Choosing A Safe, Non-Toxic Baby Shampoo- How Does Your Baby’s Shampoo Rate?
Isabella was born with hair, so the first time we washed her hair was on day 2 in the hospital. I had a choice of Johnson’s or Mustela that the hospital provided- I chose Mustela because it marketed itself as ‘natural’, but I was secretly kicking myself I hadn’t brought something from home. I didn’t know as much then about baby product ingredients as I do now. I had no idea that products which are made and advertised as being specifically safe for babies are allowed to be filled with proven harmful chemicals or at least a high number of chemicals which can cause skin irritation and allergies. I knew that of course there would be some products that were milder and more natural than others, but I didn’t realise quite yet that some products were really not suitable for children at all. I often hear stories of babies who have had rashes from their baby shampoo, bubble bath or body wash and now I know what’s in some of them, it doesn’t surprise me at all!
In this post I’m going to look at why choosing a non-toxic baby shampoo/body wash matters, what ingredients we want to avoid, some commonly used products and what they contain and also give a list of my favourites.
Why does choosing a non-toxic baby shampoo/ body wash matter?
The skin is our biggest organ. Chemicals from products placed on the skin can be absorbed and even make it all the way into the bloodstream. A baby’s skin is particularly soft and sensitive making it not only absorbent but prone to irritation and allergies. Shampoo/ body wash ends up covering a huge surface area of the body and so we have to be really careful to make sure the ingredients they contain are safe.
Which are the ingredients to avoid and why?
When looking at a product’s ingredients, the database I use has been made by a group called the EWG (Environmental Working Group) in the U.S and is called the ‘Skin Deep’ database. It contains information on over 150,000 chemicals and includes toxicity ratings, risks, research and references to studies.
Ingredients you must avoid:
- Parabens: These actually have a weak hormone activity and have been detected in breast cancer tissues and have links to male infertility. They can also cause skin irritation. The EU have actually banned many types of parabens.
- Fragrance/ Parfum: This can be made up of hundreds of undeclared chemicals. Often including parabens and phthalates. It can however be made from natural organic essential oils which are totally safe, though sometimes may carry a bit of an increased risk of skin irritation. If it’s not marked as fragrance coming from a natural essential oil, then don’t use it.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MI): This has been the cause of some horrific allergic reactions and is a leading cause of dermatitis. It’s banned in the EU from being used in baby wipes.
Would be nice to avoid:
- Propylene glycol: This is a skin and respiratory irritant. Propylene glycol also enhances skin absorption and so allows other chemicals to absorb into the skin more easily.
- Synthetic colours: These are purely used to make a product look more appealing and are often derived from petroleum. Some products are coloured naturally too and these are much safer.
- PEG compounds: These are used as thickeners. They strip the natural oils from the skin leaving it vulnerable. They can cause allergies and are easily contaminated with potential carcinogens.
- Cocamidopropyl betaine: This is a foaming agent which has been associated with skin irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.
- Quaternium-15: This is a preservative which is a formaldehyde releaser as well as a skin irritant.
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate: This is a preservative which is a formaldehyde releaser as well as a skin irritant.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate: There is strong evidence this is a skin and eye irritant. It is also easily contaminated with potential carcinogens.
- Phenoxyethanol: This is a skin, eye and lung irritant.
- Benzyl Alcohol: This is a preservative which is associated with contact allergies and skin irritation.
- Food Products in the ingredients lists such as goat’s milk, cow’s milk nut oils and oats. Studies have shown a link between the application of a potential food allergen repeatedly onto the skin and food allergen sensitisation. This increases the potential for severe food allergic reactions when the food is actually eaten. This is especially relevant for a child with a high risk of food allergy and also those with eczema.
My Recommended list:
- GOLD & PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Weleda – Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash Reviews – Mostly organic, lovely and creamy, gentle whilst still properly cleansing. A truly beautiful non-toxic product.SILVER: Willow By The Sea – CALM Baby Bath Tea Reviews– An absolutely divine bath time product which not only has the most beautiful certified organic ingredients, but also adds a very special experience for you to share with your children on top.BRONZE: Wild Botanicals – Complete Baby Body Wash With Apricot Oil Reviews – This is my top pick for very young babies or those with a high risk for developing food allergies/ eczema as it contains no food products. Highly recommended.
Other Recommended products (alphabetical order)
- Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash: This has a good ingredients list.
- Chamonix Rain Organics Coconut Baby Wash and Shampoo: This has a great and organic ingredients list.
