A baby's soft skin is also extremely sensitive to environmental toxins. For baby's next bath, or during the next diaper change, lather your little one in skin care products that won't irritate the skin or take a toll on the earth.
Before you buy
- Many parents find that using pure, natural oils, such as olive, almond, or coconut oil, on baby's skin is as or more effective than using packaged baby lotions.
- Currently there are no regulations to define the term "organic" when it comes to green claims on personal care products. Read labels carefully before you buy to see what the product is actually made of because some products labeled "natural" or "organic" still include dangerous chemicals and synthetic additives, like diethanolamine (DEA). There are also no laws requiring that chemical ingredients used for fragrances be listed on a product's label, so use caution when using scented products.
Choosing natural baby skin care products helps you go green because…
- Manufacturing the chemicals used in traditional baby care products pollutes the air, water, and earth.
- Traditional baby skin care products can contain harmful and toxic substances, whereas natural and organic skin care products can reduce babies' exposure to those harmful chemicals and preservatives.
- Baby skin care products made with natural and organic ingredients do not contain petroleum byproducts, the extraction and processing of which can be detrimental to the environment.
Traditional baby skin care products can contain harmful and toxic substances, like DEA and its derivatives, which pollute the environment and babies' bodies. The same labeling laws that apply to food do not apply to personal care products.
A baby's skin, which allows toxins to enter the body and bloodstream, is thinner than that of an adult, so it cannot block the entry of toxic substances as well. The absorption of chemicals through a baby's skin may also be problematic because metabolic differences make such substances more toxic to children than they are to adults. One study, for example, found that using hexachlorophene as an antibacterial skin cleanser had neurotoxic effects in infants.
Babies also do not have the same ability to detoxify and excrete toxins as adults do, and they absorb higher doses of toxins in proportion to their body weight. This increased sensitivity to toxins can cause permanent damage to a baby's developing organs.
Baby skin care products made with natural and organic ingredients also do not contain petroleum byproducts, which have caused many environmental problems. The search for and procurement of petroleum has had major detrimental impacts on the soil, ground water, surface water, and ecosystems of the United States and around the world. Petroleum refineries release hazardous air pollutants, such as BTEX compounds and sulfur dioxide.
The fragrances in many personal care products, including those in baby skin care products, pose environmental risks as well. Fragrances are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which add to air pollution, are persistent in the environment and contaminate waterways and aquatic wildlife.
With the race to be the first to offer eco-friendly products, especially in the personal care industry, companies are touting their products' green attributes with claims that at times can be confusing and misleading. Making sense of environmentally friendly standards is an important part of being a wise consumer.
What does "organic" really mean?
One murky area is the term "organic." While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains clearcut standards for organic food, the same can't be said for body care products. The industry is in turmoil trying to agree upon a set of standards. Some companies use the USDA certified organic food standard, which requires 95 percent of the ingredients to be organic. Others use the less stringent California state standard for organic cosmetic products, which requires at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. And still others label their products organic without meeting any external criterion.
In the meantime, a nonprofit standard-setting group called NSF International has released a draft set of rules for organic personal care products and a group of 30 cosmetic companies recently devised their own set of specifications called Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS). How it all washes out remains to be seen.
Watching out for all creatures great and small
While you're contemplating green attributes, you may also wish to join the cruelty-free movement. Just keep in mind: a company may claim that they don't employ animal testing for their products, but without third-party verification, it's hard to know whether these statements are in fact completely true. So stick to those products certified as cruelty-free by looking for products with the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo. You can rest assured that no bunnies (or monkeys or cats for that matter) were harmed in the making of these non-animal-tested products.
Related health issues
The chemicals added to give a product synthetic fragrance have been shown to cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, coughing, vomiting, and allergic reactions of the skin. A 1996 study on perfume and eczema, a kind of allergic reaction of the skin, found that the number of eczema patients with perfume allergy doubled between 1979 and 1989. Fragrance is the leading cause of allergic reactions to cosmetics, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Many of the fragrances used in baby care products are known hormone disruptors, which can lead to reproductive disorders. Chemicals released by petroleum refineries are known or suspected carcinogens, and have been linked to developmental and reproductive problems. Many of these chemicals may also aggravate respiratory conditions, like childhood asthma.
- 1,4-dioxane: A petroleum-derived contaminant classified as a probable human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- BTEX compounds: BTEX stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, a group of VOCs that are emitted during oil and gas production. Benzene is a known carcinogen, and may cause blood disorders. Both benzene and toluene may affect the central nervous and reproductive systems. Ethylbenzene and xylene may have respiratory and neurological effects.
- carcinogens: Any substance that causes cancer.
- diethanolamine (DEA): DEA is a surfactant widely used in the production of fatty-acid condensates formulated into soaps, liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, and hair conditioners.
- hexachlorophene: A medicated skin cleanser that kills bacteria. It is classified as "more hazardous than most chemicals" in six out of seven test categories, and is a suspected toxin affecting the cardiovascular, developmental, gastrointestinal, immune, neurological, and respiratory systems.
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.
- Alliance For Healthy Homes - Why Children are at Higher Risk
- Baby Nut
- EnviroTools - Environmental Impact of the Petroleum Industry
- Flavour and Fragrance Journal - Fragrance: Emerging Health and Environmental Concerns
- The Green Guide Baby Resources
- Environmental Working Group - Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database: Before you attend to Baby's delicate skin, check out where your favorite baby products rank on the hazard scale.
- Health-Cares.net - Baby Skin Care
- US Geological Survey - Environmental Impacts of Petroleum Production
- Children's Environmental Health Project - Skin Function and Development
- US Food and Drug Administration - Diethanolamine and Cosmetic Products
- David Lawrence Dewey - Colognes - Perfumes - Pesticides: Are They Slowly Killing You?
- Children's Health Environmental Coalition - Fragrance in Perfumes and Cosmetics