As a new mother, I am keen to select skin care products for my child that are free of potentially harmful toxins.
Formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, and 1,4-dioxane are among the top offenders. These chemicals may not be listed by name among the ingredients. For instance, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can be released by other chemicals such as quarternium-15, a widely used preservative in skin care products. Paraben is another commonly used preservative in shampoos and moisturizers, and its estrogen-mimicking properties have caused some to suggest a potential association with breast cancer, though no direct causal link has been established. Among a small percentage of allergic patients, parabens can cause a contact dermatitis or skin irritation.
Phthalates are chemical plasticizers that are used to enhance absorption of lotions and to stabilize fragrances. Since the ingredients in scents are considered proprietary information, the term fragrance may actually contain phthalates. Phahlates are known endocrine disruptors and linked to a potential increased risk of breast cancer, early puberty, and reproductive birth defects. The jury is still out on just how dangerous phthalates are, but human studies are underway to examine whether they are implicated in asthma or childhood obesity.
Another chemical found in shampoos, 1,4-dioxane, is a byproduct of the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate and is a probable human carcinogen.
Baby sunscreens should also be inspected to avoid chemicals. Zinc-based products are best for babies’ sensitive skin.
Propylene glycol is another ingredient that can cause contact dermatitis among those who are allergic to it.
It is impossible to avoid all potential chemicals in the world, and parents can drive themselves crazy trying to minimize risk to their helpless babies. Nevertheless, it makes sense to take steps to protect our children when possible. The level of risk to our children is likely correlated with the amount of cumulative exposure, so the earlier we start being mindful of our choices, the better.