The arrival of a baby often gets future moms and dads thinking about what we rub onto our skin. Babies are so small; their immune systems, lungs, central nervous system and reproductive organs are still developing, making them more vulnerable to chemicals in personal care products.
In a perfect world, products for children would be cleaner than clean and purer than pure. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. So, here are a few tips to help keep your skin and that of your child’s smooth, soft and safe!
During Pregnancy, Go Phthalate Free
Phthalates have been linked to breast cancer and, more recently, a study has tied phthalates during pregnancy to preterm birth. Phthalates are found in many skincare and cosmetic products –from deodorants to lotions and creams– as the chemical is used to as a softener as well as to stabilize fragrance and enhance absorption. Unfortunately, because phthalates are often not disclosed on the product label, it is difficult to tell just by reading the label whether phthalates are present. So look for products that are labeled “Phthalate Free.” (Hint: terra20 bans phthalates from its personal care products.)
Taking Care of Baby
Many parents assume that ingredients in personal care products for babies and children are safe or they wouldn’t be allowed on the shelves, but the truth is that there are many products with questionable ingredients.
One of the questions we hear a lot at terra20 from new moms is “How safe is nipple cream?” New moms should look for all-natural nipple creams (such as Matter Nipple Creme) that are either made of organic lanolin, or if you are vegan or prefer plant-based derivatives instead, opt for a lanolin-free organic alternative like Earth Mama’s Nipple Butter. Many moms swear by the trick of rubbing their own breast milk on their nipples to relieve discomfort.
Avoid washing your nipples with soap, as this will dry them out. If you happen to use an antibacterial soap, you will want to reconsider; researchers have shown that triclocarban, an active ingredient in these products, has the potential to harm nursing babies.
Changing the diaper often is key for reducing diaper rash. (Re: Eco or cloth diapers: We’ve put together a lot of information on eco and cloth diapering options to help parents make the choice that’s right for their lifestyle.) When looking for wipes and lotions, look for products that do not have fragrance, which contain chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin.
As well, the EWG recommends avoiding the following ingredients in wipes: Bronopol (a known skin toxicant) and DMDM hydantoin (a skin irritant that is suspected of releasing formaldehyde into a product and may therefore cause consumer exposure to a recognized carcinogen.) Instead, look for alcohol-free and unscented baby wipes to reduce exposure to unnecessary additives, chemicals and fragrances. As for baby powder – the EWG advises that you skip it altogether as the tiny airborne particles can damage baby’s delicate, developing lungs.
It seems like a day doesn’t go by without hearing something about chemicals in personal care products, like shampoos. And, while bath time may seem like the most simple and safe thing to do with your child, not all soaps, washes and shampoos are created equal. Most conventional soaps contain synthetic fragrance, dyes, mineral oil and other petroleum-based chemicals that can irritate skin.
In a rather depressing press release, the EWG stated, “Despite marketing claims like “gentle” and “pure,” dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to product test results released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.” (The silver lining here, if there is one, is that the fallout from this has led Johnson & Johnson to reformulate, phasing out formaldehyde-releasing chemicals.)
So, what’s a parent to do? Look for bath-time products that list ingredients as well as third-party certifications. Treat words like “gentle” with a healthy dose of skepticism. Simplify your routine to include fewer products with fewer ingredients with no synthetic fragrances or dyes.
If you have any questions about diapering, skincare or nursing, please visit our store or leave a comment here.