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What the Skin Care Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About Their Products


The skin care industry is big business, and it’s booming. Expected to hit $115 billion by 2015, it is no surprise that some of the biggest powerhouses in branding and marketing are also the household names we have all come to associate with baby bath and body products. Yes people want their skin care products to work well, but safety of these products is the primary concern for most consumers. Two ingredients that have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane are present in many commercially available products. http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=221 Consumers should not feel powerless. You have the power to shape what products are available on the market through what you choose to purchase! I am going to break down for you why it is important to use natural products on your baby and what ingredients in particular to avoid in your skin care products. 

Why Chemicals are Harmful for Babies

To start off, the chemicals in skin care products are harmful to everyone, but even more so for babies. Sometimes we tend to forget that the skin is our largest organ. Skin is not an impermeable barrier. Products that we put on our skin are absorbed into your bloodstream at a rate that no one really knows. Toxins absorbed though the skin have the potential to cause harm, because the body does not get the chance to detoxify them. When we eat a chemical, such as a pesticide, it gets taken to the liver. In the liver we have a group of enzymes called Cytochrome P450 which help to break down the toxin and make it water soluble so it can be excreted in the urine. From the skin, the toxin goes directly into the bloodstream and bypasses the trip to the liver. Toxins are more of an issue with babies for a few key reasons. 1) Babies do not have fully developed nervous systems and many of these substances are neurotoxins 2) Babies have a higher percentage body fat than the typical adult does. This is important as many of the chemicals that are harmful, such as parabens are “lipophilic”, meaning fat loving. These chemicals get stored in the fatty tissues, which babies have more of, and then are released as the babies grow. This is a double edged sword, when the chemicals are released they cause disruption to the child’s hormones as they are known endocrine disruptors. 

What Should You Make Sure You Avoid 

This is where things get a little tricky! As there is no legislation in North America surrounding the word “natural” products can be labelled as natural when they contain as little as one natural ingredient! It’s best choose brands that you have researched and trust, so you don’t get fooled by the marketing!

Here is a short list of ingredients to absolutely avoid in your baby’s skin care products

1) Parabens- look for anything ending in “aben”. Commonly listed as propylparaben.

2) Phthalates- ends in “phthlate. Used to soften the products.

3) Diazolindinyl Urea and Quaternium-15- both cause the release of formaldehyde.

4) Fragrance- In North America manufacturers do not have to disclose what is in their “fragrance” as it is considered                proprietary information. The almost always contain parabens.

5) Triethanolamine- serves as a pH balancer. Known respiratory toxicant and strong allergen.

6) Polysorbate-20 and 80- Helps with the mixing of oil and water. Often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

7) Sodium Laureth Sulfate- Highly irritating to baby’s skin and eyes.

8) Petroleum Products- known as mineral oil and petroleum jelly. Commonly contaminated with polycyclic aromatic              hydrocarbons.

9) Propylene Glycol- Highly irritating to baby’s skin and eyes.

10) Diethanolamine (DEA)- serves as a pH balancer. Possible human carcinogen.

I hope this post gave you some insight in what to look out for, and why you are looking out for it!

Photo credit: Lauren Barendrecht


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  1. This is exactly why I started using Arbonne – Pure, Safe and Beneficial Products – originally I was a customer that loved them and now I am consultant that is still loving the products and sharing the business.

