Most parents are keenly aware that we need to encourage our children to eat a healthful diet. We want our children to be nourished, healthy and happy.
Did you know that 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream? So, what you put on your child’s skin is just as important as what they put in their mouth.
Most bath and body products marketed for children contain harsh, and even toxic, chemicals. Fortunately, there are more and more truly natural products coming onto the market, so parents do have more options.
Being able to read labels and correctly identify harmful ingredients is an important learning step for parents who want to ensure their kids are healthy and happy.
These are the top 5 ingredients I recommend parents avoid in kids’ bath and body products.
Fragrance is a blanket term for a mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants, including diethyl phthalate (a hormone disruptor). I put fragrance, also listed as parfum, at the top of my avoid list simply because it’s found in so many kids’ bath and body products (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno, Burt’s Bees, etc.).
Manufacturers are not required to disclose what’s in their fragrance mixture as it’s considered a trade secret. These undisclosed fragrance mixtures have been connected to dermatitis, allergies, respiratory distress and possible effects on the reproductive system. If a brand isn’t disclosing what’s in their fragrance mixture, you should not use it on your child.
Sodium Lauryl and Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are ingredients that are commonly found in children’s products that we expect to be foamy (e.g., toothpastes, shampoos, body washes, hand soaps, etc.).
Both SLS and SLES are known to be strong skin irritants. If I accidentally wash my hands with a soap containing SLS, I typically experience an eczema outbreak. Many brands are becoming wise and replacing SLS with sodium coco sulfate, which appears to be a safer option.
Parabens aren’t found in as many products as they used to be, so I am always surprised when I pick up a bottle and I see one or more listed. You’ll find parabens listed as benzylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
The reason you need to avoid parabens is because they have hormone-disrupting qualities (growing children do not need their hormones disrupted). The Environmental Protection Agency and the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products have linked parabens to metabolic, developmental, reproductive and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers. A 2004 study found parabens in 19 of 20 breast cancer tumors.
“Wash your hands!” Moms across America chant this to their children day in and day out. Unfortunately, most common antibacterial hand soaps contain triclosan, another toxic ingredient that should be avoided. It’s toxic to both humans and our water supply.
Triclosan disrupts reproductive hormones and thyroid function. Studies also suggest that overuse of antibacterial soaps may promote the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Microbiology recommend using plain soap and water for hand washing.
Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative commonly used in personal care products. It is listed among the most common sensitizers, irritants and causes of contact allergy. Lab studies on mammalian brain cells suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.
I am horrified by how many products I am seeing methylisothiazolinone in. It’s found in not only personal care products, but also cleaning products. The most concerning product I have found methylisothiazolinone (listed as Neolone 950) in so far is Piggy Paint, a nail polish marketed to young girls.
Continue Researching Ingredients
While I consider these the 5 more critical ingredients to avoid, I wish I could say these are the only ingredients you need to watch out for in your child’s bath and body products. I often tell new parents, or parents who are just moving towards a more natural lifestyle, that if they can’t pronounce the ingredient, they should avoid it until they have time to research it.
If you need to find more information on a particular ingredient (or product), the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database is an excellent resource to start with. Many products are rated for their toxicity level, but since many products are not listed, you can look up individual ingredients to determine their safety.
Have you researched the ingredients in your kids’ bath and body products?