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Top Ten Ingredients to Avoid in Baby Skin Care Products

It's hard to know how to choose the right skin care products for your little one, especially since labels that claim "Natural" or "Free" or Pure" can be anything but.

So here are the top bad boys to look out for when you're standing in the grocery store aisle, trying to avoid mom guilt by buying something "good" to bath your children with.

  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate. You see this on practically every label of every product that has suds (eg shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath) but SLES is known to break down into ethylene oxide (a known human carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane (a likely human carcinogen). And yet according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 1,4-dioxane may be present in 57% of ALL baby soaps. RecommendedAnointment Calendula Baby Soap

  2. Talc. Make sure any baby powder you use is "talc free" since talc is now a known lung irritant and may also be carcinogenic. Recommended: Anointment Baby Powder

  3. Fragrance. You may like the baby powder scent of your diapers but fragrance in baby products is usually from petroleum-derived synthetic chemicals and have been linked to respiratory, neurological, skin, and eye damage. Stick with essential oils for natural scents or better yet, go scent free. Recommended: Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Non-Scents Body Wash & ShampooParasol Woke Wipes

  4. Mineral oil. There's really no need for it. It's made from petroleum, is said to be the largest contaminant of our body, and doesn't actually add anything good back to your skin. Try to avoid it on ingredient lists and use natural oils . Recommended: Anointment Baby Oil

  5. Parabens. While it's good to have ingredients that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, parabens have been listed as Category 1 priority substances by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption, based on evidence that they interfere with hormone function. Yet the David Suzuki foundation reports that 75 to 90% of cosmetics may contain parabens. Recommended: Substance Baby Bath Foam

  6. Propylene glycol. This petroleum-based solvent can be found in everything from toothpaste to baby wipes to antibacterial hand wash. Although lower on the list, it is expected to have organ system toxicity and can't be properly processed by a child's system until 12 to 30 months of age. Even worse, propylene glycol increases your skin’s ability to absorb whatever it comes into contact with, which means other chemicals are more likely to be absorbed as well.
  7. Phthalates: Phthalates can enhance the ability of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations, has been shown to cause developmental defects, and interfere with hormone function. As well, Health Canada notes evidence suggesting that exposure to phthalates can cause health effects such as liver and kidney failure in young children when products containing phthalates are sucked or chewed for extended periods. In the news a lot lately, phthalates have now been baned for use in toys and teething products but not in skin care products.
  8. Quaternium-15 (Formaldehyde Releaser). This preservative releases formaldehyde as it breaks down.
  9. Triclosan. This preservative is used to prevent bacterial contamination. It is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption) though and in one study, scientists detected triclosan in the urine of nearly 75% of those tested. (source)
  10. BHA & BHT. These synthetic antioxidants are commonly used as preservatives but can cause allergic reactions, are possible human carcinogens and can interfere with hormone function. (source)


Surprisingly, many of the bestselling baby products on the market today include these ingredients. For example, Johnson's baby wash products contain fragrance, sodium laureth sulfate, and  Quaternium-15.

Even brands that we think of as natural can contain these ingredients.

For example, Cetaphil Baby Lotion markets itself as "Dermatologist Tested" and says that it has been "specially formulated with soothing organic calendula extract, derived from the marigold flower " but it rates a 5 due to having fragrance, propylene glycol and Sodium Hydroxide.