Know your Label - Little Bairn Skincare Products

Fabulous explanation of skin care label lingo reproduced with permission from the Little Bairn website.

Did you know that your little bairn’s skin is her largest organ, absorbing nearly all that is rubbed into it? That is why it’s important to be conscious of what we are putting on our little ones’ bodies in the same way we are concerned about the food we feed them.

But deciphering ingredient labels can be confusing! When reading a label it’s often hard to know which ingredients are potentially harmful, which serve an important purpose, and which we could easily do without.

When it comes to buying skincare products knowledge is power, so here we’ve tried to simplify things so you can feel more confident when making purchases for your little bairn.

What are the most common ‘nasties’ found in baby skincare and how might they be listed on your label? …

SULFATES

In a nutshell:

Used as foaming agents, predominantly in bubble bath and shampoo products (and household cleaners). Sulfates dry and irritate the skin. Furthermore, sulfates can produce toxic by-products during the manufacturing process making them possible carcinogens.

On your label:

The most common are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Our way:

There is absolutely no need for these foaming agents in products for your baby. We often associate bubbles with ‘clean’, but the truth is we don’t need froth to cleanse our skin. Our baby body wash (currently under development) is based on a liquid castile soap, completely omitting the need for a foaming agent. Castile soap is low-sudsing, yet still very cleansing.



PRESERVATIVES

In a nutshell:

A preservative is essential in any skincare product that contains water to protect against microbial growth. Many synthetic preservatives, however, can cause skin irritation. There is also a group of preservatives known as formaldehyde-releasers that release a small amount of this known carcinogen while sitting on the bathroom shelf.

On your label:

Preservatives that release formaldehyde include:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Quaternium-15
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
- 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
- Hydroxymethylglycinate


Other preservatives to avoid include those part of the paraben family (methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl paraben). Parabens have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.

Note: It’s also important to mention phenoxyethanol. It is a synthetic preservative that has become popular for use in many products, including those labelled as ‘natural’. The jury is still out on the safety of this ingredient however. The Environmental Working Group lists phenoxyethanol as an irritant for eyes, skin and lungs. Meanwhile, the FDA (USA) has warned that the chemical is toxic to infants via ingestion, and "can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea."

Our way:

Our preservative of choice is the naturally-derived Naticide. Naticide is a trade name, so on our labels we use the ingredient’s generic name, Parfum. Naticide is a vegetable-based fragrance which also acts as an effective antimicrobial preservative. It is approved as an organic preservative by Australian Certified Organic (ACO).



MINERAL OIL

In a nutshell:

A by-product of the distillation of petroleum, mineral oil is widely used in creams, massage oils, shampoos and bath products. It can cause allergic reactions, clog pores and dry skin. Research has also linked mineral oil to cancer, vitamin deficiencies and birth defects. Many baby oils are 100 per cent mineral oil!

On your label:

Mineral oil may also be labeled as paraffin oil. Also look out for petrolatum (mineral oil in a jelly state) and paraffin wax (mineral oil in a solid state).

Our way:

Our preference is for plant-based oils which are not only moisturising, but also incredibly beneficial for the skin. For example, calendula oil can help heal the skin, while castor oil has antibacterial properties.



COLOURS

In a nutshell:

Artificial colours exist only to make a product look more ‘attractive’. However, did you know that it can take up to 25 synthetic chemicals to produce just one artificial colour? Artificial colours can cause skin reactions, and some are known to be carcinogenic.

On your label:

Look out for:
- Blue 1 (E133)
- Green 3 (E142)
- D&C Red 33 (E127)
- FD&C Yellow 5 (E102)
- FD&C Yellow 6 (E110)

Our way:

We do not use any synthetic colours whatsoever. All our products carry their natural colour.



EMULSIFIERS

In a nutshell:

Emulsifiers allow oils (and waxes) to combine with water without separating out. They are the basis of any cream or lotion product. Many emulsifiers, however, can irritate the skin and may also be carcinogenic.

On your label:

Look out for DEA and TEA which may contain nitrosamines, a class of chemical compunds believed to be carcinogenic. Also try to avoid PEG esters which are derived from petrochemical sources.

Note: Many ‘natural’ products choose to use ‘emulsifying wax’ which combines several synthetic ingredients (including polysorbate 60 and steareth-20, both of which may be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane).

Our way:

We use an emulsifier labelled ‘olive emulsifier’. It is comprised of cetearyl glucoside and sorbitan olivate (both rated as a ‘0’ hazard in the Skin Deep Database). This emulsifier is 100 per cent natural, and approved for use in organic formulations by Australian Certified Organic (ACO).

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