Let’s be honest: you won’t need a whole battery of products that are enough to stock a wellness and beauty studio in order to keep your little one’s skin soft, supple and sweet smelling.
As we walk through the aisles at the local supermarket we come to realise, that a baby has about as many products to choose from as those specifically targeted at men. There is a bubble bath, sleep well bubble bath, different kinds of body lotion, various brands of nappy creams and ointments etc.
We obviously want to look out for are products that are fragrance-free, organic, and are free preferably from parabens, phthalates, petroleum by-products, triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate.
And here is why:
- Fragrance: Granted, it is always nice to have the smell of roses, lemon and lavender around you, all be it that the latter is perhaps a bit out-of-date. Most of the time it is possible to make these yourself by using your own plants and drying them or using essential oils. But do you actually need that on your baby’s skin? The problem arises when a lot of potentially harmful substances are being lumped together underneath a term, which itself remains vague and elusive. Only 26 fragrance chemicals need to be individually named out of the approximate 2,000 fragrance chemicals that the cosmetics industry could use in a product. So there are lots of issues when it comes to fragrance classification.
- Organic: This is a bit of a tricky one as products can theoretically be declared organic if 95% of its ingredients are. But usually, this is the right way to go if you want a product whose production has already been kinder to the environment, i.e. using fewer pesticides and derived from sustainable sources. Look here for more information on organic labelling.
- Parabens: Once again, nobody actually really knows how harmful they are. Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone oestrogen in a body’s cells, and while oestrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer, parabens have been found present in breast tumours. They are to increase female breast cancer incidence, to interfere with male reproductive functions and to influence the development of malignant melanoma. For more information refer to ecocert.
- Phthalates: A bit of a mouthful perhaps, and once you start reading the ingredients list of some or most of the products you are using in your household, you are very likely to encounter the following amongst them: butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP), dibutyl phthalate (DnBP) and so on… They’re used in everything from household cleaners to food packaging to fragrance, cosmetics, and personal-care products. But how hazardous are they really? Some of them have been linked to type II diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, ADHD… Consumers can also take matters into their own hands by avoiding products packaged in “recycling-code-3” plastic, products that include the vague ingredient “fragrance” on their label, and purchasing organic products packaged in glass as much as possible. For more information on phthalates, please click here.
- Petroleum by-products: One of the most popular additives from this list is propylene glycol which works as a moisturizing agent in cosmetics. But did you know that it is also contained in anti-freeze, laundry detergent and paint?
- Triclosan: This is used as an anti-bacterial agent. But once again, the implications of its use are horrendous amongst them skin irritation, endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems. Click here to find out more.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate: This is the main soaping agent and palm-oil or coconut oil derivative we currently use. Conflicting reports on this have been published over the years. This ingredient has been added to shampoos since the 1930s. But even though there seems to be no scientific evidence that links the use of SLS to cancer, it is still an eye irritant and this is especially problematic when it comes to children. But I don’t need to tell you that!
So, without all the frills and all the rest of it, the basics you will need are:
- Nappy cream: There are various organic brands to choose from. Burt’s Bees, Weleda and Organic babies are all good choices. Organic babies, the most expensive of these three options, is 100% organic and made without Parabens, Lanolin, phthalates, artificial perfumes, petrochemicals and colourants. Burt’s bees only state that ingredients are 100% natural, but being slightly less expensive, it is still very much worth trying. Weleda list 92% organic ingredients in their ointment. If you are thinking of a far less expensive option and are not too bothered about the ingredients all being 100% organic, Boots baby zinc&castor oil isn’t a bad option either. And the best cure for nappy rash is completely free: fresh air!
- Baby lotion or oil: I have only used kokoso on my daughter’s skin so far. As it is coconut oil which is about 90% saturated fat, which means it solidifies when cold, you need to let it melt in your hand before applying. I found it works very well with baby massage. You can buy kokoso directly from their website shop or other retailers such as babipur.
- Mild liquid soap: I was very happy to use kokoso fragrance-free hair and body wash on my daughter’s skin by the time she was six weeks old. The list of ingredients itself is shorter by about half of other baby skin care products. As the kokoso managing director could assure me personally, the vegetable glycerin contained in it stems from sustainably sourced palm oil.
- Mineral sunscreen: Needless to say, there are lots of different products out there. Your baby’s delicate skin is well worth the extra cost. Look here for a suitable product for your baby. You should be very careful however with babies younger than six months, as their skin is still extremely fragile and permeable. It is always best to cover them in light clothing and staying in the shade anyway or indoors during the midday hours instead of slathering on the sunscreen.
- Natural sponge(s): Try the konjac sponge. The Konjac potato or Konnyaku is a perennial plant native to Asia and can be found growing wild at very high altitudes. A totally natural food source, Konjac is 97% water, rich in mineral goodness and low in calories. The plant is naturally alkaline, which leaves skin perfectly balanced. Kokoso sells these sponges as part of their skincare range. You can also buy them here.
And any of these can be used in small quantities. In fact, an infant under six weeks will only need warm water (up to 37C) to keep them nice and clean.
Wet wipes aren’t included in this list either, as I would suggest you think twice before using a product which has been drenched in fragrance and preservatives and you can’t even flush down the toilet because it won’t have decomposed in another decade.
Have fun keeping your baby’s skin nice and clean and sweet smelling the “green way” and without all the frills! Think twice if you actually really need something before you buy it!