Monday, April 30, 2018

10 things to avoid in your baby's skin care products:


Sorry for the radio silence last month, those following me on social media (Facebook & Instagram), know that I have been contributing to a couple magazines, in addition to working on a start up, so my writing efforts were channeled elsewhere last month. For those in India, do check out March's Mother and Baby magazine for a detailed piece on how to raise fearless feeders, and April's Conde Nast Traveller (hard copy of both) for some summer inspiration on adventure holidays with kids!!

I've been posting a lot about skin care cosmetics, and how it is safer for our little ones that we use more natural and/or organic products. Particularly in today's day, when most of the products available in the market  have chemical components in them, and harsh surfactants (cleansers). However, we now know through the news and scientific studies that it is as dangerous to put these on your skin as it would to eat them. Our skin is porous and receptive, and chemicals can seep through to our blood and have dangerous long term effects. So, it is best to know what you are putting on your skin, and especially your babies' skin, and is even better to keep your kids away from products that have a high chemical content.

If you are from the school of thought that says "well, we used these products/ chemicals growing up and are fine." I've used that argument in the past too when I didn't know better. However, having your own children changes a lot more than your body, it can change your perspective too, and the fact of the matter is - diseases like eczema, polycystic ovarian syndrome, autism and the multitude of cancers we see were just not as prevalent before as they are today. I personally have suffered from PCOS for most of my life too, and know the reproductive and hormonal havoc it causes.So, if it's simply a matter of being safer with our children by changing our product preferences, then why not?

What is the difference between organic and natural?

There is a difference between organic products and natural products, and also natural actives. So, let's start with what that is and if and why it matters.

Natural actives - products with these have some natural elements to it but are not all natural, for example it may have oats or avocado, but then a ton of chemicals too. Most companies that claim to have naturals, natural ingredients, or natural sensations, particularly from age old brands, fall into this category. However, these are NOT natural or organic products. They basically have one or two natural ingredients, and can be filled with a ton of lathering chemicals, solvents, thickeners and chemical preservatives. Please avoid these, and check the label and ingredient list before you purchase these.

Natural products - a fully natural product can be herbal, organic or just natural - which means that it has plant and vegetables or herbs, it's important to check if it's with natural elements or ALL NATURAL. And also to keep in mind that this does not mean that it is organic.

Organic - 100% organic is almost a myth unless something has no preservatives and then the shelf life will be non existent (so that's very difficult to achieve and also not the safest to use over time as atleast natural preservatives are needed in skin care products to keep microbes from growing ). However, there are some natural preservatives that can be used in organic product, to get to a high % of organic, with the rest of the product being natural (which is the best and safest to use). 

What is organic? It is ingredients grown on an organic farm, where the water, the cleansers, and everything coming into contact with the ingredient is organic (and there are no chemicals or pesticides that touch the produce at all). While all natural is amazing, organic is a choice that's more expensive (as it's harder for brands to achieve) but is a worthwhile choice for our babies as it is purer in quality.

Organic labels for organic certified products include - made with Organics ingredients (where the rest are natural); and organic - which is a higher level of organic.

Ingredients to avoid in Baby Care products:

The most important thing is to read labels, though they sometimes look like greek, and even natural extracts have long names that make them seem like chemicals, while some harsh and even toxic chemicals have quick abbrevations that make you dismiss them completely. Truthinaging is a great great resource to quickly look up the toxicity of any ingredient you are unsure of. 

Below is a list though of ingredients to avoid in Baby Care Products (and of course, what they are and why).

10 things to avoid in baby care products:

1. Parabens:
Parabens are inexpensive and effective preservatives that were, until recently, used in 80% of cosmetic and personal care products. The most common being methylparaben and propylparaben. However, they have been found to mimic estrogen, which research has shown time and time again to be linked to the development and progression of breast cancer. Infact, studies have shown that 18 out of 20 breast cancer tumors have parabens in them (and more than half of all tumors appear in the portion closest to the underarm, where deodorant is used). So not only, are they dangerous, but they seem to stay in the body over time. 

