The most dangerous chemicals to avoid in baby skincare products
Next time you’re in a supermarket or pharmacy, take a look at the shelf full of baby skincare products. The vast majority are packaged to look natural. Many highlight terms such as “pure” or “gentle”. Or they say they’re “infused with” natural essences.
But look at the ingredients, and you’ll be met with a long list of chemical names. Ingredients that are obviously not natural, and ingredients you would never knowingly feed to your baby’s skin.
Not all these long names are bad, but many have been linked with increased cancer risk. So how do you know which chemicals to avoid in baby skincare products?
Firstly, not all chemicals are bad
Just as you need to be wise about toxic chemicals, it’s also wise to retain some common sense.
There’s a lot of fearmongering around chemical names in baby care products. It’s important to note that ingredients in all commercially available baby skincare products have been approved for use.
Along the same lines, keep in mind that “chemicals” are not bad in themselves. All natural substances are made of chemicals – including water and air.
That said, even though ingredients are approved, it doesn’t mean they are good for your baby. Many ingredients we once thought were safe have since been shown to be hazardous – think of baby talc powders and their high risk of asbestos.
At Lovekins we like to say, “if you’re not willing to put it in your body, then don’t put it on your baby’s skin.”
Here are common chemicals in baby skincare that you should watch out for:
Fragrance, also labelled as “parfum” is a Trojan horse of a term. Skincare manufacturers don’t need to specify what ingredients they use to make fragrance.
Artificial fragrances are made with synthetic chemicals. A 2009 study by the University of Maryland found that 80 to 90 percent of fragrance ingredients in skincare products are made from petroleum. Some of the common chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate, and limonene.
Look for “fragrance-free” baby skincare products, and be extra cautious of products where the “fragrance” or “parfum” isn’t specified.
Parabens have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive toxicity. They are of particular concern to pregnant women and young children. Parabens occur as ingredients such as ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben.
All Lovekins baby skincare products are paraben-free.
Often found in antibacterial soaps and lotions. Some studies indicate it may play a role in cancer development.
Mineral oils sound sounds natural and safe. But when you learn that other terms for it are “liquid petroleum,” and “paraffin oil”, you can understand the health risks.
The problem comes from the risk of contamination. The unpurified form of mineral oils contain contaminants that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, according to the World Health Organisation. And while the form used in skincare is purified, many people still have concerns, particularly about the risk of contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.
In addition, while mineral oils can stop your baby’s skin from losing moisture, they don’t add any benefit: they don’t actively hydrate or nourish it.
MEA, DEA, TEA
These are ethanolamine compounds and have been linked to liver tumours. Full names include riethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate. They are banned in in the EU.
Sometimes listed as DEP, DBP or DMP, phthalates can be found in personal care products, and also some plastic toys. Some studies have linked them with reproductive problems. In Australia, there’s a ban on certain products that contain DEHP above a prescribed level.
Sulfates (or sulphates)
Often appearing as odium lauryl sulfate or SLS, sulfates tend to strip the skin of natural oils and can irritate sensitive skin. There’s also some indication they can lead to organ toxicity and hormone disruption.
Look for natural baby skincare ingredients you’d be happy to eat
In other products, you will see some long names that sound scary, but are actually quite safe.
Here are some safe natural ingredients with chemical names:
This is a natural surfactant made from coconuts. It’s biodegradable and creates a nice foam sensation. It’s popular in natural skincare products because it’s mild and gentle and doesn’t dry the skin.
Sodium sterol glutamate
A natural amino acid – plant derived from palm fatty acid, a hypo-allergenic emulsifier. The PH is similar to that of the skin.
A non-toxic ingredient that reduces skin irritation, and reduces the irritation value of other ingredients in the product. Naturally derived from corn and palm sugar ‘not petroleum’.
This is a mild acid which works as a preservative and antimicrobial to protect the lotion from contamination. A plant-derived preservative occurring naturally in the flowers of Solandra nitida and grandiflora species (commonly called cup of gold or golden chalice vine).
We all want what’s best for our baby. We go to great lengths to ensure our babies eat the purest, healthiest foods. So when it comes to nourishing our baby’s skin, we need to use the same care.
To make it easy for you, we’ve created a PDF printout. Download and print this list of chemicals to avoid in baby skincare products.
2009, “Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke” by University of Marylands. Open the case study PDF www.national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation.org/fragsmoke.pdf