What do babies need in their bathwater?

Skin care for the little ones is big business and not short of a controversy or two. We open a few bottles and question what babies really need in their bath water.

There’s nothing quite as relaxing at the end of a long day as soaking in the tub. For babies too, a bath is not just for getting clean, it’s also about bonding and relaxation. The experts agree that bath time enhances a baby’s bedtime, especially if it’s followed with some gentle massage. During massage a baby will have increased levels of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” and serotonin, a sleep hormone. It’s the golden routine proven to help baby sleep sooner and sounder.

The question of what products to use in your baby’s bath comes down to personal preference and generally people fall into one of two camps - the scientific based, or the natural and organic.

This can be a contentious issue, so we spoke to two different manufacturers about why they make their products the way they do. We hope reading their thoughts will help you make a decision that’s best for you and your family.

A large pharmaceutical company like Johnson’s Baby offers years of rigorous clinical testing, research and development.

The science behind the brand is extensive and while its products have stood the test of time (your parents and grandparents may well have had a bottle of No More Tears in their bathrooms), they have also been recently reformulated to meet the demands of today’s critical consumer.

Alternatively, you can opt for products with a more organic bent to their brand. However you should be aware, that opting out of often maligned ingredients, like preservatives, could leave you with a product that has a very limited shelf life. If you store a product without preservatives in a humid bathroom, you have optimum conditions for bugs to thrive.

Is water not enough?
Johnson’s Baby has conducted research that shows water alone doesn’t remove the fatty deposits from your baby’s skin, and baby poo has a higher percentage of fats than adult poo. Using water alone can also lead to moisture loss and leave skin dry and red. This is particularly true if you live in an area with hard water.

Olive oil is a natural alternative, isn’t it?
Olive oil has a high concentration of oleic acid. Let’s get “sciency” for a moment; oleic acid can damage the epidermal barrier through a mechanism involving the perturbation of stratum corneum lipid bilayers and lacunae formation. Got it? No? Same here. Simply put, olive oil can actually break down the skin barrier, and that’s why it can be quite effective in getting rid of cradle cap.

But for bath time, perhaps it is not as simple as “if it’s safe to eat, it’s safe to put on skin.”

Can everyone in the family use the same product?
Any products used on baby should be as mild as possible and specifically designed for delicate infant skin, ruling out stronger formulations often found in adult skincare. For babies and toddlers, look for soap-free, alcohol-free and PH balanced products.

Johnson’s Baby says its Top-To-Toe has been tested by independent dermatologists and is proven to be as gentle and mild as water, while still being an effective cleanser.

Results also showed that it softened water and offered de-mineralising properties making hard water more compatible with the natural PH of babies’ skin.

What about those so-called “nasties” – parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate and mineral oils?
Johnson’s Baby says parabens have long been used in personal care products to act as a preservative to keep nasty bacteria and fungi at bay. It says its use of parabens is well below the level considered safe, but in response to parents’ need for complete peace of mind Johnson’s Baby are phasing out the use of all parabens in its baby products by 2015.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is commonly found in household cleaning products. While it sounds similar, it is not the same thing as Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) which is a cleanser used in Johnson’s products. Johnson’s says all its products must pass a rigorous series of tests by independent dermatologists to ensure they’re mild enough to use on babies.

Johnson’s maintains mineral oil is a proven moisturiser and as long as it’s of high quality it’s safe to use on both babies and adults. The mineral oil it uses is high quality cosmetic grade which means it has been carefully refined and treated to remove any impurities. 

What governs your decisions to include certain ingredients in your products?
My background is as a lawyer. I spent time in Paris at the OECD in the area of environmental health working with toxicologists on their reports on chemicals in skincare. It was a real eye opener. When I was pregnant with my first son I started investigating products and was particularly concerned with the shopping list length of ingredients that were in skincare.

My particular concerns were parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate and mineral oils. I’m also not keen on artificial fragrances which can contain hundreds of ingredients.

In terms of what I put in my products, I only want ingredients that really need to be there. Also, since I have been in business I have spoken with a number of customers who have found our products to be the only ones that keep their children’s skin conditions under control. I would never want to let those customers down.

What do you think parents need to know about skincare for their babies and toddlers?
Made4Baby is a partner of the Asthma Foundation’s Sensitive Choice Programme. If you are interested in setting your child’s skin health up for the best possible start, then try to look for products that have been tested or looked at by an external agency.

How do you test your products?
My husband was in charge of product testing, he believed in finding the right natural ingredients without compromising on performance. Once we are happy, a lovely group of friends trial the products on their kids and give me honest feedback.

Our products have never been tested on animals and are also in the Auckland Zoo Palm Oil Free Guide.

“natural” seems to be on trend when it comes to skincare and many products tout promises like “organic” and “100% natural”. What does “natural skincare” mean to Made4Baby?
To Made4Baby, natural skincare means the best possible ingredients for our children and our customers. Watch out for “green washing”. You can tell if a company is passionate about their natural products if they are the focus of the company and not just a sideline.

I always recommend people look out for fragrance or natural essential oils if they are having issues with their child’s skin. I think it is important for parents to know that any product containing natural/organic essential oils or a synthetic fragrance will not be great for a child who has eczema.

As a parent, what do you look for when purchasing products for your children, and how does this motivate your Made4Baby brand?
I may answer this differently than a few years ago, but now I really want good quality products in my home that are useful and will last. I would rather spend money on good food, skin-care, and cleaning products. These all impact on our bodies for life, a lot longer than expensive toys or the cutest shoes.

1. Even if your baby loves water, limit baths to just a few minutes as too much time spent in the water can have a drying effect on skin.
2.  Hold baby securely, with one arm under the back of her neck so you can also hold her shoulder, and your other hand under her bottom as you lower baby into the bath.
3. Be prepared. Have everything you need ready and within arm's reach.


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