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.
- 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 oats. Studies 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
The Reusable Wipes System offers a comprehensive solution for convenient and eco-friendly nappy changing. It is designed to be user-friendly, gentle on the skin and can be used for both household cleaning and storage. With long-lasting durability, it is a cost-effective choice for environmentally conscious individuals.
Formulated from excellent, non-toxic ingredients including aloe vera. These wipes are 100% biodegradable and compostable bamboo fibre wipes. The 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.
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.
BRONZE + EDITOR’S CHOICE : Joonya – Non-Toxic Biodegradable Baby Wipes 80ct 24pk
Introducing Joonya Baby Wipes, created by Australian parents after their sons suffered from chemical-induced nappy rash. With a top safety rating on EWG’s Skin Deep database, these wipes are made with 99.7% water and non-toxic, organic ingredients that nourish delicate skin. The compostable fabric is certified by FSC.
FINALIST: Designer Bums – Reusable Cloth Wipes
These wipes are made from 70% bamboo and 30% GOTS certified organic cotton muslin and manufactured to OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
The wipes are soft and silky to touch, are a large size and come in a variety of fun prints. They wash well and dry quickly, making them a wonderful reusable wipe.
Luvme plant-based wipes are made from 100% plant-based fibres and contain no harmful ingredients. Enriched with vitamin E and aloe vera, they provide gentle care for sensitive skin. These wipes are both strong and soft, fully biodegradable and compostable.
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!