There are so many decisions to make when there’s a new baby, from choosing between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, to deciding if you should co-sleep, to going for the Ferber method or another approach when it comes to soothing crying babies.

With so many big decisions to make, parents may take one important thing for granted: the kind of products they use on their babies’ skin.

Babies’ skin is thinner, more delicate, and more prone to dryness than adults’ so they naturally need skincare products that have been formulated for their specific needs. Skincare products that are specially formulated for babies generally have milder ingredients, less fragrance, and no soap or alcohol, which can dry out skin. But is it enough?

While choosing products formulated for babies is a no-brainer, parents also have to decide whether to spend extra money on organic or natural baby products. Confused? Read on. 

What Are Organic Skincare Products?

Organic skincare products are made with ingredients that were grown using no pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetic enhancements and using conscientious farming practices. They are also free of harmful chemicals.

Natural baby products are likewise made from natural ingredients, but not all-natural products are organic—while their ingredients may be 100% from nature, there is no assurance that the raw ingredients were grown organically.

There is evidence that topically applied products can seep through the skin and be absorbed into the bloodstream. (You don’t have to look further than nicotine patches, which are stuck onto the skin to allow nicotine into the body when weaning off smoking.) Therefore, whatever you put in your baby’s skin can affect her insides.

Non-organic skincare products have many ingredients that have been shown to have harmful effects on health. Some ingredients to watch out for are the following:

  • These are preservatives used in body wash, shampoo, and cleansers to keep contamination at bay. Reports have linked parabens to breast cancer risk, endocrinal disruption, and skin allergies.
  • This is what makes bath and body products smell good. But the Environmental Working Group smells something fishing, stating that added fragrance may cause allergies, dermatitis, and respiratory problems.
  • These make products soft and flexible. The risks associated are endocrine disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, and reproductive birth defects (so expectant mommies should be especially vigilant!).
  • This endocrine disruptor and skin irritant is found in antibacterial soap—but you shouldn’t be using antibacterial soap on your baby to begin with.
  • Found in bath products, these can irritate skin, eyes, and lungs. When combined with other chemicals, it may increase the risk of cancer.
  • This is used to inhibit the growth of bacteria in products like body wash, shampoo, and cleanser. It has been linked to nervous system and respiratory issues. Most alarming? The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has classified it as a carcinogen.
  • Propylene glycol. Found in moisturizer, it can irritate skin and lead to dermatitis and hives.
  • 1,4- In a Huffington Post story, organic advocate Deborah Burnes writes that this is a common ingredient in baby shampoo. “…1,4-dioxane is cited as a probably carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as an animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program,” she says. Some of the possible effects of this chemical are eye and nose irritation, liver and kidney damage, and even cancer.

The Bottom Line

It can get overwhelming trying to figure out which products are a cause for concern. But the basic rule of thumb is to use the cleanest possible products—those free of chemicals—on your baby. And this often means going for organic or natural baby products.

Even then, you still have to place baby products under close scrutiny—since there is no formal regulation on organic skincare labeling, some labels may be misleading. Burnes cites 1,4-dioxane as an example of what’s not found on labels: “Because 1,4-dioxane is produced during manufacturing, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not require for it to be listed as an ingredient on the labels of products.”

Only purchase organic products from brands that you trust, that are transparent about the ingredients they use, and that are open to answering any questions you might have about their products. They may be a little pricier compared to non-organic products, but your baby’s health is definitely worth it. Shopping for chemical-free skin care for babies? Visit Healthy Options, the largest organic retailer in the Philippines.