Pregnancy + Parenting

How to choose the safest & best baby wipes

An in depth guide to healthy baby wipes, including our top recommendations and what to avoid.

Baby wipes had just come out when I was born. My mum has often told the story of taking me to the Children’s Hospital with terrible nappy rash. Their solution? Two weeks without nappies and to cease baby wipes. Until I had my daughter, I never really gave this story much thought… But TWO WEEKS WITHOUT NAPPIES!?! I can’t even begin to comprehend that nightmare…

Given this horrific family story, I was very sure I wanted to avoid a repeat at all costs. When my daughter was very young, we’d use pure cotton make-up pads and a spray bottle with water in it to wet them. Baby wipes were just used when we were out of the house. As I grew more sleep deprived, I became more focused on survival and convenience, so wipes slowly became our norm… Not just for nappy changes, but for sticky fingers, wiping food from faces etc.

Trying to look up what chemicals are in baby wipes is a tricky thing! Many of the big companies- Huggies, Aldi etc. don’t include their ingredients lists on their websites… Just a lot of words like ‘hypoallergenic’, ‘pH balanced’, ‘dermatologist tested’ etc. I literally had to go to multiple supermarkets, pharmacies and health food shops and take photos of the ingredients lists on the packets and go home and look them up! The ingredient names are all long and unfamiliar, so for most people, standing in the aisle with a baby getting restless, they would have no choice but to become a victim to the advertising of ‘trusted’ brands, with no opportunity to make an educated decision.

Ingredients in baby wipes have come a long way… Companies are starting to realise that consumers are becoming more aware and so some, like Huggies, Curash and Pampers have recently changed their formulations. All wipes have chemicals in them to act as preservatives and cleansers. It’s impossible to rank each ingredient, but some are definitely worse than others; so I’ll list them in what I think of as ‘must avoid’ and ‘would be nice if it wasn’t there’ categories.

Must avoid:

  • Fragrance: This can be made up of hundreds of undeclared chemicals and usually includes endocrine disrupting* phthalates.
  • Parabens These have a endocrine disrupting* activity and have been detected in breast cancer tissues and have links to male infertility. They can also cause skin irritation. The EU have actually banned many types of parabens.
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MI). This has been the cause of some horrific allergic reactions and is a leading cause of dermatitis. It’s banned in the EU from being used in baby wipes.
  •  2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1-2-diol. This releases formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. It is also an irritant to the skin, eyes and lungs.
  • Phenoxyethanol: Studies suggest that this ingredient has the potential to be an endocrine disruptor. It also is often contaminated with undesirable chemicals due to its manufacturing process.

*Endocrine disruptors are bad news because they are linked to a whole host of long term negative health effects, especially when exposure occurs at a young age. This is because an infant’s body and organ systems are going through a period of exponential growth.

For a product you are applying to a large surface area of skin repeatedly, many times a day, you want it as safe as possible. That’s why these ingredients are in my ‘Must Avoid’ list. 

Would be nice to avoid:

  • Malic Acid. This is a skin irritant and shouldn’t be used around the eyes particularly (so watch out if you’re wiping your babies’ face with wipes!)
  • Propylene glycol. This is a skin, immune system and respiratory irritant. Propylene glycol also enhances skin absorption and so allows other chemicals to absorb into the skin more easily.
  • Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride. This is a skin, immune and respiratory irritant.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate. This is a skin irritant and allergen.
  • Food Products in the ingredients lists such as goat’s milk, cow’s milk nut oils and oatsStudies have shown a link between the application of a potential food allergen repeatedly onto the skin and food allergen sensitisation. This increases the potential for severe food allergic reactions when the food is actually eaten. This is especially relevant for a child with a high risk of food allergy and also those with eczema.

Wipes I Do Recommend – The safest & best baby wipes

CLEAN + CONSCIOUS AWARDS 2021 Winners

GOLD & PEOPLE’S CHOICE:   Joonya Eco Wipes  Reviews

These are a wipe that I’ve used a lot over the years. I’ve tried so many, and yet I keep coming back to these. Joonya wipes are unscented, which is something I really like for baby products particularly. They contain Aloe Vera and Jojoba oil which whilst they don’t leave a residue, leave the skin soft and hydrated. The cloths are a slightly larger size than others, which I find means I need to use less overall as I can fold and wipe again more easily. These wipes are wet enough to last the life of the pack without drying out and come in a large pack of 80 with a clip top, which keeps the wipes moist for longer and also reduces the chance of them being compromised hygienically.

Joonya offer a huge discount for wipes bought in bulk online, making these premium wipes more affordable than most.

