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Shampoos and Lotions for Kids (and Adults)

by Randall Neustaedter OMD

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The skin absorbs chemicals very efficiently. Skin patches are an excellent way to administer drugs because they will then bypass the digestive system, avoiding unwanted side effects. The skin absorbs many substances more reliably than the digestive tract. Be careful what you put on your child’s skin. Read labels on shampoo and skin care products and you will discover a new world of exotic chemicals. The products that touch your baby’s skin include wipes, diaper rash creams, shampoo, soap, and moisturizers. Powders are never appropriate for babies. Talc is composed of sharp fine particles that can irritate a baby’s airways. Even cornstarch can be an irritant to airways when inhaled. Avoid using powder on your baby. Choose baby wipes that do not contain alcohol. Seventh Generation Baby Wipes and Tushies Wipes contain only natural ingredients without alcohol.

Shampoo

Of all the baby care products shampoos tend to have the most ingredients. Use a shampoo that has natural herbal ingredients, preferably organic. Products by Aubrey Organics, California Baby, Dr. Bronner, and others are safer than commercial shampoos. Two of the most problematic ingredients in shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and propylene glycol. SLS is a wetting and foaming agent frequently used in shampoos and toothpastes. It can cause skin irritation, mucus membrane irritation and urinary tract infections, drying of the skin, and it is a mutagen capable of causing changes in genetic material in cells. Propylene glycol is a wetting agent or solvent. It is a common component of anti-freeze and brake fluid. It has been linked with kidney damage and liver abnormalities as well as rashes and dry skin.

Other common ingredients are not much better. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a degreaser used in spray-on oven cleaners. PEG dries the skin and has been identified as a potential carcinogen. DEA, MEA, and TEA, the ethanolamines, are hormone disrupting chemicals known to form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These foaming agents have been associated with liver and kidney cancer. The synthetic paraben preservatives methyl-, ethyl- and propylparaben are also hormone disrupters with toxic properties. Some preservatives added to skin and hair products release formaldehyde (Urea and DMDM hydantoin). The word “fragrance” denotes synthetic compounds with up to 4,000 separate ingredients, many of which are carcinogenic, toxic, and capable of producing a wide range of symptoms including hyperactivity, irritability, headaches, and skin irritation.

Chemicals to avoid in shampoo and lotions

lPropylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

Ethenolamines (DEA, MEA, TEA)

Alcohol

Fragrance

Parabens (methyl-, propyl-, ethyl-)

Lotions and creams

Some excellent products exist for moisturizing and protecting your baby’s skin. Products with essential oils can be especially soothing. It is probably best to avoid lavender, since it has been implicated as an estrogenic substance. Avoid lotions, ointments, and creams that contain petroleum or petrolatum and alcohol. Many of the same harmful chemicals found in shampoos will also show up in lotions. Companies that make an effort to use only natural ingredients include Weleda, Mustela, and California Baby, as well as the organic products by Aubrey, Avalon, and Jason. Several of these companies make diaper creams and baby lotions that are soothing and nontoxic. Natural moisturizers such as premium shea butter (www.sheainstitute.com) and virgin coconut oil work very well and have no added fragrances or chemicals. Shea butter contains vitamin A and the fatty acids in virgin coconut oil discourage free-radical production and bacterial growth in the skin.

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  • Samiamsam1

    What are your thoughts on Burt’s Bee’s products?  Particularly their children’s shampoo and lotion.

  • Dr. Neustaedter

    I think the Burt’s Bees baby products are fine. They do have some unspecified fragrance, which is probably a petroleum product, and they are not organic. Otherwise they seem good.