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Anti-Allergy Face Wipes Are Bullshit, Sort Of

Achoo!

Achoo!
Photo: Juergen Faelchle (Shutterstock)

When I learned about the existence of Zyrtec face wipes, I was surprised and intrigued. I’ve used Zyrtec pills in the past to manage my spring pollen allergy (although they will never replace my first love, Claritin). Would wiping the stuff on my face help my itchy eyes? Yes, it turns out, but not for the reason I thought.

There is no medication in anti-allergy face wipes

While purchasing a pack of wipes, I noticed something in the fine print: These are “non-medicated” face wipes. There is an ingredients list, but no Drug Facts label, because there is no allergy medication in these wipes. Zyrtec tablets have the active ingredient cetirizine, which is an antihistamine. (Histamines are produced by our body during an allergic reaction, so antihistamines relieve allergy symptoms.) We’re so used to thinking of a brand name as synonymous with its active ingredient that you’d be forgiven for assuming, as I did, that there would be medication in these branded wipes. Nope: Zyrtec, the company, makes cetirizine pills and non-medicated face wipes.

Even some online stores seem to be confused. Target’s website lists the wipes as “non-medicated” and “with cetirizine,” which cannot both be true. (They do not contain citirizine.)

You can just buy regular face wipes…or wash your face

So what are the wipes doing, if not medicating? Theire functional purpose is to remove pollen, dust, and other allergens from your skin so they don’t hang around irritating you. No drugs are needed to do this job; washing your face would suffice.

But washing your face isn’t always convenient, and so face wipes exist. You can find an array of them in any drugstore, in the makeup and personal care aisles. And in doing so, you’ll save a dollar or two: I found Zyrtec wipes at my local CVS for $7.99 for a pack of 25 wipes. I then walked to the other end of the store and found some CVS-brand “micellar” wipes for $5.99 and “sensitive skin” wipes for $5.59. All three items were the same, minus the labeling.

(While we’re here, I’d like to rant briefly about the way that identical items are sometimes labeled and priced differently. Those two varieties of store-brand wipes had the exact same ingredients list, and yet were priced differently. “Micellar” just refers to a cleanser that’s emulsified into liquid; it’s not a special feature. Meanwhile, Zyrtec’s own wipes come in a regular and a children’s version. The only difference is that the children’s package has rocket ships on it.)

So you can save two bucks by buying wipes that don’t have Zyrtec’s branding. You can also buy a bottle of micellar water and use it with some tissues or cotton balls, or you can wash your face with the cleanser of your choice. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also recommends showering nightly to remove pollen you may have picked up from outside, and wearing sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen away from your eyes.


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