September 26, 2022
Future moms and new parents, you’re likely looking for the best body care products for your baby. It’s quite common for babies to have minor skin problems from birth: dry skin, redness, irritation, bumps, diaper rash… Many children go through all these stages! So if you thought babies had flawless skin, you’re probably feeling a little distraught! Since newborn skin is especially fragile, parents are quick to seek the best products to minimize these small skin problems. But what exactly does your child need? How can you choose the best products for your little one? And most importantly, what can we really find in the formulas of baby products available on the market?
Finally, it takes about a year for baby skin to fully develop and protect itself from external irritants.
(1) Rita Stiens, La Vérité sur les Cosmétiques, 2012, p. 223.
Since delicate baby skin loses moisture more quickly than adults and its protective layer does not renew itself as quickly, many parents are looking for ultra-gentle, perfume-free, hypoallergenic products specially formulated for a newborn’s epidermis. However, none of the parents in our survey said they looked at the product label, namely because it’s difficult to make sense of the ingredient list.
Products aimed specifically at babies are not necessarily the best for their skin and health. They may contain ingredients that are just as concerning as those found in household products and personal care products for adults! According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the many ingredients of concern found in most baby care products can penetrate their delicate skin’s natural protective barrier and be easily absorbed into their body. 2 Children are more vulnerable to the effects of contaminants than adults because they receive greater exposure. They are on average ten times more vulnerable before the age of two because they eat, drink and breathe more frequently, proportional to their weight. The impacts these substances may have are even more worrying when it comes to newborns and young children since they are going through critical stages of development and growth.3
(2) Environmental Working Group. Children’s Health Policy Review. Web. May 28, 2008.
(3) Sonya Lunder. Hey Baby, Your Stuff Is Toxic! Enviroblog: EWG. May 23, 2011. Web. <http://ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/05/hey-baby-your-stuff-toxic>
ATTITUDE’s team of scientists analyzed the most popular baby lotions and sensitive skin products mentioned during our survey of parents and pharmacists. According to our analysis* and the EWG’s criteria, we found that most of the baby care products contain for instance carcinogens, numerous allergens and irritants, as well as synthetic petroleum-based and animal-derived ingredients.
Polysorbate-60 and Polysorbate-20: synthetic solubilizing agents that can contain carcinogenic contaminants (EWG score: 3).
Triethanolamine: allergenic pH adjuster that can contain a carcinogenic contaminant (EWG score: 5).
Petrolatum: synthetic emollient that can contain a carcinogenic contaminant (EWG score: 4).
PEG-100 Stearate (and other PEGs): synthetic emulsifiers that can contain carcinogenic contaminants (EWG score: 3). These petroleum-based polymers can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, as well as ethylene oxide, manufacturing residues that are known carcinogens according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Ceteareth-20: synthetic solubilizing agent that can contain carcinogenic contaminants (EWG score: 3).
Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil: synthetic emollient suspected to be toxic for the organs (EWG score: 1-3).
Phenoxyethanol: commonly used synthetic preservative that can be irritating and allergenic (EWG score: 4).
Benzyl Alcohol (appears on the European Union’s list of 26 allergenic substances): synthetic allergenic preservative suspected to be toxic for the organs (EWG score: 5).
Distearyldimonium Chloride: irritating synthetic antistatic agent (EWG score: 3).
Citronellol (appears on the European Union’s list of 26 allergenic substances): a component of essential oils, citronellol is an allergenic natural fragrance (EWG score: 5).
Cinnamal (appears on the European Union’s list of 26 allergenic substances): a component of essential oils, cinnamal is an allergenic natural fragrance (EWG score: 7).
Dimethicone: a synthetic emollient that is suspected to be toxic for the organs and the environment (EWG score: 3).
The above-mentioned substances do not all have the same allergenic or irritant potential and it’s impossible to know the concentration simply by reading the ingredient list. However, for these reasons and as a precaution, it is recommended that babies not be exposed to these substances.
Cera Alba Beeswax
Unprocessed animal-derived ingredients are not actually harmful for your baby, but may pose an ethical and personal issue. If you prefer vegan body care products for your baby, look for the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) seal on the package.
The ATTITUDE team conducted a survey** of its subscribers. More than 97% of the people we asked said that they are looking for natural baby lotions for their baby’s sensitive skin problems (dry skin, etc.) and wanted to avoid chemicals. There are many natural and “organic” baby products available in addition to the conventional products in pharmacies and grocery stores. But it’s always a good idea to read the label and check the ingredients regardless of what’s on the packaging and whether it is labelled natural or organic. Why? Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean that it will be suitable for your baby’s fragile skin. When our team analyzed baby lotions, we also assessed the natural baby products recommended in pharmacies or appreciated by the parents we surveyed***.
Are you pregnant or planning to be? Read our article on which ingredients to avoid in personal care products when pregnant.
*ATTITUDE baby lotion analysis. The chemists and engineers in our laboratory analyzed a sample of ten conventional baby lotions, natural lotions and lotions for sensitive skin. The brands are not named for confidentiality reasons.
**The ATTITUDE survey was conducted on a sample of 2,000 people taken from ATTITUDE’s subscriber list.
***The ATTITUDE survey of pharmacists: Our team surveyed 20 pharmacists across Canada to determine the most recommended baby products in three categories: conventional, natural and sensitive skin.
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Written by Team ATTITUDE