Chemicals to Avoid in Baby Care Products
Chemicals that are Not Found in Natural, Organic Baby Skin Care Products
Your baby’s skin is so fresh, new, and delicate. The last thing you want to do is harm them by applying a baby care product that could harm their skin and health. This article lists all the potential chemicals that you should be avoiding to ensure you use the most organic skin care products.
Chemicals you won’t find in natural baby care products
There’s a whole host of untested and potentially unsafe ingredients used in conventional baby products like shampoos, rash creams and lotions, bug repellents, and sunscreens. But when you purchase natural baby care products, you won’t find these ingredients, so you can use them confident that they won’t harm baby or the planet. These are the biggies you should attempt to avoid whenever possible:
- Ceteareth: Used in a variety of formulations for baby baths, sunscreens, and lotions as solubilizing agents, these chemicals are suspected of many human health concerns, including neurotoxicity, organ damage, and skin irritation.
- DEET: Known by many names, including Autan, Detamide, Delphene, Naugatuck Det, Off, and Flypel, this chemical is widely heralded as the most effective bug deterrent, but it comes at a cost. Scientists know DEET as a pesticide that has been linked to many health problems, including rashes and swelling, acute toxicity, as well as reproductive, mutagenic, and organic toxicity. DEET also has many environmental setbacks—it harms aquatic life and is a neurotoxin for cats and dogs. Ecolife recommends that you look for other alternatives, but if you do use products with this ingredient, make sure it’s at concentrations no higher than 10% for your children.
- Dimethyl phthalate (DMP): Like all phthalates, this one should be avoided but is often found in baby insect repellents. It is said to be a known human immune system and respiratory toxicant and may have a negative impact on liver, kidney, and blood in humans.
- DMDM Hydantoin: This is a preservative used in many baby care products (shampoos, soaps, lotions, powders, sunscreens), yet it is a known human immune system toxicant and a suspected skin irritant.
- Mineral oil: This is a petroleum product used as a moisturizer in many baby products that comes with hazards associated with that industry. It is also considered an occlusive oil which clogs pores and doesn’t fully moisturize, which means you’ll be applying it more often. It is a common moisturizer in baby and adult personal care products.
- Octinoxate: This chemical suffers from one of the most common problems with sunscreen ingredients—it is likely to disrupt natural hormone levels, even in small babies. This chemical also has several names, including octyl methoxycinnamate.
- Oxybenzone: Known also as benzophenone-3, oxybenzone is a chemical sunscreen that has come under scrutiny because of concerns about skin irritation and hormone disruption.
- PABA: This sunscreen chemical goes by many names, including Padimate O and Octyl Dimethyl PABA. The main danger here is that it releases free radicals which can damage DNA. It has also been linked to hormone disruption and can cause allergic reactions.
- Phthalates: Most chemical scents are fixed to the product by phthalates which have been linked to additional serious human health problems, such as liver and kidney failure. Phthalates are also used in numerous personal care products as preservatives.
- Polyethylene glycols (PEGs): Utilized in many products as solvents and humectants, this chemical is of particular concern because it acts on the skin by opening up the pores to facilities more rapid absorption of environmental toxins like DDT.
- Synthetic fragrances: As with any personal care product for you and baby, it’s best to avoid synthetic fragrances. Many of these man-made fragrances are considered persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they stay in the environment a long time, causing air and water pollution and harming wildlife. And when used indoors, they pollute your indoor air (because most are considered volatile organic compounds (VOCs)), contributing to common respiratory problems like asthma. Additionally, most chemical scents are accompanied by phthalates which have been linked to additional serious human health problems, especially in children.
- Talc: Talc, the most common ingredients used to make baby powder, is a natural mined mineral (mining is not an eco-friendly industry) that can come out of the ground naturally-infused with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and there’s no testing of talc to ensure its asbestos-free. Though talc baby powder has been used for decades by parents trying to control moisture and odor, it’s not recommended for your baby. Choose ingredients like baking soda and cornstarch instead.
- Triclosan: Added to many baby products like soaps and shampoos as a biocide (antibacterial agent), preservative, or deodorant agent, triclosan has already been restricted for use in cosmetics in Canada and Japan because it is an endocrine disruptor and potential organ toxicant. More importantly, antibacterials like this one spur the development of drug-resistant bacteria, creating even more menacing threats for human and animal populations of future generations as we lose the ability to fit off disease.
- Triethanolamine (TEA): Used as a fragrant ingredient, a pH adjuster, and an emulsifier, TEA is known to be an immune system toxicant, a skin toxicant, and a respiratory toxicant. There is also evidence that it might play a role in organ system damage.
There are now numerous companies making safer, more eco-friendly baby care products like natural baby sunscreens (try Avalon Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen), natural baby powder (such as AROMABABY Organic Aromabath Powder), natural baby creams and lotions (perhaps Badger Baby Balm Tube?), and safer baby bug repellents (like those by JASON). You may also want to consider making your own natural baby soap from scratch!
Regardless of which product you’re considering, also keep the fate of innocent animals in mind as you shop. You want gentle products for your baby, and hopefully products that don’t come at the cost of another animal’s wellbeing. So look for the Certified Vegan or Leaping Bunny logos to assure that your chosen products don’t come at the pain of other creatures.
1 CETEARETH-20. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/701225/CETEARETH-20/
2 Pesticide Information Profile - DEET. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2010, from Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/carbaryl-dicrotophos/deet-ext.html
3 Dimethyl phthalate. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2010, from Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/718583/DIMETHYL_PHTHALATE/
4 DMDM Hydantoin. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2010, from Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetic Database: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=702196
5 Sunscreen Guide - About Active Ingredients. (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/cosmetics/report/sunscreen09/investigation/about-active-SPF-ingredients
6 Concentrations of the Sunscreen Agent Benzophenone-3 in Residents of the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Health Perspectives: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.11269
7 Sunscreen Guide - About Active Ingredients. (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/cosmetics/report/sunscreen09/investigation/about-active-SPF-ingredients
8 What the nose knows: Think twice before buying a loved one perfume, cologne. (2003, February 12). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076635/
9 Preventing the use of six phthalates in soft vinyl children's toys and child-care articles. (2009, June). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Health Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2009/2009_96bk1-eng.php
10 Polygethylene glycol. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/704983/POLYETHYLENE_GLYCOL/
11 Environment - Air, Water, Wilfelife, and Other. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from The Fragranced Products Information Network: http://www.fpinva.org/text/ENVIRONMENT.html
12 What the nose knows: Think twice before buying a loved one perfume, cologne. (2003, February 12). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076635/
13 Antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps and kitchen disinfectants. (2008, September 17). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Center for American Progress: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/09/green_clean.html
14 Triethanolamine. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Costmetic Safety Database: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/706639/TRIETHANOLAMINE/