Giving your little ones a bath is already a process, and it can seem even more daunting when you don’t know exactly what you’re putting on your baby’s skin. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite non-toxic baby shampoos, body washes and bubble baths so that you can focus on keeping bath time fun.
Choose products that are fragrance-free, not unscented
Due to industry efforts to keep formulations private, manufacturers don’t have to tell you what’s in that baby smell you know and love. Chemicals that have a pleasant scent but haven’t been proven to be completely safe (like diethyl phthalate, resorcinol and synthetic musks) can hide behind the vague terms “fragrance” and “parfum” on an ingredient list.
What’s more, just because something is labeled “unscented” doesn’t mean it’s free of these problem ingredients. In many cases, fragrance ingredients are used in products in order to mask other odors.
Because manufacturers aren’t required to disclose their fragrance ingredients – even if they’re linked to allergies or other health implications – avoiding them can be difficult. Look for products that are labeled “fragrance-free,” (rather than unscented), or that explicitly state the fragrance ingredients on their packaging. Below are some of our favorite bath products that smell great and are transparent about what goes into their scents.
Be Wary of “Tear-Free” Shampoos
There’s a reason a lot of popular tear-free shampoos don’t hurt your little one’s eyes: ethoxylation, a process that makes chemicals less irritating but emits the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct. Shampoos and soaps often contain surfactants to lather, foam, and remove oil and dirt. The common surfactant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and scalp, so it undergoes ethoxylation to form the gentler sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
While manufacturers can ensure that there are no traces of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in products that contain SLES, its removal is not enforced by the FDA or any other agency.
When looking for tear-free products, be sure to check the ingredient list for sodium laureth sulfate, or use the HowGood Baby Product Safety Scanner to easily find products without SLS, SLES, or any other chemicals of concern. Below are some of our favorite bath products that are tear-free and don’t contain any sodium laureth sulfate.
Sulfate-free baby shampoos
Some brands, like the ones from Active Essentials and Dr. Bronner’s, are proudly not tear-free. Their products are soap-based, so while they don’t require synthetic surfactants like SLES, they have a naturally higher pH that can irritate your baby’s eyes. If your kiddos don’t make a lot of waves in the bathtub, try opting for a soap-based product instead.
Avoid certain ingredients for eczema-prone and sensitive skin
If your little one has eczema, steer clear of soap-based products that raise the skin’s pH, and avoid products with fragrance and botanical oils (like rose oil, vanilla, and sweet almond oil). Look out for sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), methylisothiazolinone, salicylic acid and glycolic acid when you’re reading a product’s ingredient list.
For more information on toxins that could be hiding in your in your baby’s bubble bath, check out nine ingredients in baby products you should know about.