how many times have you walked through the baby section of a drugstore cooing over all those cute, adorable, teddy-bear adorned bottles and tubes? There’s everything your baby (or any baby in your life) will possibly need: moisturizers, bath gels, body washes, powders, diaper creams, and even sunscreens. They smell like little pink roses and feel much softer and gentler than adult versions. We automatically assume that the creators of these cute-as-pie concoctions have gone to great lengths to formulate completely safe, gentle, and soothing products for all those little behinds and toes. Well, don’t assume anything.
We all know that a baby’s skin is much thinner and more delicate than an adult’s. As a result, it can absorb anything applied to it at a much faster rate. Babies scratch themselves more easily, they are more prone to irritations and rashes, and even a loose cloth tag left inside a onesie can leave scary red wounds that look worse than they are and heal by the next morning. Babies are soft, helpless,
vulnerable human beings, and their skin cannot yet protect them from the dangers of the outside world. Despite this obvious, commonsense information, virtually all conventional baby products you find on grocery and drugstore shelves are filled to the brim with ingredients that are anything but safe for a baby’s health. Fragrances, penetration enhancers, sulfate detergents, preservatives, and synthetic dyes are not safe for babies. Neither are they for any adult. Yet these ingredients are contained in baby products at high concentrations. I know this may sound harsh, but the truth about baby products is that they are often worse for human health than adult ones. Ninety-nine percent of products marketed for delicate, fragile skin are nothing but bottled irritations, chapping, diaper rash, and watery eyes. Here is a quick checklist of things you should by all means avoid in your baby products:
I know this may sound harsh, but the truth about baby products is that they are often worse for human health than adult products.
Propylene glycol. This penetration enhancer and emulsifier can cause intense burning in the vaginal and perianal area. In 1998, a premature infant went into a coma after absorbing too much propylene glycol from topical applications when this chemical was used as a solvent in antiseptic dressings (Peleg et al. 1998). I certainly hope that your average drugstore baby wipe doesn’t contain enough propylene glycol to send your baby into a coma, but the irritating, allergenic qualities of propylene glycol are well-known and well-documented.
Mineral oil. Also known as liquid petrolatum, mineral oil is praised for its lubricating action and low price. Mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum distillation, and its production is quite toxic, involving sulfuric acid, absorbents, solvents, and alkalis. It only takes a drop of synthetic fragrance to transform mineral oil into baby oil. In baby products, mineral oil is also used in lotions, diaper rash creams, and baby wipes. While it’s considered to be nongenotoxic and generally nonirritating, mineral oil forms an airtight film on the skin’s surface, preventing it from normal functioning. And there’s another bothering fact about mineral oil. Researchers from the Innsbruck Medical University say that mineral paraffins appear to be the largest contaminant of our bodies, “widely amounting to 1g per person and reaching 10 g in extreme cases” (Concin et al. 2008). They found mineral oil in breast milk and fat tissue in new moms, and since mineral oil is frequently used to protect nipples between breast feedings, babies ingest this petrochemical from the very first days of their lives.
Triethanolamine (TEA) is a popular emollient and acidity adjuster. We have already learned that this irritating chemical may be contaminated with the potent carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane. Why take chances? There are lots of green baby lotions and creams that do not contain triethanolamine or any member of the TEA/DEA/MEA family.
Paraben and other preservatives. A baby’s hormonal system is not yet mature, and hormone disruptors can cause irreparable damage to the developing endocrine system. There have been no studies confirming the safety of paraben preservatives for babies. Why should your little bundle of joy participate in this gigantic experiment with an unknown outcome?
Fragrance. Conventional baby products are usually highly fragranced. These powdery scents are more appealing to moms than to babies, and manufacturers are in no hurry to remove the scents, simply because fragranced products usually sell better than unscented ones. Any synthetic fragrance, as we already know, is nothing but an irritation.
Synthetic color. Most baby products have a cute pink or yellow tint in them. Babies do not care about the color of their diaper cream or baby wash! All they want is zero irritation. More often than not, the color in baby baths, washes, and lotions is achieved by adding synthetic colorants, such as D&C Yellow 10 (Quinoline Yellow) or D&C Orange 4 (Acid Orange 7), considered to be potentially genotoxic substances.
Babies love to be bathed. Bathing relaxes them and may soothe any minor skin irritation, especially if you keep bath time less than ten minutes. And the smell of a baby right out of the bath . . .mmm, it’s so yummy!
You don’t need special cleansers for a baby’s face, hands, hair, and behind. One gentle plant-based cleanser is more than enough. The best green cleansers are based on corn, palm, or coconut-derived surfactants that are prepared without the use of sulfates. These include decyl poly-glucose, cocoglycoside, olivoil glutinate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, and the less green cocamidopropyl betaine.Aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, and olive leaf extracts are soothing and healing. They are usually well tolerated by all babies, even newborns. To bathe a newborn, you don’t really need anything other than warm water. Many doctors
recommend bathing babies in plain water until they are six months old. We tried it, and our baby came out clean and good smelling. Newborns do not get sweaty or dirty except in the diaper area or if they spit up. You will need a foaming cleanser or a mild soap for cleaning the diaper area, though organic baby oil or organic virgin olive oil usually work just fine. If the water in your area is particularly hard, you can alternate water-only baths with foam or herbal baths. And use a mild cleanser to wash soiled cloth diapers.
California Baby Calming Shampoo& Body wash is a no-nonsense, pure, and unscented all purpose body wash and a shampoo that can also double as a facial cleanser for moms. Formulated with aloe vera, sugar-derived surfactants, and softening vitamin E and glycerin, this cleanser is very concentrated, so a little squirt goes a long way. Unlike many products by California Baby, this cleanser contains no paraben preservatives, so feel safe using it on your little green darling.
Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash is a gentle, moisturizing, all-purpose body wash and shampoo with emollient sesame and sweet almond oils and soothing calendula extract. Rinses off clean and doesn’t seem to irritate the baby’s eyes.
Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap (Baby Mild) is probably the most economical organic product available on the market. Just a dash of soap in warm water makes sudsy yet nonirritating bubbles, and you can also use it for baby laundry and to soak cloth diapers. Unscented, vegan, and organic—a truly ingenious product!