Common Baby Skin Products with Harmful Chemicals Part 3

It’s disturbing enough to look at the ingredients in personal-care products and cosmetics for adults–with zero government regulation, these products are frequently filled with chemicals that are, no exaggeration, proven carcinogens. Take, for example, formaldehyde, categorized as a human carcinogen by both the U.S. government and the World Health Organization. This ingredient is the base of keratin treatments used for straightening hair. It’s also frequently used as a preservative in lotions and other products.

But it’s even more disturbing to discover the harmful ingredients present in popular products for babies. Parents of infants–likely too overwhelmed to research every ingredient on every product they buy–purchase these items in good faith, hoping to help their babies. Unfortunately, despite marketing to make these items seem healthful, some common baby products contain chemicals proven to be harmful.

So for this blog series, I researched some of the top-selling baby products in the U.S., and hope to share their harmful ingredients for all the parents of little ones who are a little too busy to spend time researching product ingredients. Here’s to naturally healthy little ones. 

#3: Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunscreen Lotion

This product gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database–a moderately high risk. Oftentimes long-lasting sunscreen products contain questionable ingredients designed to make them absorb more deeply into the skin. Of course we want to protect babies’ delicate skin from sun damage, but we are better off buying a sunscreen with only titanium dioxide and reapplying as needed.

Ingredients of concern:

Oxybenzone: Rated an 8 out of 10 on the EWG hazard scale, this ingredient is designed to enhance skin absorption, but it carries a high level of concern because it can cause biochemical or cellular level changes. It’s also an endocrine disruptor that may be bioaccumulative (builds up in the body over time). It has been shown in human studies to cause photoallergic reactions, an allergic response that causes redness and inflammation when skin is exposed to the sun.

Propylparaben: This commonly used paraben is ranked a 7 by the EWG for the strong evidence of its endocrine-disrupting actions. The endocrine system controls our hormones, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals are common in personal-care products.

BHT: BHT is a toluene-based ingredient used as a preservative. It’s ranked a 6 by the EWG because of its likelihood to irritate the skin, eyes or lungs, and potential toxicity to organ systems. It’s described as a “known human immune toxicant or allergen” with strong evidence by the European Food Safety Authority, and is “classified as expected to be toxic or harmful” on the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List.

This product also contains nine chemicals that rank a 3 or 4 (moderate risk) by the EWG. The 4 rankings include: homosalate, which poses contamination concerns (“sunlight breaks down the chemical into harmful byproducts,” the EWG says) and organ toxicity concerns; ethylparaben and methylparaben, two parabens considered endocrine disruptors and potentially immunotoxic; octisalate, another product used to enhance skin absorption; and phenoxyethanol, a preservative that can cause irritation of the skin, eyes or lungs. 

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