- Dr Bronner’s Pure- Castile Liquid Soap- Baby Unscented: This is about as simple and pure as it gets. I’d definitely use this one, especially on a newborn or baby with sensitive skin.
- Wotnot Baby Wash: This has a good ingredients list and uses essential oils for fragrance. I look forward to trying it.
A look at some common brands and what they contain: (alphabetical order)
- Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash: This contains synthetic fragrance although the company does say that it is at least phthalate and paraben free. It also contains benzyl benzoate as a preservative and fragrance ingredient which is associated with allergies and contact dermatitis. It’s definitely a lot better than some other options.
- Cetaphil Baby Gentle Wash and Shampoo: This has Parfum, although the company does say the product is paraben free, I can’t find anywhere that says their products are phthalate free, so I’m cautious. It also contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, cocamidopropyl betaine and PEG compounds. There are better products out there.
- Curash Baby Shampoo: This shampoo has MI and another highly irritating chemical Methylchloroisothiazolinone, along with synthetic fragrance which are all on the must avoid list. It also contains synthetic colour, propylene glycol, quaternium -15, PEG compounds and cocamidopropyl betaine. I wouldn’t use.
- Dermaveen Extra Gentle Baby Shampoo: This contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betadine which I’d prefer weren’t there, it’s an okay option, but there are better products around.
- Ecostore Baby Shampoo: I usually love Ecostore products, I think they’re a really great company. They use the EWG Skin Deep Database and if a product of theirs has an ingredient that could be swapped for a safer one, they really try to make the change. Their shampoo has a great ingredients list except for a preservative called sodium hydroxymethylglycinate which is a formaldehyde releaser. They’ve started removing sodium hydroxymethylglycinate from some of their other products and when they do it for the baby shampoo, I hope I’ll be able to put it on the recommended list.
- Gaia Natural Baby Shampoo: This shampoo doesn’t have any of the must avoid list, however it has a few ingredients of which it’d be nice if they weren’t there – Phenoxyethanol, cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. I think there are some better products available.
- Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo: This shampoo contains synthetic fragrance which is on the must avoid list. It also contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG compounds and synthetic colours. I wouldn’t use it.
- Moogoo Milk Shampoo: Moogoo did use essential oils for fragrance but removed them as they do give occasional allergies. Since then they use a ‘fragrant oil’. I’m not sure what’s in there, it sounds synthetic, but it is phthalate and paraben free. Their shampoo also contains cocamidopropyl betaine which I’d prefer not to be there. It’s definitely better than some.
- Mustela Baby Shampoo: This shampoo does contain a synthetic fragrance however the company says there are no parabens or phthalates in it. It also contains a few ingredients that I’d prefer weren’t there such as PEG compounds, Cocamidopropyl betaine and Potassium sorbate. It’s okay, but there are definitely better products available.
- Sukin Wendy Water Saver Kids Shampoo: This contains cocamidopropyl betaine, phenoxyethanol and benzyl alcohol which I’d prefer weren’t there. It’s definitely better than some.
- QV Baby Gentle Wash: This contains two different types of parabens which are definitely on the must avoid list. It also contains some ingredients which I’d prefer weren’t there such as Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate which enhances skin penetration, so lets other chemicals absorb into the skin more easily and also aminomethyl propanol which is a skin irritant. I’d definitely avoid.
What we are using at home:
For most of Isabella’s life we’ve used Weleda’s Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash. It’s lovely and creamy and is a lot kinder to hair than pure castile soap. It’s not a ‘No-Tears’ formula, but it’s a great product and it’s nice to have a change from the unscented products we always use and have something subtly scented with safe organic essential oils. I just love the mild chamomile smell when I kiss the top of her head 🙂
This product is gentle, but also properly cleanses and cuts through grease from a dinner covered child! It’s a truly beautiful non-toxic choice.
*This product does contain almond and sesame seed oil. If you have a baby/child with a high risk of a food allergy or eczema, I would not recommend to use this product until they are eating these foods in their diet and show no allergy. Studies have shown a link between the application of a potential food allergen repeatedly onto the skin and food allergen sensitisation. This increases the potential for severe food allergic reactions when the food is actually eaten. This is especially relevant for a child with a high risk of food allergy and also those with eczema.”
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These are purely my subjective opinions based on the ingredients lists from product websites and the ingredients lists on actual products in August 2016 and my research into the different ingredients using the EWG Skin Deep Database.