Shampoos and bubble baths may not be as pure and gentle as you think.
Most of us assume that bath and hygiene products made for infants and children are safe to use. We even use them ourselves because we think they are more pure and gentle than adult products.
Not so, according to the report, “No More Toxic Tub”, released in 2009 by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of several non-profit organizations concerned about the safety of ingredients used in the cosmetics industry. The study found that there are many unsafe ingredients in kids’ bath products, such as shampoos, lotions and bubble baths. (To see the report, go to http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=414#contam_ingred and click on “No More Toxic Tub.”)
Effects of added chemicals
The big concern for kids are the ingredients, 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, which are known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected to cause cancer in humans! Because these chemicals are found in so many products, kids can be exposed to them repeatedly in a single day.
Formaldehyde can also be very irritating to the skin and can trigger allergic reactions and rashes. Other irritants found in baby products include harsh detergents, alcohol, artificial colours and fragrances. These irritants can also be found in soap, toothpaste, and baby wipes.
The smart way to buy
1. Don’t be taken in by products that advertise they are soft and gentle for babies. Check the list of ingredients before you purchase.
1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde will not be listed on the label so look out for:
- Quaternium-15, Imidazolidinyl urea, or Diazolidinyl urea – ingredients that are known to release formaldehyde in cosmetics, and
- PEG-100 stearate, Sodium laureth sulfate or Polyethylene – ingredients that can release 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct during the manufacturing process.
Many European countries as well as Japan and Sweden have banned these ingredients from all cosmetics including children’s products.
Look for other harmful or harsh chemicals on the label as well.
2. Research ingredients, products, and companies and search for safe products on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep data base (www.ewg.org).
3. Use gentle pure soaps like calendula soap on infants and young children. These soaps can also be used as a shampoo. For a natural after-shampoo rinse for children, use tepid teas made of calendula or chamomile.
If your child tends to have oily hair, use a tea made from rosemary, or rinse with a vinegar and water mixture, which will leave hair soft and shiny. You can also find natural soaps and shampoos and other items listed below at a health food store or the organic section of your grocery store.
4. When choosing a toothpaste, look for one that is mild, designed for children and doesn’t contain flavours and whiteners.
5. Avoid using baby wipes that contain harsh alcohols, which can chafe the skin, and strong scents, which can cause mood changes and irritability and interfere with sleep. Look for safe wipes or carry cotton cloths that you can rinse in warm water to use at diaper change.
6. Don’t use commercial bubble baths and scented, colored bath oils. They can irritate delicate skin, clog pores, and cause urinary tract infections. To soften bath water, add a little vinegar or baking soda.
7. Be careful which lotions and creams you choose for your children. Simple balms can be made from calendula oil and beeswax. Companies such as Sprout Botanicals and St. Francis Herbs make simple, kid-friendly balms and lotions.