Bathtime for Baby: What's in Those Suds?
All health care products are created equal and are good for you, right? Not necessarily. Many soaps and skin care items have very harsh abrasives and chemicals in them that can seriously irritate your skin or, even worse, damage your health. And if they can cause serious harm to you, you may want to reconsider using them on your baby.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
So what exactly are you using? Well, first there's sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a synthetic chemical. It works as a detergent and is normally found in all forms of soap, from shampoo to bubble bath to cosmetic cleansers. It is also found in car wash soap, floor cleaners and engine degreasers because it is very effective at cleaning greasy surfaces.
Because it cleans by corrosion, it strips away layers of your skin, which can cause irritation and affect your body's natural ability to produce moisture. It is used purposely in laboratory tests to irritate skin in order to test healing agents. SLS has even been linked to cataracts in adults and eye development problems in children. A different detergent that acts in much the same manner as SLS is Sodium Laureth Sulfate.
Another ingredient that you have often seen advertised in your health care products is mineral oil. While it certainly sounds good, you may be a little surprised to learn what it can do. Mineral oil is derived from crude oil and is known to contain serious carcinogens (meaning that it can cause cancer). Mineral oil cannot be easily absorbed by your skin. Instead, it creates a film on top of your skin, which prevents it from breathing. Skin that does not receive enough oxygen is more likely to dry out.
Also, your skin can become more dehydrated because mineral oil dissolves your skins natural oil. Have you ever broken out after using a new product? If you have, there's a good chance that product contained mineral oil, as mineral oil is the main cause for break outs. You may also want to check the label on the baby oil you're using. Most are 100% mineral oil. Petroleum, paraffin, paraffin oil and propylene glycol are all derivatives of mineral oil and have similar effects on your skin. Propylene glycol, in particular, has been known to inhibit cell growth and has been linked to kidney damage and liver abnormalities.
Glycerin is a very popular ingredient found in many products, especially creams and is often the basis of soaps. Many people like glycerin because it makes their skin feel very soft. It does this by drawing the moisture out of your skin and keeping it on the surface. However, because it takes the water out of your skin, it can in fact cause your skin to become even drier and dehydrated. While glycerin may not pose a serious threat to your health, it may be a good idea to look for soaps and creams with a low glycerin content, especially if you plan to use the product on your baby.
Another concern to many is synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Preservatives are often put into products to prolong their shelf life. However, they may also release formaldehyde into your skin and can cause a variety of health problems like joint pain. Synthetic fragrances, although they make products smell nice, can often lead to skin irritations because of the harsh chemicals in them. People have also complained that synthetic fragrances have caused headaches, dizziness, asthma and rashes among other things.
One product that many new parents are surprised to learn the dangers of is talc. Yes, talcum powder may not be the best thing for your baby after all. A chemical in the talc is very similar to asbestos and can increase your chances of ovarian cancer. However, not all health professionals can agree as to whether or not talc is safe to use. While more research still needs to be done on talc, don't risk your baby's health. Try using cornstarch instead, which is a safer alternative.
Another ingredient that you may want to stay away from (or at least make sure your baby doesn't come into contact with) is triclosan. This is a synthetic ingredient that is used as an antibacterial. In the United States, it is classified as a pesticide and is thought to be carcinogenic. Yet, it's widely used in toothpastes and antibacterial cleaners! It may also work as a hormone disruptor, which means that it has the potential to change genetic material, cause fertility problems and even cause birth defects. If high levels of triclosan are stored in your body, it can damage your liver, kidneys and lungs and possibly lead to heart problems and brain hemorrhages.
Babies and Germs
While many parents prefer to use antibacterial products to ensure that their baby stays healthy, the fact is that babies need some exposure to bacteria in order to strengthen their immune system and build antibodies for infections they may get later in life.
Cosmetics and Regulations
Many people assume that if a product is made by a well-known brand and is widely available, then it must be safe. Generally, yes, this is true. However, in the United States, the cosmetic industry can (and does) use ingredients in their products that are not regulated by the government. In Europe, there are some regulations and certain ingredients (like DEA or diethanolamine, MEA or Monoethanolamine, and TEA or triethanolamine, all possible carcinogens) that have restrictions imposed on them.
Additionally, there have been very few, if any, studies done on the long-term effects of some of these products. Since many of the chemicals found in health and beauty products are known carcinogens or have the ability to alter hormones, you may want to be a bit more aware of what is actually in the products you use. Considering all the problems these chemicals pose for adults, it's not surprising to learn that many parents are looking for safer alternatives for their babies.
Read All Labels
One easy way to avoid or minimize exposure to these ingredients is to just simply read the labels. If the only things listed in the product are chemicals, you might want to choose a different brand. You can also look for brands that say they are natural or are made from natural products. While these are generally a better alternative, you might still want to read the label to see if there are any preservatives or other chemicals lurking around.
Also, check to see if the product uses essential oils instead of synthetics for fragrance. And don't worry about having difficulty finding a safer product that your baby can use. There are many all-natural baby care lines available today.
If you are really concerned about you and your baby's health, then look for products that use organic ingredients. Organic ingredients mean that they haven't been altered or tampered with in any way. While natural and organic products tend to cost more than chemically infused products, prices are becoming increasingly competitive as more parents demand safer, natural products for their babies.