It is an unfortunate fact of life today that we live in a world that is full of allergens, dangerous chemicals, and toxic products. Over the decades, we have allowed the personal care and chemical industries to intermingle in an unprecedented way, which resulted in the creation of millions of harmful products. Worse yet, most people have no idea what they are putting into or onto their bodies and how these products are putting stress on their health and increasing toxicity inside of their bodies. The average person sees the ads and hears the commercials for these products, and is easily lured into buying these personal care products thanks to the billion-dollar marketing campaigns that make them appear so attractive and desirable.
This problem is not isolated to products marketed to adults, however. On the contrary, the baby and children’s personal care market is riddled with the very same problems. Conventional child care products stand out as different not because they are “safer” or “healthier” but because they are marketed to appear as such. Hence, each day, billions of parents around the world are lathering and slathering their babies and children with harmful products that add to the accumulation of toxins in their bodies and increase their risk of allergies, skin conditions, asthma, cancers, hormonal problems, infections, and other immune-related diseases. Most parents think that they are doing the “right thing” by getting personal care products for their babies and children from those specifically designated-for-them store sections. Yet, these products are not fit for any health-conscious adult, never mind the delicate skin and fragile body of a young and growing child.
Over the years, I have heard countless heartbreaking stories from parents who are overwhelmed and frustrated by the different food allergies, substance sensitivities, and peculiar health conditions that their children express from infancy. These parents often feel helpless, burned out, and defeated due to the numerous restrictions that need to be put on the child’s life and special protocols that need to be followed given their children’s specific dietary and lifestyle requirements. It is only when the parents start to research and understand the depth of the chemical and toxin problem that we have today when things begin to take on a different picture. Once parents understand how the food they feed their children, the drugs they give their children, and the products they put on their children all contribute to the health problems their children have, they begin to make different choices and decisions.
We cannot expect our child to have a healthy body unless we give that body what it needs to grow and function and avoid giving it things that harm it. This is a basic known fact that in the olden days was called “common sense”.
- The things that are required by ALL human bodies to work properly are nutrients from real food, clean air and sufficient oxygen, clean and sufficient amount of water, adequate movement and rest, and appropriate mental and social stimulation.
- The things that hurt ALL human bodies are diets that lack nutrients, diets that are high in synthetic substances, pesticides, and other chemicals, polluted and/or inadequate air, polluted and/or inadequate water, toxins from personal care and other products used daily, lack of sufficient movement and rest, and destructive mental and social stimulation.
While each of the above necessary components for good health and risk factors deserves its own explanation, this guide will strictly focus on the personal care component and how to reduce toxins in your child’s life as much as possible, while increasing their health defenses.
1. Feed your baby the most protective food right from the start
Most health-conscious adults understand the risks and downsides of processed foods and why these should be avoided or at the very least kept to a minimum. Yet ask many of these same adults what they feed their baby and the answer will often be “formula.” Just like with personal care products, baby formula has been marketed over the past few decades as a desirable product that has caused many parents to abandon their natural instincts in favor of this problematic substance. At face value, however, formula is processed food, and while some are better than others, none of them provide the nourishment and protection that the mother’s milk can.
This is why the first and most important habit to adopt when you have a child is to do everything possible to feed it breastmilk. There is no synthetic substance that can replace this miraculous food product created ever so wisely by nature. Breastmilk has everything that the infant needs to build a strong immune system, grow, and develop properly through its formative and later years. The more a baby can be fed with its mother’s breastmilk for the first year or two of its life, the more health benefits it gains for its entire life. Of course, it goes without saying here that the mother needs to be conscious of nourishing her body properly while breastfeeding and avoiding as many toxins as she can as well.
2. Reduce the number of products you put on your baby/child
Do you know what is the most valuable substance to clean a human body and achieve proper hygiene? Water. This is the most gentle and effective way to cleanse the body and all that is required in most cases, especially when it comes to babies. The reason being is that babies do not require any kind of heavy-duty cleaning and trying to do that to them hurts much more than it helps. Babies are sheltered from a lot of dirt, toxins, pollutants, and contaminants to which most adults are exposed, and putting conventional cleansing products on them only works against the natural defense mechanisms of their skin and immune system. Next to water, the only thing that is required, is a gentle soap but not necessarily always or for all body parts. A soap that is most natural, most neutral (not overly acidic or alkaline), and least impacted by synthetic ingredients, fragrances, and colors is the best and safest choice. Be sure to avoid any kind of anti-bacterial soap.
We do not need umpteen different products that are marketed for a specific body part, a specific age, or a specific season, not for us and not for our children. That is all just mental manipulation to buy more products and make you doubt your own instincts for knowing how to best take care of yourself and your children. Soap has been proven over and over again to be the most effective way to remove any physical, chemical, bacterial, and viral particles. Simple soap is powerful at what it does because it breaks the bonds between any particles that are stuck to our skin so that they can be effectively removed and rinsed away.
