Bath and Body Products: What’s On the Label?

We all care about our children and want to do what‰Ûªs best for them. I can remember, as a young mother I worried about everything, from the diapers that I chose, to the type of bedding upon which princess would lay her precious little head. Back in those days, we did not have the Internet, so one could not simply Google it and learn everything that we wanted to know. We had to trust the companies to supply a product that met our standards. We assumed that if it was on the shelf, then it must be safe, right? That is what we were brought up to believe, but now we know better and we know that we could not have been more wrong.

This is especially true where bath products are concerned. When we surf the web, or go to our local store, we are inundated with claims such as All Natural, Non-Toxic, and Contains No PABA. What is PABA anyway, and why is it better to purchase a bath product without it? What do they mean ‰ÛÏnon-toxic‰Û? You mean someone was selling me ‰ÛÏtoxic‰Û products in the past? When one starts reading the fine print, any mother would raise a cautious eyebrow.

With 10 years as an analytical chemist under my belt, I began reading labels‰Û_and what I found made me cringe. First, let‰Ûªs examine PABA, that elusive word which the manufacturers claim one would be better without. PABA is a shortened version of Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA, which is a oily substance found in a number of products including shampoos, sunscreens, conditioners, hair sprays, makeup and other bath and body products. PABA is also sometimes found on labels as Padimate O. The main reasons for including PABA is that it absorbs UV rays, protecting the skin from harmful damage. The problem with PABA is that it may help in the formation of nitrosamines, which have been demonstrated to cause cancers in humans (Proksch, 2001). Now you know the scoop on PABA and why advertisers would see it as a selling point if their product does not contain it, but what about some of those other unpronounceable words on the bottle? Here is a list of other ingredients commonly found in bath products and other items that you may use on your little one.

Another potential cancer causing agent found in bath products designed for babies is 1,4-dioxane. Many people would be surprised to find formaldehyde on the label as well. Yes, you remember that one from biology lab. Some other ingredients that you might not want next to baby‰Ûªs skin are:
Diethanolamine (DEA), possible cancer causing agent
Triethanolamine (TEA), possible cancer causing agent
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), irritant that can effect eye development in infants
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), irritant that can effect eye development in infants
Propylene Glycol, absorbed through skin and can effect kidney and liver
Petrolatum or Mineral Oil, effects absorption of vitamins A and K.
Are you shocked? I was when I started reading labels. This is only a short list of the most common undesirable ingredients that can be found in children‰Ûªs bath products. So what can a mother do?

The answer is simple, first of all, read the label, write down any ingredient that you do not understand, come home and Google it. Be informed about what you put in your baby‰Ûªs body and on your baby‰Ûªs skin. Secondly, many products are now widely available that do not contain these types of ingredients. You might check out the baby products found on this website for beginners. You are not at the mercy of the manufacturers and their claims anymore, the age of the Internet has given parents the power to be informed and to make the best choices for their baby and the environment.

Knowledge is power, use it wisely.


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