Sometimes being a parent can feel like you spend every day trying to save your child from one catastrophe or another—whether it’s a fall off a swing set or a near-miss choking incident, getting adequate nutrition into your picky eater or ensuring your child is safe when going online.
As if you already did not have enough concerns, you can now add another one to the list: Many baby and child skin care products are contaminated with a slew of toxic chemicals that can have negative consequences on your child’s health and development.
Young skin looks and functions differently to adult skin. The self-protection mechanisms prevalent in healthy adult skin are less developed and, as a result, babies and children need special care to keep their skin healthy.
Understanding Young Skin
A baby or young child’s skin is thinner and more delicate than adult skin. It reacts more sensitively to external aggressors and needs extra special care and protection. Although the skin of little ones has the same number of layers as adult skin, each layer is considerably thinner. Overall baby skin is one-fifth of the thickness of adult skin.
The outermost layer of the epidermis is much thinner and the cells are less tightly packed than in adult skin. The sweat and sebaceous glands are also less active than in adults, so the hydrolipid film (an emulsion of water and fats that covers and protects the surface of skin) and the protective acid mantle (the water part of the hydrolipid film, which is mildly acidic) are still relatively weak. (1)
As a result, the barrier function is limited resulting in baby skin being:
- Less resistant than adult skin and is especially sensitive to chemical, physical and microbial influences: Substances that come in to contact with baby skin are absorbed more easily and penetrate into deeper skin layers more readily.
- Prone to drying out.
- More sensitive to UV rays than adult skin.
Melanocytes (the cells responsible for melanin production) are present, but less active in young skin making it even more sensitive to UV exposure.
Babies and young children experience challenges regulating their body temperature as
- The surface area of their bodies is relatively large in relation to their volume, resulting in greater thermal loss.
- Sweat gland activity is reduced compared to that of adults so they cannot compensate for high temperatures.
- The circulatory network in young skin is not fully formed and is slow to adapt to temperature changes with vascular constriction or dilation.
This makes babies and young children especially sensitive to extreme temperatures and changes in temperature.
By the approximate age of 6, the structure of skin and its appendages is fully matured and corresponds to that of an adult. Sebaceous gland activity does not increase until the hormonal changes of puberty, which occur at the approximate age of 12. The skin of boys and girls is the same until hormonal changes bring about differences between the structure and behavior of boys’ and girls’ skin.
In a comprehensive review, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that infants and young children are significantly more vulnerable to carcinogenic substances than adults. This means even exposure to tiny amounts of toxic substances can have negative health effects. Children need special care and UV protection when outdoors.
The FDA has no power to require that cosmetics be reviewed for safety before they are put on the market. The EWG has found that 77% of the ingredients in 17000 reviewed children’s products have never been assessed for safety: Diaper wipes alone can contain propylene glycol (found in antifreeze), parabens (a preservative), and perfume (associated with phthalates and other toxins).
In the U.S., beauty care products are not required to label their ingredients and in Canada there are many loopholes that allow companies to hide toxic ingredients. Neither country requires pre-market testing for human safety of chemicals used in cosmetics. As a result, most products found on the shelves aren’t proven safe:
Navigating products to use on your kids is no easy task, and sourcing products that adhere to Paleo principles and comply with your Paleo lifestyle can be even more challenging. For starters, claims of all natural and organic on the label can become a huge disappointment, not to mention confusing, once you start dissecting all the ingredients found on the label on the back. There is the further concern of the product being effective and doing what it promises on the label. There are, however, many safe and more natural options available for babies and children that are well-made and effective, even on the most sensitive of skin.
Beware of Fragrance
Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. Most or all of them are synthetic and many are toxic. In addition, perfumes and fragrances can be allergenic. If allergies run in your family, you might want to take care not to expose your baby to potential allergens, including fragrances.
Clinical observation by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.
Phthalates have become newsworthy of late due to the potential dangers to long term health. This man-made-chemical is often hidden in “fragrances” to help a fragrance stay on the skin longer.
Be Mindful of Sunscreen
Sunscreens are some of the worst offenders. SPF, safe, healthy and waterproof are all claims that are used without standards or enforcement. Many sunscreens not only protect children from harmful UVA rays, but also contain ingredients that become dangerous when exposed to sunlight, toxins, and synthetic fragrances. Some of the best-known companies are the worst offenders.
Always avoid these ingredients for children and when possible for adults
- Ceteareth & PEG compounds: Used in some cosmetic cream bases.
- Benzyl & isopropyl alcohol and methylchloroisothiazolinone & methylisothiazolinone
- Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate;
- DEA-related ingredients: Used in some creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos.
- Petrolatum: Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers.
- Formaldehyde: Used in a variety of cosmetics.
- Siloxanes: Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten.
- Sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate: Used in some foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath.
Tips, Strategies, & Suggestions
Often, one is acutely aware of ingredients and protocols for their own personal care, and when it comes to your children, choosing Paleo friendly products, free from toxic chemicals should be no different. There is no need for a myriad of different products for your child and ‘perfuming’ with ‘baby’ scented powders, fragranced soaps and shampoos is unnecessary. These products can be quite harmful to your child’s health.
- You can greatly reduce exposure to all ingredients that haven’t been proven to be safe for children by using homemade baby care products or simple, naturally occurring ingredients (olive oil and coconut oil are mild, effective moisturizers)
- Source local, small-batch, hand-crafted products which use the purest and most natural, edible ingredients. If an ingredient absorbed well by your gut, it will work similarly on the skin!
- Use ‘edible skincare’: If you could not eat it, avoid putting it on your baby’s skin.
- Make your own wipes. You can use warm filtered water and clean cotton rags at your diaper station. Alternately make your own wipes by mixing a few drops of tea tree oil and/or lavender with water and spraying on cotton rags or flushable disposable rags.
- Develop systems to minimize reliance on wipes, barrier creams, and baby powders. Change your baby frequently and try cloth diapers.
- Limit bath time: Hot water and long baths remove lipids from skin. Reduce time and use warm, rather than hot, water.
- Avoid ALL anti-bacterial soaps and sanitizers. Antibacterial soaps should not be used on children according to the FDA. The chemicals in antibacterial soaps indiscriminately kill all bacteria and are unable to differentiate between beneficial organisms and potential threats. Overuse of antibacterial products has been linked to allergies and asthma. Similarly, avoid alcohol-based sanitizers.
- Use mild cleansers: Alkaline soaps are aggressive on skin, remove lipids and dry it out.
Beautycounter is committed to providing better skincare and sun protection for your family and believe that everyone, no matter what age deserves better, safer products. The baby and kids collections are made with simple ingredients that have been meticulously researched and tested. All products gently cleanse and protect your baby's delicate skin leaving you worry free. Sunscreens are made without chemical SPF filters due to their high potential for skin irritation. Non-nano zinc oxide is used and its particle size evaluated to ensure there is no potential risk and does not enter the blood stream to cause harmful effects to the body.
Visit the EWG Skindeep website to find out the safety of your skincare items. Living Paleo and raising Paleo children in our modern world is less about mimicking the lifestyle of our ancestors, and more about avoiding the toxins created by our modern environment. Choose skincare that is effective yet proven not to be harmful to your child’s delicate skin.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com