Choosing Safe Personal Care Products
- What: EWG’S Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
- When: Pregnancy to college
- Why: Find better skincare options
- Where: Amazon or your local store
I’ve used unscented California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash with my kids. All of them arrived with super sensitive skin – so much so that it was more than a year before I even used any type of body wash on my youngest. His skin would break out in a crazy rash if I even though the word soap. Water was sometimes enough to make his skin turn red and splotchy.
I chose the unscented baby wash after looking up tons of options on Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. I had never heard of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) before my first child, but an educator I loved mentioned it in a moms’ postpartum meeting. The cosmetics database compares products’ listed ingredients to a toxicity and regulatory databases. Since the government doesn’t regulate the ingredients, companies can use anything they want, and they want to sell more stuff. The database rates a variety of products on a scale of one to ten, where ten is highly toxic and 0 is completely safe to use. Anything in the 0-2 range is considered safe, indicated by the green circle behind the numerical rating. Yellow backgrounds mean higher risk, and red they advise against using.
They rate each product in several categories on a detailed page: overall hazard, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and use restrictions, with further notes of concern listed below.
I checked it out and have been obsessed with it ever since. So much so, that I now use it for my own skincare products as well. I’m most concerned about the ratings on sunscreen, as I slather my kids’ skin with it, sometimes multiple times a day for about six months of the year, and it’s meant to be absorbed. I’ve switched sunscreen several times because the one thing that can be annoying about the database is finding the products listed. If I take a list of ten safe sunscreens to my local drugstore, I’m lucky if I find one of them on the shelves. I sometimes have better luck on Amazon, but not always. Be careful, too. Although one product from a company may rate low, another similar product can have a very different rating, and in my experience products from the same company can differ in ratings quite a lot. It means you have to match the product listed on the site exactly, and that further complicates shopping.
For sunscreen, titanium oxide or zinc oxide provide better protection with less toxicity, so I started using Johnson’s Baby Daily Face and Body Lotion. My husband hated how thick it was, and squeezing it out of the container sometimes took more strength than I had, so after a couple summers of that, we switched to Episencial Babytime Sunny Sunscreen. It came out of the tube much easier and spread onto skin with less mess as well.
We currently have a stash of Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 because it comes in larger containers (6 oz instead of 2 oz) and I don’t have to reorder as often.
Apparently fragrance can often be one of the most toxic ingredients, so for body wash and other baby skincare unscented options like the California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash rate lower than scented products, though all the California Baby shampoo products rate either a 1 or 2. As a bonus, the unscented versions seems less likely to make my kids’ skin break out.
Beware, though. Looking up all your skincare products can get addictive, and if you’re already using something, you may prefer to finish it before you look it up and have to choose between finishing your supply and throwing it away because of a high rating.