2. SLS/SLES (more commonly known as sulphates): Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), are surfactants. They are put into products because of their cleaning properties and because they foam. Lather is often associated with being clean, and with a product's ability to clean,  even though the two things are unrelated! A product without lather can be just as effective a cleanser as a product that lathers a great amount. However, the one with less lather is likely to be a safer with chemicals that are not as harsh. 
             While SLS/ SLES's were investigated thoroughly as they were suspected to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), the jury on that is still out. However, it is known that they are harsh irritants, can cause skin allergies, and they also increase the ability of other products to stay in the skin. They have been found in the brain, lungs and heart - where you wouldn't want any chemicals to be! They have also been linked to causing fertility problems - in both men and women. 

3. PEGs, or polyethylene glycol:  is a mixture of compounds including plastic polymers that have been stuck together. These are great for making your creams and washes feel thicker (and emulsified). They often have a number attached which represents the weight of the plastic. If the fact that it's plastic is not alarming enough, please consider that anything with a PEG cannot be used on a cut, scrape or what many bottles will call "broken skin," this is because it's great at literally getting under your skin, and sometimes has a very dangerous impurity called 1,4 dioxine, that is cancer causing and can be given out as a bi-product. PEGs are famous for their penetration enhancing effect, which means that they help other ingredients too get directly into your system, so do you trust everything else that's in your product which already has PEGs? 

4. PPGs or proplyene glycol, absorbs water and is often used to make anti-freeze. It's also a solvent and penetration enhancer like PEG. Even though it absorbs water, it actually dries out the skin. It's used as an industrial cleaner to clean out machinery, due to it's harsh nature. Over time, it can cause skin issues like eczema and contact dermatitis.

5. Phenoxyethanol: Phenoxyethanol, began to be used as a paraben alternative, and now is very commonly used - as a preservative. Over time, it has proved to be just as deadly. Not only is it a culprit in contact dermatitis and skin conditions like eczema, but it has been linked to issues in the central nervous system, as it has toxic effects on the brain. In girls, use over time, can cause reproductive damage.

6. Sodium Benzoate: Sodium Benzoate is actually used in products - many many products, that claim to be natural and safe. However, sodium benzoate encourages the production of free radicals in the body, that actually destroy your DNA!! When mixed with other things like Vitamin C (which is great on it's own), it creates benzene, a common culprit in cancers. 

7. Acrylates: These are used in parlors to help bind your acrylic nails to your hands. So what are they doing in on your baby's skin? They help lotions appear thick and creamy. In concentrated form, they cause major skin issues, but even in a milder form, they seep into the skin and can cause harm in the long run.

8. Harsh Surfactants like CAPB: Surfactants are what causes our products to foam. There are mild surfactants that are safe and harsher ones like cocamilopropyl betine that cause more lather (even though they do not actually clean any better than the mild surfactants), and also cause more skin issues and toxicity. This is found in most bubble baths of chemical origin, and are known to react with other common chemicals in skin products to create nitrosamines, which are cancer causing. Its a very common trigger in eczema, rosacea and contact dermatitis too.

9. Mineral Oil: Once these were all the rage, but now we know better. We know that mineral oils are derived from petroleum, and they actually block the skin and do not let it breathe. They form a thick layer over the skin and stop air from going in and out. This causes skin to age prematurely, and produce acne, in addition to stopping the skin from giving out toxins, which is one of its primary functions.Mineral Oil is often contaminated with dangerous hydrocarbons too, which can cause havoc in your baby's body.

10. Silicones: Silicones are like polymers, they go under a multitude of different names (eg methicone, dimethicone, trimethicone, dimethiconol, cyclypentasyloxane). They are smoothening, water resistant, and cheap. However, they can dehydrate your skin, interfere with cell growth, and are very difficult to get off your skin. They also interfere with other ingredients, for example, if your mosturizer has silicone in it, it will not be as effective as a moisturizer. 

If everything is so unsafe what is safe?
There are an endless number of natural oils like olive, sweet almond, macademia, calendula and so on that are now being used in formulations at an increasing rate that are completely safe. Not only are they safe but they are great for the skin and the body. The cosmetic industry is well aware of these issues, but often choose less than safe ingredients due to the availability and pricing of them. However, as parents we need to know what we are using on our kids skin and no better. I am choosing not to mention any product names as the purpose of this is purely educational and not to push forward any brands. 

I hope this list gives you a good place to start with educating yourself on what to and what not to use on your babies and on yourselves too.

More to come!xx


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