It is not uncommon for an infant to develop an allergic reaction to a whole range of baby products, and a little extra knowledge and insight can make it easier for you as a parent to identify the best and safest products to purchase. In the past, studies have revealed dangerous chemicals used on the surfaces of toys and other commodities such as multivitamins for babies. Even dietary proteins are known to cause many allergies in infants. There are concerns with topical lotions and creams that despite their good intentions, can actually irritate baby skin or worsen an existing skin condition. Let’s look first at the skin, and its role in protecting infants from the external toxins.
Skin is a vital organ of detoxification and elimination, and when it comes in contact with foreign agents, becomes an important protector to the rest of the body. Keeping skin healthy requires maintaining hydration, oil and acidity levels, clean and unclogged pores, and essential nutrition through the diet. When any of these qualities are compromised, the ability of our skin to function normally is diminished. And while we often think of the potential benefits and dangers of substances we ingest through the mouth, we tend to forget that the skin is a major absorption organ too. The surface of baby skin is considerably more permeable than adult skin, so it will absorb an even greater amount of product applied to the skin. The reality is that babies absorb a lot.
For this reason alone it is worthwhile ensuring that your babys skin care products are as pure and toxin-free as possible. For example, mineral oil is used in many baby product lines, however not only does mineral oil introduce foreign toxins into a babys body, it also sits on the skin and creates a mask through which the skin cannot breathe.
Looking after your babys skin may at some stage require you to work on their digestive health too, because the other major absorption organ in a babys’ body is the gut. In the first month of life as the digestive system develops, there is a marked lack of cohesion between cells, thus it is more open to the invasion of larger particles and proteins. Allergies in the skin can manifest as a result of irritations or disharmonies actually arising from the gut.
Mineral oil is a by-product of commercial processes involving crude oil, and when applied to the skin will produce an oily coating. As a moisturiser it is barely effective, because it is so poorly absorbed and does not allow the skin to breathe. This hasn’t stopped many commercial manufacturers from using it in their baby ranges though because it is cheap to produce. Natural emulsions such as beeswax, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and sesame oil are a much better alternative. Knowing that just about anything that sits on a babys skin, is likely at some stage to enter their mouths via the fingers also should discourage one from purchasing products containing mineral oil.. On ingredient lists you will find mineral oil listed also as petroleum, paraffin or paraffin oil.
Propylene glycol is another derivative of mineral oil to look out for, as it has been linked to skin irritation, eczema, seizures and respiratory problems. It takes an infant over three times as long as it does an adult, to clear this chemical from the blood stream so the risk of toxicity is much higher. It is for this reason that many substances deemed completely safe for use on adult skin are not suitable for babies.
Vitamin E is a soothing and softening addition to adult skin products. It’s not necessarily harmful to a baby unless they display an allergy to it. If your baby reacts to vitamin e, there are alternative skin nourishers such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil or grapeseed oil. Infusions of herbs like Calendula and chamomile and nettle are also good skin tonics.
Perfuming is a highly sophisticated art form, and it has its place in the adult world. Its creative use of classic and aromatic plants is music to our olfactory ears. However when it comes to perfumes in baby products, its helpful to arm yourself with some knowledge about what is safe and appropriate, and what is harmful.
As adults, with our well developed detoxification systems (such as the gut, skin and liver) we are better able to manage chemicals in our bodies than are babies. A babys gut immunity takes many months to develop, and they absorb more through their highly permeable skin than adults. Selecting products that derive their fragrances from natural essential oils are the way to go! Plant extracts and essential oils offer not only scent but other therapeutic benefits such as:
There are naturally occurring fragrances such as those of the Calendula and Chamomile. Look out for perfumes that are added to products such as talcs and lotions in particular and stick with the mantra Pure and Organic is Best.
With a better understanding of the ‘baddies’ in commercial baby products you can reduce the risk of toxicity, allergy and discomfort for your baby. In summary, here are some tips to help you select better and healthier products for you and your baby: