Choosing a Safe, Non-Toxic Nappy Cream & What To Avoid – Updated 2020!
I’ve updated this post because I’ve found so many new and amazing bottom balms and creams. I’ve also now had a chance to try them and so have included reviews for the whole recommended list. To see the recommended list and reviews, jump to the bottom of the page.
Apparently when I was a baby, I developed such a bad nappy rash that I had to be without nappies for weeks. The horror of this story didn’t really hit me until I had a baby of my own. When at the age of 5 weeks old Isabella had the slightest sign of a red bottom, I jumped to action, knowing how brutal the worst case scenario could be. We’d been lucky enough to have more than one friend give us Sudocrem as part of our baby presents. I’d heard numerous times statements like “you can’t use enough nappy cream”, and “using nappy cream after every change is the best prevention.” So, from then on, Isabella’s changes weren’t complete without a dab of Sudocrem…To be honest, I almost felt guilty for not having jumped on board with it earlier.
It was only when I started doing the research for my baby wipes post (an exercise which left me looking at all baby products with new eyes and scepticism) that I started to wonder about Isabella’s nappy cream. I soon found that I again had a lot to learn… from how to correctly use the nappy cream, to when to use it and also that some products had ingredients in them that definitely should be avoided!
The first thing I discovered was that I had been using the nappy cream incorrectly. It’s amazing how one can use a product and not read the instructions, only to keep doing the wrong thing because that’s what you’ve always been doing!
Firstly, nappy creams can be divided into two groups – those that are for prevention and can be used for every change if you want and for the treatment of mild nappy rash, and those that are stronger and made specifically for the treatment of more severe nappy rash. Some treatment creams have mild local anaesthetics, antibacterial and antifungal agents – not something you want to put on for every change! However, unfortunately this is what I did on Isabella unknowingly for months with my use of Sudocrem. What the hell was I doing putting something with a local anaesthetic in it on my baby after every change?! Sudocrem’s advertising didn’t exactly tell me otherwise and I know I’m not the only one who mistakenly used Sudocrem this way…sigh. But knowledge is power and it’s better to know now so we can make the change today!
It’s not easy as a parent to recognise that you’ve been doing something you shouldn’t have. We all want to do the best for our children and you can’t help but feel cheated when you find out that something you’ve been doing in good faith and thinking is right, isn’t quite the magic pill you thought it was. But here I am, writing this blog post because I got it wrong while trying to do my best. Hopefully this information can better educate us all so that we can make informed and safe choices for our babies.
When to use nappy cream:
There are some excellent, safe non-toxic nappy creams available which are absolutely fine to use for every change if you feel like it. Some baby bottoms are more sensitive than others and get red easily and by keeping a barrier there, baby stays comfortable. There’s no problem at all doing this if you have the right cream! The only problems are if you’re using a cream full of chemicals which aren’t safe to use on your baby all the time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of inappropriate creams out there, especially if you’re using a medicated cream daily instead of for the treatment of acute bouts of nappy rash.
What are the ingredients we want to avoid?
Firstly, for a preventative cream, it doesn’t need any active ingredients. We’re just trying to create a barrier so the wet nappy doesn’t cause a reaction on our baby’s sensitive skin. There is absolutely no need to coat our babies in chemicals for the sake of it. When our baby gets a nappy rash, then something stronger may be indicated. Unfortunately, just because a product is marketed as being for babies doesn’t mean it contains safe ingredients, so it’s important to do your research.
I’ve tried a great many bottom balms and nappy creams on Isabella in the last few months, but every child has different skin, so I can’t rank them in effectiveness. I can however point out which creams have the best ingredients lists and my thoughts on them. I can also point out what ingredients shouldn’t be in your baby’s nappy cream because they’re toxic and not appropriate to be used on babies – or adults for that matter! When looking at the ingredients list of nappy creams, there are certain ingredients that you should definitely avoid and ones which would be nice if they weren’t there.
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: This can be made up of hundreds of undeclared chemicals. Often including parabens and phthalates.
- BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole): Used as a preservative and fragrance ingredient. This is an endocrine disruptor and possible carcinogen.
- Boric Acid/ Sodium Borate: This is used as an antifungal agent. It is an endocrine disruptor and been linked to reproductive toxicity. It has been classified as not safe for use on infant skin.
Would be nice to avoid:
- Propylene glycol: This is a skin, immune system and respiratory irritant. Propylene glycol also enhances skin absorption and so allows other chemicals to absorb into the skin more easily.
- Petrolatum: A petroleum product that is used as a moisturising agent. It doesn’t allow the skin to breathe, slows down the skin’s proper functioning and has a high risk for contamination.
- PEG compounds: These are used as thickeners. They strip the natural oils from the skin leaving it vulnerable. They are also potentially carcinogenic.
- 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.
[Updated] Cloth Nappy Safe:
Bottom balms used with cloth nappies should definitely not include petroleum products (which none of my recommended list does) as they coat the material and decrease absorption. A cloth nappy safe cream should also not include zinc as it can cause staining and is difficult to wash out of the material. If you are using cloth nappies and you want or need to use a nappy cream containing zinc, use a disposable liner so that you don’t damage the cloth.
Nappy Creams I Recommend: [Updated]
Recommended List: [Updated]
This is my recommended list of nappy creams and balms. They all have fantastic non-toxic ingredients lists but not all are completely organic.
If ever one of the children has a red bottom, one application of this mostly organic zinc based cream and it’s gone by the next change! I’ve found it to be a fantastic overnight cream which will ensure no irritation.
The Weleda Calendula Nappy Change Cream is a rich cream which is still easy to wipe on and doesn’t leave marks on clothes like some other zinc creams. It has a mild, pleasant fragrance and works amazingly. This is a fantastic nappy change cream which works so well and so quickly.
*This product contains 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.
A beautiful smelling, healing and protecting nappy balm. It is made with a mix of organic oils and shea nut butter as well as essential oils specially selected for their anti-microbial and healing properties.
Being zinc free, this nappy balm is suitable for use with both cloth nappies and disposables. I particularly love that this balm does not contain any nut oils and common allergens. This makes it a fantastic, safe and non-toxic choice for even the smallest infant.
This nappy balm is so easy to use, smells gorgeous and it works really well as a barrier. I didn’t find it as effective as a zinc based cream for treatment for an already red bottom, however it is perfect as a prophylactic and regular use with each change completely prevented a red bottom from occurring!
A beautiful non-toxic, nourishing barrier cream which is effective and suitable for all ages and types of nappy.
A pleasantly mild coconut smelling, essential fatty acid filled, skin nourishing, all-purpose balm which makes for an amazing nappy balm.
Whilst it says it melts at 24 degrees, I have found that even at 22 degrees, it is more a cream than a thicker balm. A little dab of a fingertip into the jar is all you need to give a really protective and nourishing layer of oils to the nappy region.
My son is 18 months old and eczema prone, needing a barrier cream at every nappy change. Soothe works a treat and keeps his bottom free from irritation from one change to the next.
I love that there are no food ingredients in this formulation that are common allergy triggers. So many natural skincare products for babies contain tree nut oils and sesame which when used repeatedly on the skin before they have ever been eaten, increases the risk of severe food allergies.
This is a fantastic and effective nappy balm which is suitable for young infants and use with cloth nappies.
This is a light but beautifully nourishing cream with a base of aloe vera. I love that it is unscented and that it is cloth nappy friendly.
I used this on my daughter’s skin and it is lovely and moisturising. I also found it makes for a beautiful hand cream! This cream works best as a preventative against nappy rash rather than as a treatment when a red bottom occurs as it is light and absorbs well, rather than creating a barrier.
* This product contains goats milk. 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. If you have a baby 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.”
This balm is rich and nourishing with 98% Certified Organic ingredients. With healing ingredients such as shea butter, calendula and papaya extracts as well as beeswax to form a protective layer on the skin, this is a perfect nappy or general multipurpose balm. This is a great everyday nappy area protective balm and best suited for that rather than for combatting nappy rash itself. It is cloth nappy friendly and being free from common food allergens, it is suitable for even the smallest babies. This balm has a beautiful sleepy time smell and is a pleasure to use.
Other recommended Creams and Balms:
These creams and balms are categorised into those containing zinc and not and then put in alphabetical order.
Zinc Based Barrier Creams
Badger Zinc Oxide Diaper Cream. (95% Organic)
This cream has a beautiful and simple ingredients list of non-nano zinc with sunflower oil, beeswax and calendula. It is great for sensitive skin and rubs in well. It feels a little more oily than other zinc creams and is a bit milder in its action. It is great for every day changes to protect from irritation.
Ecostore Nappy Balm:
This is a thick, white, unscented zinc cream with olive and coconut oils and beeswax. This is a heavy duty barrier cream and would be great for nappy rash. For everyday use I found it a bit on the thick side for us and had the potential to leave a white mark on clothes.
Weleda– Calendula Nappy Change Cream: (Biodynamic/ Organic):
This is my all-time favourite cream. It is a mix of sweet almond and sesame oil with zinc, beeswax, lanolin and calendula. It is a rich cream which is still easy to wipe on and doesn’t leave marks on clothes like some other zinc creams. It also works amazingly. If ever Isabella has a red bottom, one application of this cream and it’s gone by the next change! A fantastic overnight cream which will ensure no irritation. The ingredients in this, like all Weleda products, are biodynamic (which are organic and then have to pass even stricter protocols!) It has a mild, pleasant fragrance.
Weleda White Mallow Nappy Change Cream: (Biodynamic/ Organic)
This cream is approved by the National Eczema Foundation and is an even more protective zinc cream for hypersensitive skin This has a higher quantity of zinc and some coconut oil as well as the sweet almond, sesame oil, beeswax and lanolin of the Calendula cream. The cream is rich and a bit thicker than the Calendula cream but rubs into the skin well. This cream is fragrance free.
Zinc Free Balms
Badger Baby Balm: (Organic)
This balm has a really short and simple quality ingredients list of organic olive and castor oils with beeswax and calendula. It is very mild with a soft buttery consistency and is perfect for sensitive skin – and dry skin for those of all ages! A great lip balm too!
This is a beautiful balm made from organic calendula and chamomile as well as a NZ herb called Koromiko in a base of olive oil, coconut oil and beeswax. The balm has a butter like consistency and melts with the warmth of the skin. It has a great moisturising effect and can be used anywhere on skin to protect against irritation, dryness and cracking. It’s great for everyday changes as a preventative. It can also be used on the scalp for cradle cap or be used to dilute Kiwiherb’s fantastic De-Stuff Rub to make it safe for under twos.
Nature’s Child Bottom Balm: (Certified Organic)
This lovely, sweet smelling balm has the consistency of soft butter and rubs beautifully onto the skin forming a smooth, moisturised layer. It has an organic sunflower, olive and sweet almond oil base with added beeswax and calendula.
This balm has a mild, very pleasant sweet lavender scent. I love that it’s certified organic. A lot of people who use cloth nappies swear by this and I can understand why. This is definitely one of the most lovely and effective zinc-free bottom balms around. It gets a big thumbs up from me.
Wotnot Baby Balm: (Organic)
This is a thicker cream which has a mild, pleasant tea tree smell. It contains organic ingredients with an Aloe, beeswax and olive oil base with paw paw, chamomile, tea tree and comfrey. It can be used for nappy rash, scrapes and bites. I found this to be a really effective nappy cream, though it is difficult to get out of the tube and rub into the skin because it is so thick.
They’ve recently reformulated this baby balm to make it easier to dispense whilst keeping the ingredients list the same. I really like this balm because it works well and smells nice and can imagine these changes would make it fantastic. I look forward to trying the new formulation.
Any of these creams and balms can be used as a preventative or a treatment cream. If however they’re not working on your baby’s nappy rash and you want something stronger, the best of the pharmacy creams I’ve found is Bepanthen.
Bepanthen: This can be used as a preventative or treatment. Bepanthen’s ingredients list is ok though it does have petrochemicals which I’d prefer weren’t there and also an ingredient called Protein XN which I can’t find a description of anywhere. I used this in a fix when we were overseas and I had to buy something in a pharmacy as Isabella had a red bottom. It worked well, but there are other products available that I think are better.
Nappy creams I wouldn’t recommend based on their ingredients:
Sudocrem: Sudocrem is designed for the treatment of nappy rash (amongst other things like pressure sores and eczema) and not for the prevention of nappy rash. It contains BHA which is an endocrine disruptor and also Fragrance which often includes parabens and phthalates (so more endocrine disruptors!) Sudocrem also has petrochemicals and propylene glycol which preferably would not be there. All in all, a product I definitely won’t use again as a nappy cream.
Curash Medicated Nappy Cream: Even though the website says that it can be used as a preventative, this should only be used as a treatment cream. However, I’m not impressed at all with the ingredients. Where to start? It has two types of parabens and also Perfumes which are ingredients which should definitely be avoided. It also has petrochemicals and propylene glycol which preferably wouldn’t be there. Steer Clear.
As for baby powder, there have long been links between the ingredient talc and ovarian cancer. The evidence has been so strong that Johnson & Johnson have been successfully sued over it. Even so, Curash and Johnson & Johnson still sell a baby powder containing talc! I would definitely avoid it. There are some baby powders containing cornstarch as a substitute which seems to be a safe ingredient, however make sure their other ingredients are safe too (I’ve seen lots containing ‘fragrance’). Powders can be easily inhaled and can be damaging to the lungs, so must be used with caution.
I’ve also heard some people use coconut oil successfully as a bottom balm instead of a commercial product. I’d love to hear people’s experiences and recommendations. I hope this helps you make informed choices.
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These are purely my subjective opinions based on the ingredients lists from product websites in January 2020 and my research into the different ingredients using the EWG Skin Deep Database.