An excellent non-toxic wipe which is premium in every aspect from the formulation to the cloths and pack. They are made in New Zealand.

SILVER: JAK ORGANICS AQUA Wipes Reviews

JAK AQUA is the ultimate safe, unscented water wipe. Whilst water makes you think about purity, the reality is that high water content products can become a breeding ground for bacteria. JAK AQUA has been lab tested and been shown to be resistant to bacteria for 3 months in an incubator. This is really important and sets it apart from other water wipe products.

These wipes work really well and due to their lack of fragrance and simple formulation can be used not just for the nappy area, but on the face and hands as well. These are the only wipe I have ever been able to use on my children’s eczema prone faces without them looking like a beetroot within minutes, due to a reaction.

JAK AQUA wipes come in a large pack of 80 with a clip top which keeps the wipes moist for longer and also reduces the chance of them being compromised hygienically.

These are the ultimate non-toxic and safe water wipe which can be used for not only the nappy area, but also hands and face.

BRONZE:  Wotnot Wipes Reviews

Wotnot Wipes are super soft to the touch and have a really gentle formulation which includes aloe vera. I love that they are truly fragrance-free and unscented which I prefer for products intended for newborns. I also appreciate that they are always moist down to the last wipe. The cloths are a slightly larger size than others, which I find means I need to use less overall as I can fold and wipe again more easily.  

I really appreciate that the wipes are made from 100% biodegradable bamboo and that Wotnot are long time supporters of Bear Cottage.  Wotnot wipes come in a large pack of 70.

FINALIST: JAK ORGANICS BABY Wipes Reviews

These wipes have a 2 in 1 cleansing and barrier action.  The organic coconut and jojoba oils in the formulation make it an absolute breeze to do a nappy change as everything wipes off so much more easily. They also leave the skin with a beautiful light coverage of oil as a barrier.

This wipe is naturally fragranced and if you love smells and perfumes, I have no doubt that you’ll love these. JAK BABY wipes come in a pack with a clip top which keeps the wipes moist for longer and also reduces the chance of them being compromised hygienically.

FINALIST: Rascal + Friends Sensitive Wipes Reviews

 These wipes are formulated from excellent, non-toxic ingredients. They are completely fragrance-free and unscented. The cloths are thick and are very gentle on the skin.

Rascal + Friends Sensitive wipes come in a large pack of 80 with a clip top which keeps the wipes moist for longer and also reduces the chance of them being compromised hygienically.

How To Choose The Safest & Best Baby Wipes, Other wipe options, Clean + Conscious

Other wipe options

Another great option is to buy dry wipes and wet them yourself before each nappy change, reducing the need for chemicals and preservatives.  You can also do away with disposable wipes completely (and be much more environmentally friendly!) and choose reusable wipes- if you don’t mind the extra effort of washing! Apparently once you get a system worked out, they’re pretty easy for home changes.

Does the use of baby wipes cause food allergies?

It has been claimed recently that there may be a link between baby wipe use and food allergies, which for any parent is super concerning. The claims came about after a study was published in April, 2018 which looked at how to trigger food allergies in mice.

The study was not about baby wipes at all. It used Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a surfactant cleansing agent, as a way of compromising the skin’s natural barrier oils so that exposure to a food allergen caused sensitisation. In the study, the SLS was left repeatedly on the skin. For the SLS to trigger a food allergy, the mice also had to have a genetic predisposition for skin barrier defects (such as eczema) and be exposed to the food allergen. The hypothesis was that maybe baby wipes caused the same sort of cleansing agents to be left on the skin and it could be resulting in the increase in food allergies in children we’ve witnessed in the developed countries?

Firstly, in all the wipes I have ever reviewed, none of them actually have SLS in them. However, this does not mean that some mainstream wipes don’t have other nasty chemicals in them which could also disrupt the skin’s natural protective barrier.

What do I take from this research?

I do think the best course of action is to make sure you’re choosing as non-toxic a wipe as possible, with ingredients which are much less likely to disrupt the skin’s natural barrier. If you had food allergies in the family or a baby with eczema, it might be well worth trying to make sure you always wash your hands before changing a nappy so that you don’t inadvertently expose your baby to potential food allergens on your hands. Also, when possible when you’re out, it might be worth walking that extra distance to wash hands under a tap rather than using baby wipes on hands and face before/after eating. Another great option when you’re out would be to use dry wipes that you wet from a water bottle.

I hope this helps you make informed choices!

*REMEMBER never to flush wipes down the toilet as they don’t act like toilet paper and they block the sewer systems creating huge damage!

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