Parents, are you fussy when it comes to the products you use on your children? You may look for “extra gentle,” “tear free,” “hypoallergenic,” and “natural” to avoid synthetic preservatives, dyes, fragrances, and foaming agents—linked to health concerns including skin rashes, hormone disruption, and cancer—but these terms don’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid potentially harmful chemicals, according to experts.
“Many commercial products can contain petrochemicals [chemical products derived from petroleum] and still claim to be ‘natural,’” says Randall Neustaedter, OMD, a homeopathic pediatrician and author of The Holistic Baby Guide (New Harbinger, 2010). The long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals are not entirely clear, but some ingredients, including butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in diaper-rash balms and phthalates found in shampoo and soaps are suspected carcinogens—and they’re even more potent to your little one’s body than to yours. “Kids are three times more susceptible to toxic effects than adults,” says Neustaedter.
The safest bet: Choose USDA Organic or NSF/ANSI 305 “Contains Organic Ingredients” items, or products that are truly natural—certified by the Natural Products Association or NaTrue (and stay up-to-date on NSF/NaTrue’s developing natural personal care standard at deliciousliving.com). Plus, regularly check the Environmental Working Group’s updated Skin Deep cosmetics database, which gives safety ratings for thousands of personal care products and now contains a section dedicated to children’s products. In general, the fewer ingredients a product contains, the better it’ll be for your child’s health. Here are some smart-shopping pointers and top safe-product picks.