The best baby washes are plant-based, not loaded with chemicals. Here's what you should look for to keep your baby safe during bath time.
Whether it’s the toxic chemicals in carpets and household cleaning products or the BPA in plastic toys, most infants and young children come in contact with harmful substances during their regular activities. While it may be impossible to avoid exposing your child to a single nasty chemical, we can probably all agree that you child’s daily cleansing routine shouldn’t contribute to this toxic load.
Unfortunately, many parents are unwittingly slathering harmful chemicals onto their children’s skin on a regular basis. A 2009 report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) found that more than 60 percent of the tested children’s bath soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other skin care products contained carcinogenic chemicals. (That’s a sciencey way of saying these chemicals may cause cancer.)
While it’s been nearly a decade since that report sent shockwaves throughout the parenting community, the CSC maintains that toxic chemicals are still ubiquitous in many mainstream baby body washes. That’s partly because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require companies to prove their products are safe before they sell them. (We know: It sounds crazy, but it’s true.)
If this news has sent you into a parental panic, take a deep breath.
While it’s pretty shocking to learn that baby skin care products might not actually be safe for your baby, the good news is thereareways to care for your baby’s skin (and their overall health) every time you bathe them.
Here’s an overview of the hidden dangers in baby soaps—plus the best ingredients and the best baby wash for safe, gentle, and effective cleansing.
Baby soaps all have one thing in common: They’re designed to cleanse infants’ skin.
Beyond that, not all baby washes are created equal. Some baby soaps are packed with potentially harmful chemicals that should have no place on a baby’s body; others are packed with organic ingredients that can improve your baby’s skin health in a safe and gentle way.
Unfortunately, safe options are often harder to come by than toxic ones. Many conventional baby soaps contain a slew of potentially harmful ingredients, which include but are not limited to:
- FD&C Colors. In order to appear more “cutesy,” many baby soaps contain colorants. But you’re much better off using boring old rainbow-color-free soaps. Synthetic colors have been linked to skin irritation, ADHD, and even cancer. To avoid them, steer clear of ingredients that start with “FD&C” or “D&C” followed by a color and number (such as FD&C Red No. 6).
- Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead things, so it may be surprising to learn that it also shows up in a slew of baby skin care products. Manufacturers don’t add formaldehyde directly to their products, but it’s a byproduct of many other potentially harmful chemicals that arefrequently used in mainstream body washes. These formaldehyde-releasing chemicals include 1,3-dimethylol-5, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, glyoxal, meethenamine, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and quaternium-15. No matter how formaldehyde shows up in a product, its presence is bad news. The toxic substance has been linked to central nervous system issues and cancer.
- Parabens. These preservatives show up in a huge range of skin care products—from baby soaps and lotions to shampoos and conditioners—in spite of the fact that they’ve been linked to a slew of health issues. For example, studies suggest a connection between parabens, endocrine system dysfunction, and cancer. These links are particularly concerning when you consider that parabens are easily absorbed through the skin. To avoid them, opt out of products that contain any ingredient ending in “paraben.”
- Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS). SLS is nearly as ubiquitous as parabens, and its reputation is equally nefarious. The common foaming agent has been associated with a variety of negative health effects including diarrhea, depression, eye damage, liver issues, skin rashes, and cancer.
- Synthetic fragrance. Head to your nearest pharmacy and scan its skin care products, and you’ll be hard pressed to locate a product that doesn’t utilize synthetic fragrance. That’s bad news, because synthetic fragrances have been shown to provoke allergic reactions and cause skin irritation. Perfumes that contain phthalates have also been shown to cause endocrine system issues, and fragrances that contain styrene have even been linked to cancer. There’s also evidence that some synthetic fragrances may impair infant development.
The fact these nasty ingredients show up in a lot of baby body washes is reason enough to opt for products that feature organic, recognizable ingredients in lieu of the toxic products described above.
But if you need another reason to go the organic route, consider that there are tons of botanical ingredients that can effectively care for your baby’s skin—without any harmful side effects.
We promised you there are plenty of natural alternatives to toxic baby washes—and here’s the proof. Each of these nine ingredients is natural, safe, and effective, so you can cleanse your baby’s skin and improve their skin health with ingredients you can trust.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as Castile Soap)
This popular kitchen staple deserves a place in the toiletry cabinet for several reasons. It’s an effective cleanser and moisturizer that helps protect against microbial infections and reduce inflammation. It’s also been shown to smooth the skin and prevent free radical damage.
When olive oil is made into castile soap, it offers a number of additional benefits. The molecules in castile soap have one end that is drawn to water and another that tries to avoid water. This means that when castile soap and water are combined (as when you’re lathering up your baby), the soap molecules attract dirt and other non-water-soluble particulates—which helps ensure your baby gets squeaky clean in the bath.
