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Baby’s skin is more vulnerable and susceptible to damage or irritation compared to adult’s skin. Therefore, I feel whatever I put directly onto baby’s skin should be carefully selected. Although shampoo and body wash can be washed away, the chemicals can affect baby’s skin when they are in direct contact with the skin. Also, there may be chemical residues left on baby’s skin after bath. Thus, I want to avoid any toxic ingredients that can touch my baby’s skin.
Baby shampoo can be soap-based or soap-free. For the soap-free shampoo, synthetic surfactants are used. Soap-free shampoo is supposedly tear-free. However, tear-free shampoo often contains a formaldehyde-releasing chemical called 1,4-dioxane. On the other hand, soap-based shampoo will irritate the eyes and will not be tear-free. However, it won’t contain toxic chemicals such as 1,4-dioxane so it is a better choice. Tear-free is not a good thing! None of the organic baby shampoos I recommended in my previous post, ‘Best Organic Baby Shampoo and Body Wash Guide‘ is tear-free.
So what toxic ingredients are in baby shampoo & body wash? Baby shampoo & body wash use sulfactants to foam and cleanse, preservatives to have a long shelf life and fragrances to make it smell nice. These sulfactants, preservatives and fragrances are often toxic chemicals. So what are these toxic chemicals to avoid? Let’s take a look.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 3, Contamination concerns on ethylene oxide – rated at 10 and 1,4-dioxane rated at 8)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a sulfactant, foaming agent which makes products like toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel or dishsoap foam and cleanse. It can be listed as sodium salt sulfuric acid, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl. It comes from coconuts, however, the chemical is anything but natural. During manufacturing process, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide and is a known human carcinogen and 1,4 dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. Also when sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is mixed with triethanolamine (or T.E.A) during processing, NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) is formed. NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) is nitrosamine, a known carcinogen. There are about 16000 studies talking about toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can cause organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, irritation of the skin and eyes, possible mutations and cancer. (Read Deadly and Dangerous Shampoos, Toothpastes, and Detergents.)
Parabens (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 1 – 7 DEPENDING ON WHICH PARABEN )
Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetic products to stop the growth of fungus and bacteria. They can be absorbed through skin. They mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone function. They have been detected in breast cancer tissues so there is a concern that they may be linked to breast cancer. They can be listed as ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. (read Parabens.)
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical, known to cause cancer, damage central nervous system or reproductive health. It can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, by the skin or by ingestion. (read Medical Management Guidelines For Folmaldehyde.) It can be used as a preservative in some foods and in products, such as medicines or and cosmetics. Sometimes, a product will not contain formaldehyde as an ingredient but will contain formaldehyde releasing chemicals. Often cosmetics, soaps, baby wipes, lotions, shampoos, cleaning products and sunscreens will contain formaldehyde releasing chemicals as preservatives. Therefore, unless you know what these chemicals are, you won’t know these products release formaldehyde. (read What Is Formaldehyde?)
Formaldehyde releasing preservatives
- Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin
- Diazolidinyl urea
- 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (or DMDM hydantoin)
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Polyoxymethylene Urea
QUATERNIUM-15 (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 8)
Quaternium-15 is used as a preservative. It is a formaldehyde releasing chemical. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and also a known human skin sensitizer toxicant or allergen. In addition, there are high concerns of Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs).
DMDM HYDANTOIN (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 7)
DMDM hydantoin is an antimicrobial agent. It is a formaldehyde releasing chemical. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and also known human immune toxicant and allergen. In addition, there is high concerns of Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs).
FRAGRANCE (PERFUME OR PARFUM) (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 8)
Fragrance mixes often contain many synthetic chemicals including phthalates. Phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors interfere with our endocrine system and can cause lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis, and some cancers. However, fragrance can be listed as just ‘fragrance’ and phthalates don’t have to be listed on the baby lotion as an ingredient. Manufacturers do not have to disclose fragrance or perfume (or parfum) ingredients since ingredients can be considered as a trade secret. Therefore, as a consumer, you don’t know what synthetic chemicals have been added to fragrance mixes. Phthalate is just one ingredient that is commonly used for fragrance. The phthalate commonly used in fragrance products is diethyl phthalate.
One thing you should know about scents is that ‘Fragrance-free’ doesn’t mean the product doesn’t have a smell. It just means fragrance wasn’t used in the product but it may have been scented with other additives such as essential oils or fruit/flower distillate waters. ‘Fragrance-free’ won’t have tons of chemicals including phthalates so it is a good thing. However, if you are allergic to fragrance, it is possible that you can get allergy reactions to essential oils as well. Therefore, if you have an allergy, keep in mind that there may be other scent added to the product when you see ‘fragrance-free’. On the other hand, ‘unscented’ doesn’t mean toxic chemicals are not used and it is safe. Usually unscented products use fragrance agents to mask other smells. Typically, these masking fragrance agents are made of phthalates. Therefore, if you are choosing between the two, ‘fragrance-free’ will be the one that you want.
POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG) (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 3 -Contamination concerns on ethylene oxide – rated at 10 and 1,4-dioxane rated at 8)
Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are used as thickeners, softeners, moisture-carriers and penetration enhancers in many personal care products including shampoo. They are petroleum-based. During manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide is also classified as a developmental toxicant. 1,4-dioxane can be removed from the product during manufacturing process. However, manufacturers may not go through that process and consumers can not know whether removing has been done or not. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are especially toxic to people who have damaged skin. As an ingredient, it is listed as PEG, usually followed by a number. (read The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants or Dangers of PEG Compounds in Cosmetics.)
1,4-DIOXANE (EWG’S SKIN DEEP SCORE: 8)
1,4-dioxane is not an ingredient. It is formed when ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen, is added to other chemicals. Ethylene oxide is added to other chemicals to make the chemical less harsh on the skin. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), PEG compounds (PEGs), chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth, oleth, laureth, myreth can be contaminated by 1,4 dioxane. Therefore, when you see Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), PEG compounds (PEGs), chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth, oleth, laureth, myreth in baby shampoo & body wash’s ingredient list, there is a high chance that the chemical is contaminated by 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen and known human respiratory toxicant. There is also high concerns of organ system toxicity.
Examples of Baby Shampoo & Body Wash Ingredients
EARTH MAMA ANGEL BABY BODY WASH AND SHAMPOO
Earth Mama Angel Baby Body Wash And Shampoo is made from natural or organic ingredients and has no synthetic fragrance, antibacterial chemicals, phthalates, parabens or harsh sulfates. It’s vegan and also gluten-free. This shampoo has natural smell from organic vanilla and sweet orange essential oil.
Ingredients: Organic Potassium cocoate, Organic Potassium olivate, Aloe barbadensis (organic aloe) leaf juice, Vanilla planifolia (organic vanilla) fruit extract, Citrus sinensis (organic sweet orange), Kosher Vegetable glycerin, Potassium citrate, Butyrospermun parkii (organic shea) butter, Calendula officinalis (organic calendula) flower extract
Toxic Ingredients In This Shampoo and Body Wash: None. All of this lotion’s ingredients are rated ‘1’ by EWG’s Skin Deep.
Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo
Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo is a soap-free shampoo that uses tear-free formula. It has several toxic ingredients.
Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Glycerin, Coco-Glucoside, Sodium Chloride, *Citric Acid, Acrylates, C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, *Sodium Benzoate, Glyceryl Oleate, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-10, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Butylene Glycol, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
Toxic Ingredients In This Shampoo and Body Wash:
- Fragrance (EWG’s Skin Deep Score: 8)
Fragrance mixes often contain many synthetic chemicals including phthalates. Phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors interfere with our endocrine system and can cause lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis, and some cancers. However, fragrance can be listed as just ‘fragrance’ and phthalates don’t have to be listed on the baby lotion as an ingredient. Manufacturers do not have to disclose fragrance or perfume (or parfum) ingredients since ingredients can be considered as a trade secret. Therefore, as a consumer, you don’t know what synthetic chemicals have been added to fragrance mixes. Phthalate is just one ingredient that is commonly used for fragrance. Fragrance can have hundreds of different chemicals mixed in.
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine (EWG’s Skin Deep Score: 4, High contamination concern of Nitrosamines which has EWG score of 6)
Cocamidopropyl betaine is a surfactant. It is found in many baby ‘tear-free’ shampoos and soaps. It is made by mixing coconut oil with dimethylaminopropylamine. Dimethylaminopropylamine causes allergy, irritates the mucous membranes or causes skin irritation. There is also high contamination concerns of Nitrosamines. Nitrosamines has EWG score of 6. Nitrosamines are possible human carcinogen and there is a strong evidence of cancer.)
- Sodium Hydroxide (EWG’s Skin Deep Score: 3 or 4, depending on usage)
Sodium Hydroxide can cause severe burns in all tissues that it comes in contact with. It can also hydrolyze protein in eyes when in contact with them which can lead to severe eye damage. Children are more vulnerable to this chemical. (Toxic Substance Portal – Sodium Hydroxide)
- Sodium Benzoate + Citric Acid (Sodium Benzoate – EWG score: 3 + Citric Acid – EWG score: 2 = Benzene – EWG score 10)
In the article, This Is Why Sodium Benzoate Is So Scary, it states that the combination of sodium benzoate and citric acid and/or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) form benzene, a cancer-causing chemical. Aveeno Baby Wash And Shampoo has both citric acid and sodium benzoate in the ingredients. (marked with * and in bold)
If you are looking for an organic baby shampoo and body wash, please read my next post, ‘Best Organic Baby Shampoo And Body Wash Guide.‘