When it comes to a baby’s skin, we have to understand that it is perfect, delicate, and fragile all at the same time. For centuries, a baby’s skin was treated with minimal products of natural origin but in modern society it is inundated with the numerous synthetic products marketed for babies. This creates a vicious cycle of skin problems and immune stress that make the child more prone to all types of allergies. As your child grows, you can introduce a natural shampoo when you feel it may be beneficial. Other than that children do not need any other personal care products. If your baby or child develops dry skin, this does not mean that they need a skin lotion. Rather, it signifies that the products you are using and/or what they are being fed is not good for them. Human skin is not naturally prone to becoming dry unless we disrupt our internal or external balance with any food or personal care chemicals. It is one thing to massage your baby with a pure and high-quality oil for soothing and calming purposes (more on this later) and quite another to apply any kind of moisturizers to their skin. All body lotions include alcohol and other drying ingredients and should not be applied to a child’s skin or even an adults, as it creates a vicious cycle of skin imbalances. Always look towards the diet to nourish and balance the skin properly from the inside out - the best way! - and use the least and most natural cleansers.
3. Avoid scented products
Did you know that synthetic and artificial fragrances that are found in ALL conventional personal care products for babies, children, and adults are some of the most harmful ingredients? Such fragrances come with tremendous risks as they are highly allergenic, and can result in asthma and increased respiratory system infection susceptibility. They also have carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and hormone-disrupting properties. This is why one of the most important things is to get fragrance-free or unscented products. This not only benefits your baby’s health but yours as well. Consider that if you are using heavily scented products as part of your personal care, this will also impact your children who will be exposed to this by being in the same vicinity when such products are used and in close proximity with you when you have these fragrances lingering on your skin, hair, or clothing.
The best and safest thing is to always read your personal care ingredients and check that there is no fragrance or parfum listed in the ingredient list, in addition to whatever the product may claim. Unfortunately many products that are marketed as being hypoallergenic or made for sensitive skin still include harmful fragrances. By using unscented products you are decreasing your family’s toxin exposure to a major group of chemicals that are associated with many health problems.
If any kind of “scent” is desired then learn about essential oils and how to use these safely for pleasure and therapeutic purposes. Essential oils can cause great harm including liver toxicity and skin burns if not used correctly, so be sure to know what you are doing before you try to experiment with them. Also, if they are to offer health benefits, they must be pure, high quality, and top grade oils. You cannot just buy anything that is labelled as an “essential oil” or any personal care product that says it uses “essential oils” and think that it is all the same. Quality and proper use of essential oils makes all the difference in whether they will be healing or harmful for you and your family.
4. Avoid all conventional baby care products
When I first learned about the importance of paying attention to what we put on our body, nearly two decades ago, the first place I went to was the baby care section of the store thinking that surely the personal care products made for babies and children would be “safe,” “toxin-free,” and healthy choices. Boy was I wrong! It was one of many rude awakenings on my path of seeking out the healthiest products and leading an optimally healthy lifestyle about how unscrupulous industries are today. There is no honesty, no integrity, and definitely no accountability. There is only an obsessive focus on sales and profits no matter what the cost is to the health of consumers, to the health of the workers who make these products, and to the health of our environment as these nasty chemicals are processed and released into the air, water, and land. This is why unless and until we take personal responsibility for our health and accountability for our choices, we continue to feed the very problems we don’t want and, in turn, to suffer.
Therefore, if you love and care for your baby and child and want to keep them as safe as possible, avoid using any of the conventional baby care and personal care products out there. Common and popular culprits include Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno, Dove, Ivory, Cetaphil, and all generic or store brands of baby care and personal care products. Look, instead, at safer alternatives from the numerous more natural and less toxic skincare brands today.
In Canada, here are a few examples of widely available “natural” personal care brands with baby products:
In the US, here are a few examples of widely available “natural” personal care brands with baby products:
Note that the above examples will still vary greatly in quality; some are much more pure and natural than others, even though they are all marketed as “natural” products. For this reason, be sure to explore and learn about the brand and products you wish to use for your baby/child to determine what you feel most comfortable with and what price point works best for you. Start by visiting the EWG’s Skindeep Database where you can put in the name or brand of your product and see its safety rating. For more information and guidance refer to my article 10 Harmful Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid and How to Choose Natural Products.
I wish this topic was as easy as listing a few ingredients and brands to avoid and ones that you can trust, but unfortunately that is not the case today. There are thousands of personal care products and between new brands popping up all the time and companies reformulating their products, it is next to impossible to keep up with it all. The good news is that neither you nor I have to. We just have to know the basics and create a healthy personal care foundation that includes using the least products possible, using the most natural products possible, reading all ingredients and familiarizing oneself with the worst ones to avoid, and making sure that we take care of our body’s external environment Lastly, keep in mind that just because a product claims that it is “natural” or “organic” or “made for babies” does not make it automatically good or safe. We need to know what we are using by going beyond the front label claims and marketing hype. The more we take such personal accountability and responsibility for our choices - what we buy and how we use it - the more we hold our health in our own hands. And the more you understand what influences your health and how, the more empowered you are to know how to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.
Our bodies have a natural innate healing ability and our skin wasn’t made to be defective. We ruin it and our health with the synthetic products we use, artificial diets we eat, and unnatural lifestyles we have. To give your baby and children the healthiest start possible, keep what goes into and onto their bodies as pure, natural, and wholesome as possible. And when it comes to personal care, remember, less is more!