  2. Thanks for the comments! Always nice to get a conversation started.

    To start off having your ingredient list known and available to the public is the name of the game in the personal care products industry. You should be proud of your ingredients and willing to display them. In terms of ingredients being proprietary information that is also par for the course. As every good cook knows, there is far more to the recipe than the ingredients alone.
    While it is true that some brands are in fact 100% natural, since it is not a term that is protected in North America, it can be twisted into a “greenwashing” scenario. When I was in the process of getting my products approved for sale in Whole Foods Markets, this was one of the terms they suggested against using, due to its ambiguity. It was suggested to me to include what is not in my products as opposed to what is. It is a more honest, transparent approach, and today’s consumers are savvy and know exactly what they are looking for!
    I agree that Meghan Tepner’s post is a good overview of a few of the things that are fundamentally wrong with Arbonne, so I won’t attempt to reinvent that wheel. I also have had access to the ingredient list for some of Arbonne’s products through a consult. Speaking as a chemical engineer, toxicologist and naturopathic doctor, I will give a sampling of ingredients in which products may not be the best, and for what reason.
    Baby Lotion:
    1) Geraniol: Considered a “High Hazard” at a 7 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, this substance has been banned in the European Union as it is known to be toxic to the immune system and has a high probability of being an allergen. I found it’s Material Safety Data Sheet, for more in-depth info on the substance http://www.fishersci.com/ecomm/servlet/msdsproxy?LBCID=60359500&productName=AC410905000&productDescription=GERANIOL%2C+99%25+500GR&catNo=AC41090-5000+%3Cimg+src%3D%22%2Fglyphs%2Fgsa_glyph.gif%22+width%3D%2230%22+height%3D%2213%22+alt%3D%22Available+on+GSA%2FVA+Contract+for+Federal+Government+customers+only.%22+title%3D%22Available+on+GSA%2FVA+Contract+for+Federal+Government+customers.%22++border%3D%220%22%3E%26%23160%3B&vendorId=VN00032119&storeId=10652
    Herbal Diaper Rash Cream:
    First off the name herbal is misleading, considering all the non herbal substances that are present! It is not herbally based at all, the base is zinc oxide
    2) Zinc Oxide: is a nanoparticle, meaning it has the ability to get into the pores of the skin. In vitro, zinc oxide has been shown to increase the formation of reactive oxygen species and increase the rate of cell death http://www.chem.ucla.edu/dept/Faculty/zink/publications/ACS.Nano.2008.2.10.2121.2134.pdf
    One of the main issues with nanoparticles is they are still fairly new, so enough time has no passed for their long term safety to be prudently evaluated . http://phys.org/news/2012-07-nanoparticles-big-potential-threat.html
    3) Cyclohexasiloxane: A silicone that has been shown to bioaccumulate. Bioaccumulation is particularly harmful for babies as they have a higher percentage of body fat/body weight giving them more stores for these accumulating substances. This article discusses the levels of silicones that are found in a sample of the Canadian population. It is relevant, because even though one of your products may be below the threshold of safety, when you add all the products together that you are using you can easily exceed this. Silicones are a common ingredient in conventional baby products http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19361861
    Geraniol is also present in this product.
    I don’t believe that Arbonne Consultants are “bad” or are trying to deceive the consumer. They are merely stating what they have been told to be true from their product education, and you should not have to be a chemical engineer to be able to determine if your skin care products are safe. This is not to center Arbonne out, they just happened to be brought up in the thread. Most conventional baby skin care products contain these ingredients or worse! This is why it is so important to research the brand you are using.

  3. To the Michelle – who said “that is why I buy Arbonne” – that’s laughable. Arbonne is on the list of products that have harmful ingredients. Don’t buy into these companies’ WE ARE ALL NATURAL AND SAFE BS..

  4. Thanks for the responses! If there is anything in particular you are interested in learning more about, just leave it in the comment section and I will do my best to address it in future posts!

  5. I agree Jan, and I am hopeful that more and more people are realizing this! Especially women who use a lot of products and then get pregnant

  6. I love this post. I’m definitely going to be printing off your list. For the reasons you have indicated I have only been using olive oil on my son as a moisturizer but just recently started using Seventh GEneration cream on my son…I’ll have to check the ingredient list with your list above. FOr myself, I’ve always tried to do some research on what I use and always check out paulaschoice.com . Her website is great because she rates the different companies and all their products and tells you exactly WHY they are getting the rating…….

  7. Thanks for the information. As well as looking at what is and isn’t in products, it’s also useful to just avoid products that aren’t needed.

  8. It’s nice to have the list of harmful ingredients we have to try and take care of our own health and the health of our family thereare too many products out there that are more harmful than good

  9. This is a terrible predicament because we should be able to trust what’s on the market. After all what are the government standards for? I can’t believe the government lets products on the store shelves that can be dangerous.


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