Even as castile soap thoroughly cleanses, it doesn’t dry out your baby’s delicate skin. Because it’s made from vegetable oil, it has a moisturizing quality—so as you clean your baby’s skin, you avoid stripping it of essential hydration. Castile soap is also nontoxic, biodegradable, and gentle enough for regular use.
Coconut oil has become wildly popular in the skin care space over the past few years, and for good reason. The saturated fats in coconut oil have been shown to help reduce pores, moisturize dry skin, and smooth the skin. Coconut oil is also antibacterial and antimicrobial, which means it can help protect the skin from infection. It’s also been shown to help in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Its strong antioxidant properties partly explain why it’s linked to potent skin healing effects.
Not only does sunflower oil invoke images of cheery sunflowers, but it also brings cheer to your infant’s skin in several ways. It’s been shown to reduce inflammation, help protect against water loss and keep the skin hydrated, and restore damaged skin. It may also improve skin health overall and reduce infection in premature infants.
Not only does vanilla extract smell amazing (without the use of nasty perfumes!), but it can also improve your baby’s skin health in several ways. It’s packed with antibacterial and antioxidant properties as well as B vitamins, which helps explain why vanilla extract has been shown to fight infections, protect against skin damage caused by free radicals, and reduce inflammation.
Jojoba oil has long been used in skin care, but it’s only starting to gain the recognition it deserves. This gentle oil has been linked to a huge range of skin benefits, from treating damaged skin to healing psoriasis, soothing inflammation, moisturizing dry skin, helping to heal wounds, stimulating collagen synthesis, and smoothing the skin. These benefits are explained in large part by the fact that jojoba oil is high in antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E. All told, it’s a powerful skin cleanser and protector.
Hemp Seed Oil
There’s a reason so many people have incorporated hemp seed oil into their diets: It’s packed with essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6. These properties also help explain why it’s been linked to greater skin health. Studies suggest hemp seed oil may help treat atopic dermatitis and reduce dryness of the skin.
Lavender Essential Oil
Just like vanilla extract, lavender oil boasts more than a natural, great smell (although that’s a real perk!). It’s also antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antioxidant-rich. Together, these qualities can assist in healing damaged skin, treating acne, and reducing free radical damage to improve overall skin health.
Brown Sugar Extract
You may be familiar with brown sugar as a pantry staple, but its benefits extend beyond sweetening home baked goodies. Brown sugar has strong antioxidant properties and contains natural alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which helps promote skin health at a cellular level. It is also a gentle exfoliant and a humectant, which is a fancy way of saying it helps the skin absorb moisture and protects against dry skin.
This fragrant herb is jam-packed with skin-friendly qualities. It has strong antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties, and it’s proven beneficial in the treatment of acne, dermatitis, eczema, and oily skin. It also helps boost circulation and promote healing while minimizing skin damage from free radicals.
If you’ve read this far, you probably get it: Some body washes are potentially dangerous to your child’s health, while others are not.
The easiest way to distinguish between them? Avoid products that include the harmful chemicals listed in the first section, and opt for products thatdoinclude the safe, botanical ingredients listed in the second section.
To make it easy for you, we’ve created our Sulfate-Free Castile Baby Wash. This soothing formula is packed with every single one of the safe and effective ingredients described above, including coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and rosemary extract.
Not only does this moisturizing baby wash cleanse your baby’s skin, but it also hydrates and softens their skin and improves their skin health overall. Whether your baby is suffering from dry, itchy skin (such as rashes or eczema) or they simply have the delicate, sensitive skin that all babies do, our organic, food-grade ingredients help nourish, calm, and strengthen the skin.
As safe as it is effective, our gentle formula is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, sulfate-free, perfume-free, SLS-free, dye-free, and cruelty-free. It’s also made in the USA. This means you can cleanse and rejuvenate your baby’s skin while avoiding harmful chemicals.
Together, the plant-based ingredients in our baby body wash have been shown to:
- Gently cleanse sensitive skin
- Deeply moisturize the skin for lasting hydration
- Soothe irritated or itchy skin and speed up skin healing
- Reduce redness and inflammation
- Nourish the skin and improve its overall health
This non-greasy formula is safe to use every day. Wash with confidence knowing you won’t strip away vital nutrients and oils that your baby’s skin needs to be healthy—and give your baby the gift of healthier, happier looking skin.
Here’s the bad news about baby body wash: Unfortunately, parents can’t always trust baby skin care product manufacturers to have their baby’s best interests at heart. Many mainstream products are packed with potentially harmful chemicals that shouldn’t touch your baby’s skin with a 10-foot pole.
Now here’s the good news: When you know which ingredients to avoid and which to seek out, you’re empowered to better care for your baby’s skin (not to mention their overall health). By reading labels carefully and choosing plant-based options from brands you trust, you can ensure that your baby’s skin stays healthy, nourished, and happy for years to come.