7 chemicals and toxins to avoid when buying baby products
Baby products are marketed to make you think you need them, but the fact is they're full of toxic ingredients that do more harm than good.
There is a multi-million dollar industry out there promising to keep your baby’s skin as perfect as it was when he or she was first born. The unsurprising irony is that none of that is necessary. Your baby’s skin is far better off with minimal intervention. The fewer soaps, shampoos, and lotions that you apply to your little one’s incredible new skin, the healthier and more perfect it will be.
Mainstream baby products contain numerous toxic ingredients that will enter your baby’s body if used. The best option is to stick with natural, nourishing, and edible ingredients such straight oils (olive, sweet almond, coconut) and fragrance-free bar soap, although omitting soap and rinsing just with water is usually fine, too. (If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t use it.) Your baby may not have that stereotypical baby-powder smell, but he or she will be healthier in the long run, and that’s all that matters.
This powdered mineral is added to baby powder (and many other cosmetic powders). It’s used as a drying agent, but it’s a known lung irritant and may also be carcinogenic. As Gillian Deacon describes in her book There’s Lead In Your Lipstick:
“The mineral talc tends to occur in rock mass formations that are intermingle with other magnesium silicate minerals, including the highly dangerous asbestos. Since it is virtually impossible to extract the talc rock from the asbestos during the mining process, the carcinogenic contaminant is almost invariably going to be carried over into any consumer product containing talc.”
Ever since this news came out in the late 1990s, some companies have switched to talc-free baby powders, but there are still problems with many of the ingredients on their lists. Read on for more information!
Fragrance is added to countless products, either to create a particular fragrance or to mask the odour of the nasty chemicals used in production. The problem with fragrance is that it’s a catch-all term for whatever secret ingredients companies wish to add (they are not obligated to reveal what’s contained within ‘fragrance’), and are generally made of coal- and petroleum-derived synthetic chemicals.
The effects of fragrance are long lasting, lingering on the skin for hours, and can cause respiratory, neurological, skin, and eye damage. There is evidence that exposure to fragrance as a child may lead to asthma. (See this post for more information.)
Fragrance is added to disposable diapers (you know that strong baby powder-ish smell when you open a new package?), baby powder, baby wash and shampoo, lotions, and many other baby products. Check the labels carefully before you buy.
3. Proplyene glycol
This chemical is a penetration enhancer that is easily absorbed by the skin and may be carcinogenic. Its job is basically to open up all the pores and let the other chemicals in. Propylene glycol is used in wiper fluid and to de-ice airplanes, and yet it is often found in baby wipes, which is not safe. Look out for polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG) on labels, too.
Try making your own homemade disposable baby wipes, or just stick with warm water and soap on a washcloth.
4. 1,4-dioxane and ethylated surfactants
The Environmental Working Group found that 57 percent of baby soaps are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. Although it’s never listed as an ingredient, 1,4-dioxane is often present in beauty products because it is a contaminant or by-product that occurs when “ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh” (There’s Lead In Your Lipstick).
If you see any ingredients that contain the letters eth, then that is an indicator of the presence of 1,4-dioxane. Stay away from polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, sodium laureth sulfate, ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG.
5. Mineral oil
Baby oil is essentially made of mineral oil mixed with fragrance, which is a nasty combination. Mineral oil is a cheap byproduct of petroleum processing and acts as a plastic wrap on the skin, inhibiting the skin’s ability to release toxins. Opt instead for natural and nourishing oils such as olive, coconut, or sweet almond to massage into your baby’s skin.
Unfortunately parabens are everywhere. They can be found in all soaps, body washes, shampoos, and moisturizers, including those marketed toward babies. Parabens are neurotoxins and are linked to reproductive toxicity, hormone disruption, and skin irritation. Stay away from anything with ‘paraben’ in its name, as well as benzoic acid and propyl ester.
Anything that’s labeled as ‘antibacterial’ likely contains triclosan, which is a carcinogenic endocrine disruptor that’s also harmful to the environment. Although it makes sense to want to keep your baby away from unnecessary bacteria, that’s the wrong approach to take. By raising our babies in sterile environments, we inhibit their ability to create natural resistance and immunity, increase the likelihood of allergies, and render antibacterial treatments less effective for when we truly need them to work. Stay away from all antibacterial soaps and body washes. (See this post for more information.)