Diaper irritation can strike at any time, even for babies with the least sensitive skin. It’s no wonder why, with a baby’s skin being less thick than that of adult’s and subject to wiping thousands of times between birth and age two. What parents might not know is that dangerous chemicals and additives could possibly be lurking in their go-to wipes, which is why it’s so important to buy from a trusted brand and look for reliable certifications. Niki’s Natural Wipes, for example, rely on manuka honey and coconut oil for their soothing effect and have earned one of the highest certifications from the Environmental Working Group.
“Common baby wipe chemicals like methylisothiazolinone and phenoxyethanol were proving harmful to our son’s skin, so we had no choice but to develop an alternative,” says Niki’s founder and mother, Dr. Durka Naganayagam. “Research indicates that prolonged use of baby wipes containing alcohol-based preservatives and parabens such as phenoxyethanol and sodium citrate can be harmful to the skin and can lead to dermatological irritation in babies particularly those with sensitive skin and, in the process of making the cloth wipes, can lead to concerns of cross contamination.”
She goes on to explain that crude oil found in some plastics can find their way into baby wipes and be harmful to baby’s skin. “Parents looking for the safest options for their baby’s skin should carefully assess whether alcohol, phenoxyethanol, chlorine, petrochemicals, formaldehyde, parabens or phenols are in their baby wipes. Parents can also check to see if wipes have been certified safe to use on sensitive skin.”
Here’s a scary fact: 1 out 10 babies are allergic to an active ingredient found in common household wipes.
“Although the concentration of alcohol is not significantly high in baby wipes, prolonged use of baby wipes containing alcohol based preservatives can cause skin irritation, stripping away the outer layer of the skin especially to babies and toddlers with sensitive skin,” says Dr. Naganayagam. She recommends that parents look for all natural wipes – or as close to all natural as possible – and to look for wipes that have been independently dermatologically tested by Eurofin.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the main ingredients to avoid and why.
Parabens: “Used as a type of chemical preservative on a lot of skincare, beauty and baby products to keep the product ‘fresh’ and bacteria-free, parabens are believed to be carcinogens as they have been found inside breast cancer tumors,” says Jessica Hung, co-founder and CEO of Parasol Co, a natural diaper subscription for babies with sensitive skin. “There have also been recent discoveries of parabens found in marine life, leading researchers to believe the parabens from the products we use are being washed into the oceans and dispersed onto our environment damaging animals too. Parabens have many names, the most common ones are: butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.”
Sulfates: Also used as preservatives, there’s been scientific debates as to the specific extent of sulfates’ side effects. Some researchers say it’s safe, stating the most sulfates will do is strip moisture from the skin at its worst perhaps a slight irritation. Others however believe sulfates could also be harmful carcinogens. In some rare cases an individual could have an extreme sensitivity or allergy to sulfates causing severe dermatitis or even anaphylactic reactions,” says Hung.
Phthalates: “Used as lubricants and product softeners to make the product smoother, phthalates can have effects on hormones, damaging internal organs and creating reproductive problems or birth defects. It has also been linked to breast cancer,” says Hung.
Fragrances: “Used as aromatic perfumes, they can irritate skin and worsen already existing skin problems like rashes. Synthetic added fragrances and perfumes could also be toxic. Dyes, alcohol, chlorine are also common ingredients that not only don’t have any benefits but are also common irritants,” says Hung.