5 Dangerous Chemicals in Your Baby's Bath


Stop! Put down the baby wash you're using! Have you read the ingredients? More importantly, do you understand what some of them are?

A lot of soaps advise against ingestion (duh) and while for some, the worst baby will get is a tummy ache, others have some nasty chemicals that really should be avoided ... and not just because your baby could eat them, but because what goes on the soft skin can be even more absorbed than what goes in the mouth.

"Those same chemicals, if eaten, are likely less of a hazard because they travel through your body's many cleansing methods, like the enzymes in your saliva and stomach, as well as your liver and kidneys," says Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician and founder of the Dr. Mercola's Natural Health Center.

When you put these things onto baby's skin, especially with pores and sweat glands wide open from the warm bath, they go straight into the bloodstream and body tissues with little to no filtering whatsoever.  Baby's skin may absorb even more than her digestive tract. Eek.

Even scarier, want to know who controls the ingredients? Well, no one. The FDA says companies should police themselves and, if something hasn't been tested and proven to be safe, to simply write, "The safety of this product has not been determined" on the label. The FDA tests ingredients in shampoos just as much as herbal remedies and foods -- that is to say, they have so little say that it's essentially a joke. They've only reviewed a mere 11 percent of ingredients commonly used in soaps and shampoos, and 99 percent of products have ingredients that have never been tested but are potentially hazardous.

So that leaves it up to you, the consumer. What ingredients should you be on the lookout for, and why? I've listed the top 5 offenders and the reasons they should be avoided.

#1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

This ingredient creates all your nice lather and suds ... as well as working as a fabulous degreaser for car washes and garages. Wait, what? Ick. It's also a neurotoxin, mutates cells, can cause reproductive harm or failure, skin and eye irritation, and maybe even cause cancer. Just what you want to rub on your baby's belly, right? Yeah, not so much.

#2. Dioxane

This ingredient is linked to breast cancer in lab rats. It's there to make the SLS less abrasive and more foamy. Gee, great.

#3. Diethanolamine (DEA)

This known carcinogen is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it blocks the absorption of the nutrient "choline," which is essential to brain formation. It can be dangerous for babies as well.

#4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Yeah, the same thing you avoid in food is being rubbed onto your head, usually under the name of amino acid, yeast extract, or glutamates. Why is it bad? It's shown to cause headaches, dizziness, and stomach discomfort after ingestion. Now that we know that being absorbed through the skin is often as bad or worse than eating something, it's not really a good thing to have in your shampoo either.

#5. Propylene Glycol

This strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney dysfunction, and yet it's in your shampoo ... and anti-freeze, coolant, de-icer ... ick.


Before you buy new baby soap, pop on over to the amazing Cosmetics Database's list of baby soap, and write down the names of some of the non-toxic ones. On a scale of 0-10, 0-2 means low/no hazard, 3-6 means moderate hazard, and 7-10 means high hazard. There's a complete breakdown of each ingredient of concern for every product as well, so you can determine which things you're concerned about.

One of my favorite brands, California Baby, doesn't have a single product over a 2, and is super-easy to find at Babies/Toys R Us and even my local Fred Meyer. Not to mention, the calendula is good for the sinuses!

Might be worth checking out your own products as well. One of my old favorites that I've since ditched rated a big fat 10. Yikes. Thank you -- boycotting!

What does your baby's soap rate?

Images via Jmum/CafeMom; Cosmetics Database

baby gear, baby health, bathtime, skin care, safety


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knfisch knfisch

Ugh I wish the fad would just ban MSG! In food and other products. We discovered recently that it was causing horrible debilitating headaches to me and had to ban it from the house which is hard since not only is it in everything it has like 20 different names that you have to watch out for including 'flavoring'. Ugh. Do you know what it does? It does add flavor, it changes your taste buds so you just think what you're eating taste good! Sorry, I'd rather taste what I'm actually eating instead of being tricked into believing it tastes good....

2rays... 2rays0fsun

wow.. i knew some of these but honestly have never taken the time to look into it. Thanks for breaking it down so clearly. I'm going to check out the Cosmetic Database link !!

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

Scary.  We use California baby and Jason organic baby shampoo.

nonmember avatar Anon

I've looked at that site before and I'm always surprised to see Weleda products with ratings of 5 - 6, since they are a well-respected, long-standing producer or natural health products including homeopathic remedies.

I also noticed that Lanolin got a rating of 4 because of allergies - some people are allergic to lanolin, but most are not. I wonder if some other products/ingredients got moderate risk ratings for similar reasons?

Dr Bronner's soap, my go to product, is of course safe! Citric acid seems to be the harshest ingredient...

LKRachel LKRachel

I have no doubt that MSG could cause migraines (my best friend suffers from them and things ranging from chocolate to wheat can trigger them) but listing it as a "dangerous" substance seems a little extreme.  I know we've been told to avoid it like the plague, but there are enough things I really need to avoid and although I won't seek it out (you can actually buy it at asian food markets) I'm not going to avoid it any more than I will excess sodium.


amile... amileegirl

msg has a cummulative affect. The more you ingest over time the worse it gets. It is naturally occuring but that's not the problem. Isolating it and using it as a common additive in products makes it a hazard==you ingest far exceeding what nature intended

amile... amileegirl

btw we only use hand made oatmeal soap here (ingredients saponified vegetable oil and oatmeal). Dr bronner in the kitchen dispenser.

Simpl... Simply_Janeen

LuSa Organics Calendula Baby Soap (baby soap)

This is a local product to me! It's made in a town only 30 miles away from where I live which I think is awesome! They make a wonderful aromatherapy thing with lavendar that you just put on your pulse points to help you relax. It worked great for my little one and I used their massage oil during my labor.

Right now, I've been using Dr. Bronner's castile soaps for both me and the little one and going no-poo for hair for me. My older daughter I buy bar soaps for as she's more prone to eczema. The baby so far hasn't shown issues with it but when I do use it, I use it mostly on her bottom and maybe some on her head due to cradle cap. Learned a lot about different soaps and stuff due to issues my dad had with soap. He only bathed a few times a year because he was so sensitive to soaps.

nonmember avatar Kate

There are many hidden chemicals in baby products that are overwhelmingly dangerous to the developing organs of babies. Let's hope with pressure from consumers and activists, companies would change their ingredients to more safe and natural.

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