Even though I’m one of the founders of a company offering a non-toxic cleaner, you could call me a late bloomer when it comes to toxic chemical awareness. I took it for granted that the products I used were safe – that is, until my son came along. And then like a lot of moms, I became a toxic chemical super sleuth. I remember the moment of my transformation. I was spending one of my last remaining leisurely Saturday afternoons researching baby products, when I read that toxic chemicals can easily be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. And that babies are 10 times more vulnerable to those chemicals than adults! Boom. I was a convert. Before my son’s arrival, I stocked up on toxic chemical free baby wash, lotions, laundry detergent – you name it.
I was so disappointed to learn through my research that I couldn’t assume that a baby product sold on a store shelf was safe. For example baby washes can be full of toxic chemicals, and “fragrance” in a baby shampoo can contain over a hundred toxic ingredients. And a known carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane is thought to be in more than 50% of all baby soaps. Because this one is a chemical produced during manufacturing, it’s not required to be listed on labels.
It was overwhelming to develop a simple list of the top chemicals to avoid, but the more I learned, I realized that I could cut out the most harmful products by eliminating a pretty short list of toxic ingredients. And here it is for you, to help you save a little time on your own research towards finding a toxic chemical free baby wash.
The Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Baby Washes and Shampoos
1. Fragrances: Okay I know there are few smells as sweet as a freshly bathed baby or toddler. But enjoy the sweetness without fragrances because fragrances are associated with hormone disruption, skin & respiratory allergies. If you have allergies in your family, you know it is nearly impossible to know what ingredients are actually triggering them. This is because the word “fragrance” on a label often hides a toxic cocktail of multiple ingredients. Why? Because fragrances are considered trade secrets for manufacturers and the fragrance industry is self-policed. Always, always go fragrance free. 2. Phthalates: These are in fragrances but aren’t listed on labels. They aren’t restricted for use despite their association with a host of health concerns including reproductive issues and developmental problemsin unborn children, as well as asthma and respiratory problems. You won’t see these listed on labels, since they fall under the mystery label of “fragrance”, but you can avoid them if you choose fragrance free products. 3. Parabens: These are synthetic preservatives common in baby washes and baby shampoos, as well as many personal care products for adults. The CDC has detected them in almost all Americans tested. They are linked to a multitude of health risks including cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. Avoid any baby washes or shampoos ending in -paraben. 4. 1,4-dioxane: This one is common in baby washes & shampoos, especially in those called “tear-free”. It’s a contaminant that occurs when a surfactant has been “ethoxylated”, or chemically combined with the compound ethylene oxide. When you see the word ‘laureth’, it means it is ethoxylated. Tear-free shampoos are ethoxylated. This contaminant can penetrate the skin each time you use the product on your baby, and it’s been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, kidney & liver damage & liver problems. Stay away from polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, sodium laureth sulfate, ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, PEG, ingredients ending with -eth, -oxynol and those containing the words laureth, laureate, myrrh, ceteareth or oleth.
5. Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives: These are known carcinogens yet are common in baby shampoos. They can be added directly or released by other preservatives. There is a long lost of chemicals that could fall within this group, so my advice is to look for the words “formaldehyde- free”. And if you instead want to check the full list, avoid these: Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).
Toxic chemical free baby wash & shampoo: learn more
If you can avoid products with fragrances (which also takes care of phthalates), parabens & formaldehyde, you’ll be well on your way to finding a chemical free baby wash & shampoo. I also recommend the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as an indispensable resource for researching specific products. You’ll be able to find out the specific health risks already known, as well as see which products have inadequately detailed ingredient lists. Now go have some fun bath time with that precious Little of yours!