Hypoallergenic is a term that is frequently applied to cosmetics and is intended to imply a very low likelihood of developing or potentiating allergic cutaneous reactions. However there are neither industry standards nor legal requirements which must be fulfilled in order to make this claim. We describe a 25-year-old woman referred with worsening eczema which she related to the use of two skincare products. Both had been promoted as hypoallergenic and ‘preservative free’; chemical analysis using HPLC confirmed the presence of methyldibromoglutaronitrile and formaldehyde, both at robust concentrations. We consider it unlikely that these were present as contaminants and suggest that the term hypoallergenic must be interpreted with caution.