For your baby’s first three years, a few simple products made from pure ingredients are enough to protect your baby’s skin from irritation, to prevent damage from extreme sun exposure, and to keep her healthy. In fact, protecting her from chemicals that exist in everyday skin care products is a greater challenge than securing lots of fancy and expensive skin care products. Most baby skin care products are unnecessary, and some can cause rashes and allergic reactions. Up to 45 percent of personal-care products in the United States contain undesirable ingredients, and close to 80 percent of the contents of these products have not been tested.
“Most baby skin care products are unnecessary, and some can cause rashes and allergic reactions. Up to 45 percent of personal-care products in the United States contain undesirable ingredients, and close to 80 percent of the contents of these products have not been tested.”
As with food, cosmetic labels must list all of the product’s ingredients in descending order, with the ingredient that makes up the greatest amount of the product listed first and the ingredient that makes up the lowest amount listed last. You may see various claims on skin care packaging: “dermatologist-tested,” “lab-tested,” “hypoallergenic,” and “designed for sensitive skin.”
Because the cosmetics industry is under-regulated, many baby skin care products contain chemical preservatives, fragrances, thickeners, coloring agents, binders, and petroleum by-products that are meant to enhance the sensory experience of the product user. These chemicals may be colorless and invisible, but they can have a quiet and negative impact on your baby’s health. If a baby skin care product is approved by the American Academy of Dermatology, however, you can be assured that it meets high standards for safety. Otherwise, it is up to you to monitor your baby’s skin care by reading ingredient lists to make sure that her products are free of potentially harmful chemical substances.
Soaps and shampoos
For the first few months, your baby does not need soap at all. When you start using soap, a natural liquid soap made with sesame, olive, almond, or calendula oil works for both body and hair.
Materials to avoid: Artificial fragrance, artificial colors, parabens, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), propylene glycol
Lotions and oils
Only use lotions or diaper-rash ointments if your baby’s bottom is irritated. When necessary, choose a natural version that contains sesame, olive, coconut, or other natural oil as a moisturizer. I used sesame oil on my babies’ skin every day for nourishment and protection.
Materials to avoid: Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, artificial fragrance, artificial colors, parabens, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), propylene gel, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), chlorides
Diaper, lip, and check balms
Use baby skin care products with vitamins A and E or natural oils, such as sesame, coconut, or almond, as an effective skin barrier and moisturizer.
Materials to avoid: BHA, petroleum jelly, artificial fragrance, parabens
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using baby powder, as do many individual pediatricians. Talc-based powders have small particles that can dry your baby’s mucous membranes and harm her breathing and lungs when they are inhaled. They can cause coughing, vomiting, and pneumonia. Cornstarch, baking soda, and bentonite clay work effectively as natural powders to prevent diaper rash by wicking away moisture from your baby’s skin and reducing friction.
Materials to watch for: Talc, artificial fragrances
Choose soft wipes for your baby’s diaper care. Cotton cloths with water are an option, or if you use disposable wipes, look for aloe vera and vitamin E as healthy additives. The additives Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol) and DMDM hydantoin, which are found in fragrances added to baby skin care products, can release formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. You can make your own disposable wipes with unbleached paper towels and a solution of olive-oil soap and water mixed in a spray bottle. Store the wipes in a stainless steel or glass container. When you are on the go, you can keep them in a resealable bag.
Materials to avoid: Artificial fragrance, parabens, phthalates (fragrance), PEGs, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol
Children under the age of two do not need toothpaste. For her first two years, brushing with water is sufficient.
Materials to avoid: Triclosan, parabens, fluoride
Before she is six months old, your baby’s skin is too sensitive for sunscreen; instead, keep her out of direct sun and use sun hats and sun-protective clothing. After six months, make sure to get a baby skin care sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and that is made of natural ingredients.
Materials to avoid: Parabens, phthalates, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate