As we all know, babies are born with an immature immune system that takes years to fully develop. While they are working on this, it’s important to limit their exposure to harmful microbes and chemicals to give them the best start in life.
One unexpected source of chemicals might be lurking in your bathroom, in the form of skin and body care products. Chemicals find their way into these products because they bring a ton of benefits to manufacturers – they can help to extend shelf life, drive down production costs and drive sales (bright colours and glitter always clinch a sale).
So how do you limit your children’s exposure to harmful substances while keeping them clean? Thankfully, the rise in natural skincare products is providing families with safer options.
Let’s take a look at some buying tips when purchasing personal care products for your little ones.
Watch out for antibacterial agents
Once the poster child for hygiene products, antibacterial agents such as TRICLOSAN has since been linked to adverse health effects and should be avoided – especially for the tiny humans in your life. Soaps, body washes and toothpaste that are marketed as antiseptic usually contain antibacterial and anti fungal agents to help reduce infections.
However, studies in recent years have shown a number of alarming facts: they can lead to antibiotics resistance, disrupt hormonal development in children, increase the chance of developing allergies and contaminate the water system. The irony is that washing with regular soap and water is just as effective as washing with an antibacterial soap containing Triclosan – WITHOUT any of the negative side effects.
The case against Triclosan and its like are convincing enough for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of 19 antimicrobial agents in consumer products from December 2017. However, Triclosan is still in use in many other countries so it is worth taking the time to check the product’s origin and ingredients list. You can find the full ruling and list of all banned ingredients here.
Stay away from mineral oil
MINERAL OIL is just a catchier name invented by marketers for a by-product derived from the process of refining crude oil to produce petroleum. Yes, you read that right. That commercial brand baby oil you’ve been using is derived from the same source that powers your car! Alternative names used for this ingredient is liquid paraffin, paraffinum liquidum and petrolatum.
Considered technically safe for use on skin, as most of the harmful substances have been filtered out, mineral oil is frequently found in baby oil, lotions, lipsticks and sunscreen because they are a cheap moisturising agent. Nevertheless, there are worrying signs that petroleum-based products are less than ideal for humans. There are studies linking the use and exposure of mineral oil with cancer and evidence to support the fact that mineral oils are the greatest contaminant in the human body.
Mineral oil has even been found in mother’s breastmilk, with cosmetics being highlighted as a relevant source of contamination. So mamas – if you want to keep your little ones safe from harsh chemicals, take a look at what’s inside your makeup bag too!
SULPHATES are another group of widely used chemicals in the skin care industry. Chemically speaking, sulphates are surfactants, which functions as a dirt remover. As a result, they are commonly found in soaps, shampoos, body wash, toothpaste, laundry detergents and more. Basically, anything that cleans will contain surfactants.
Not all surfactants are created equal. Sulphates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) frequently appear in personal care products because they offer the dual benefit of being effective and cheap. However, they can cause skin irritation – even when used in low doses.
And because they are so prevalent, there is concern that they will enter the bloodstream and cause long-term health issues – a cause for worry not just with young children but for adults too. The challenge with this ingredient is that even ‘natural’ products can contain SLS and SLES so be sure to check the ingredients list and look out for sulphate-free claims before buying.
Harness the power of Mother Nature
Rope in Mother Nature to protect your children from exposure to unnecessary chemicals by looking for natural alternatives. Plant oils such as olive oil, virgin coconut oil and sweet almond oil are safe for children and can easily replace any store-bought moisturises.
Soothing ingredients such as chamomile, calendula and lavender are generally considered safe for children. This is one reason why many natural skin care products developed for children include these in their formulation.
Essential oils can also have therapeutic effects on children and are popular as a natural remedy for many ailments. Child-safe essential oils include roman chamomile, lavender and sweet orange oil. But keep a close eye on how much you use on your mini-me, as children should only get a fraction of essential oil compared to adults. Too much essential oils can cause negative reactions such as allergies, irritation and chemical burns so consider checking out this handy dilution chart before you start.
Keeping it simple
When it comes to personal care products for kids, less is always more.
Infants and children have a thinner layer of skin than adults – on average 20-30% thinner, making it easier for chemicals to enter their bloodstream. This is one reason why children have a higher tendency to suffer from skin allergies and irritation when compared to adults.
With that in mind, it’s best to keep skin care products to a minimum for your little ones. The key products you will need are:
Gentle soap – preferably one that is unscented and sulphate-free, or consider a cold process soap bar to provide extra moisturising factor without the harshness
Moisturiser – to protect the skin from irritants and to keep skin from drying out (this happens quicker with children compared to adults
Sun protection – children are less aware of sunburns until it’s too late, so make sure you have enough protection as sun damage at an early age stays with them for life