The moment when women reach pregnancy and motherhood is frequently the time when they begin to think about what they are putting both in and on their bodies. It’s usually the time in life when people make the choice to switch to a more healthy, holistic way of life. This may include eating organic produce wherever possible and utilising natural and organic products.
There are a whole host synthetic ingredients used in beauty products, and sadly in many products for babies too, many of which hold no benefit to skin health and may be detrimental to our overall wellbeing and health.
Due to there being no regulation in the beauty industry, products can claim to be “natural” or “organic” yet contain minimal amounts of such content. It is believed that the inclusion of some chemicals in products, such as preservative methylisothiazolinone (MI), is contributing to the rise in allergies such as asthma and eczema.
Eczema does occur in 10-15% of babies but it is often treatable and may sometimes even be caused by those skincare products that we are told to use on our children, such as soaps, bath foams and body lotions/oils. A child’s immune system is not fully developed until the age of 6 (Stuart-Macadam & Dettwyler, 1995) so it is common sense not to expose children to unnecessary chemicals particularly at such a young age.
When using a product on a baby, it is quite normal to apply product all over, whereas as adults we apply only where needed. The area of skin to body weight ratio is completely different in children than in adults, meaning that any product you apply to an infant’s skin potentially has a stronger effect. This doesn’t mean that cosmetic products you use on your children automatically enter their bodies or their bloodstreams (our skins are very effective protective barriers after all) but do consider that an infant’s skin is thinner than that of an adult.
According to the Women’s Environmental Network, until babies are six months old, infants lack a blood-brain barrier to prevent blood-borne toxins entering the brain. In other words, low-level exposure to certain chemicals that would have little or no effect on an adult brain can potentially have an effect on the developing brain of a baby. Greenpeace goes on to warn us that “we should certainly be wary of any chemical that has been found to be intrinsically hazardous and that gets into our children’s bodies and stays there”.
In 2011, Denmark enforced a ban on the sale of all cosmetic products containing certain parabens (propyl and butyl parabens) for children up to 3 years of age, despite the mainstream cosmetics industry stance defending their use of parabens and claiming that they are safe to use.
The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety consequently issued an official opinion on Denmark’s controversial decision, as this move clearly went directly against EU-wide consumer cosmetic legislation where parabens are deemed to be safe for use (SCCS, 2011). Interestingly, this committee concluded that in the case of children below the age of 6 months they could not exclude a risk from certain parabens present in leave-on cosmetic products designed for application on the nappy area given a baby’s immature metabolism and risk of damaged skin (e.g. nappy rash). They also went on to say that safety concerns could legitimately be raised.
We recommend only using baby care products sparingly, and only on the areas needed. Think about the associations we make with babies – “skin as smooth as a baby’s bum”, and the smell, that unmistakable scent. So you don’t need products to make babies smell nicer in our opinion, and neither do you need an all-over body lotion! I would recommend a gentle bath and shampoo all in one product, a lotion or cream for nappy rash and not much else!
References and Further Reading
- The Guardian, 2004. Throw out the bath water? http://www.guardian.co.uk/chemicalworld/story/0,14534,1210214,00.html
- Royal College of Midwives. 2008. A review of baby skin care. http://www.rcm.org.uk/midwives/in-depth-papers/a-review-of-baby-skin-care/
- Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), 2011. Clarification on Opinion SCCS/1348/10 in light of the Danish clause of safeguard banning the use of parabens in cosmetic products intended for children under 3 years of age. http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_069.pdf
- Stuart-Macadam, P. & Dettwyler, K.A. 1995. Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives (Foundations of human behavior)