When choosing skin care products for your baby, it’s hard to know what’s best. Here are tips from dermatologist and mom of two, Dr. Amy Kim, on how to choose safe skin care products for your baby. When choosing products, there are a few things to look for on the label, and a few that you don’t need.
Terms to Look For
Hypoallergenic and Clinically-Tested
When I choose products for my own kids, clinical testing is the first thing I look for. You will often see the term “hypoallergenic” on the product’s label. That means that the manufacturer spent the time and money to have outside dermatologists review their products and patch test them on consenting adults. Patch testing is done by exposing a person’s skin to the product over an extended period of time to make sure it won’t cause an allergic reaction. If no allergic reaction takes place, the product can be labeled hypoallergenic. Patch testing is also done for photosensitivity to make sure the product won’t promote sunburn. You definitely want clinically-tested, hypoallergenic products on your baby.
Good for Sensitive Skin or Irritant-Free
Products that have been deemed good for sensitive skin or carry the term irritant-free have likely undergone clinical testing to ensure this is true. Cumulative irritancy testing is performed to ensure that the skin is not irritated when it is exposed to the product over and over during the testing period. A quick way to determine if a product is good for sensitive skin, including eczema-prone skin, is to look for the National Eczema Association’s (NEA) Seal of Approval. This means that the NEA has conducted clinical testing of their own and identified the product as safe for sensitive skin and eczema. Since babies inherently have sensitive skin, look for this term when choosing skincare products for them.
Babies definitely need products that are free of fragrance, and so do people with sensitive skin or eczema. Babies’ skin is more delicate and irritation prone than adult skin so they should avoid fragrance. Fragrances are made up of chemicals and a single fragrance can be comprised of more than 100 chemicals to make that one scent. We all want our babies to have that oh-so-sweet smell, but fragrances are one of the top causes of contact, or skin, allergies. Repeated exposure to a fragrance can increase a person’s chance of allergic reaction so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Fragrance is for parents – not for the babies. If you absolutely want a scent for your baby, look for a product that gets its smell from a natural essential oil. Lavender and thyme are two scents that carry low allergy risk.
The term organic is regulated by the USDA, meaning there has to be truth to this claim to use it on the label. In general, if a product is organic it is made up of at least 70% organic ingredients. You can feel good knowing that a product is actually organic if its label claims it is.
The normal pH of healthy skin is acidic with a pH of 4.5 to 5.0. Products can be considered pH balanced if it has a similar acidic pH. This is important for skin care because products that are not pH balanced may strip skin of its natural oils and that stripping makes skin more vulnerable to irritancy.
Terms to Ignore
You don’t need to look for the term natural when it comes to skin care products. This is a widely used term in the skin care industry and has no regulation by any governmental agency. Also, products made of natural ingredients can actually be more irritating to skin because they are plant-based and there are many plant allergies. Sometimes a chemical version of a plant (which is still natural since it was created from a plant) may be a safer, less irritating option.
All products are made up of chemicals, and this includes both natural and man-made or synthetic chemicals. When a product says it’s chemical-free, the product is most likely using that term to market the product rather than actually avoiding chemicals that may cause irritation or allergic reaction. There is one exception to the rule. Chemical free sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium oxide as physical barriers to protect from the sun’s rays. In this instance, they don’t use chemicals to create the active sunscreen ingredient.
Preservatives are ingredients added to the product to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus. The truth is that preservatives are necessary to ensure the safety of the product and to ensure you’re not rubbing bacteria-infested lotion on your baby’s skin. However, look for paraben-free and phthalate-free preservatives, as these ingredients have some health concerns.
If you follow these simple guidelines – look for products that are hypoallergenic (clinically tested), irritant-free (good for sensitive skin and eczema), fragrance free and pH balanced – you’ll keep that delicious baby skin soft and healthy. And by the way, these are the same tips that adults need to follow to keep their skin healthy too!