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.
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?