowered with a clear indication of what allergens are included/excluded, so you can make wiser decisions on what you can use.
Our commitment to reformulating when needed
"VH" means that a product has been tested - validated - for hypoallergenicity.
The minus sign followed by a number shows how many allergens are absent in the formulation. Our commitment: The VH-Rating System is effective as long as it and products are regularly updated.
If just one of the ingredients we use makes the allergen list, we reformulate our products to remove it.
Considering the barrage of tests that we subject each raw material, ingredient and final formulation, this is a daunting, exhaustive process that's unique to VMV. But it's our commitment to your skin's safety.
Our Labels: In an effort to provide the most hypoallergenic products possible, we periodically reformulate our products to be consistent with the latest published allergen lists of the NACDG and ESSCA. If our products remain compliant with new publications and no reformulations are necessary, we still modify our packaging to reflect the new maximum number of allergens if it has changed.
As this process takes some time - and we'd rather not throw away perfectly good packaging! - this sometimes results in VH Ratings on products not yet reflecting the most current publications.
Choosing A Service
Browse through our services in our menu at one of our Boutiques or VMV Skin Research Center + Clinics, or online here. When you arrive for your service, our facialists help you finalize your selection and customize it to your skin’s particular needs.
Please arrive 10 minutes prior to your appointment: Because many of our clients have sensitive skin or specific skin conditions, our pre-treatment form and consultation tend to be more meticulous than most.
If you have a skin condition that requires a physician’s diagnosis or management, we suggest that you see a doctor for a consultation and/or more advanced/specialized clinical care. We do not perform procedures that must be done by a dermatologist or nurse in a clinic (for those we happily refer you to VSRC).
Ages: Clients under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Or, book a double appointment with your child (age 12 and up) for a special day of bonding!
Pregnant? Congra“dew”lations! A facial can be a wonderful treat for moms-to-be. Your service is done sans comedone extraction and, if you’re in your 5th month or later, with you in a more upright or side-lying position.
We do not recommend facials if you...
currently have inflamed, cystic acne;
have recently had laser or other phototherapy or surgery;
have skin that is currently compromised due to a rash, irritation, over-treatment, infection, burn or other condition;
cannot lie down comfortably for a treatment’s duration.
For more information about our facials, visit the Facial Services Page.
Other Helpful "Skinformation"
As a general rule, your yen rules:
Our estheticians are with you to perform your service to the best of their training and abilities.
While we will describe certain steps or ask occasional questions during the service, we will not instigate casual conversation. If you, on the other hand, feel like chatting with us or the person you came with, please feel free to do so.
If you need anything (clarification on a product, a short break from a procedure, etc.) please let us know. We benefit from your feedback, and sharing your needs and preferences with us helps make your experience more enjoyable.
In-Between Appointments: Do be good about your general health — eat nutritiously, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, meditate or otherwise prioritize stress relief, and exercise daily — and be diligent about your at-home VMV skin regimen (which we can customize for you). As well, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
Gratuities: Our best reward is your personal recommendation. Beyond this, if you would like to reward a job well done, gratuities are left to your discretion.
Gifting: If you would like to pamper someone with relaxation and health, our uplifting Gift Skintificates make for wonderful presents of wellness, bliss, and heaps of happy. Ask us for options.