Guest post: What’s in Your Skin Care Products?

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post comes from my friend Heather (who’s amazing and wonderful and taking care of my garden while I’m gone) of A Mama’s Blog.

A few days ago, I wrote about Ryan having keratosis pilaris (KP). One of the solutions that has helped Ryan, which I didn’t go into a lot of detail on, was our switch to natural skin care products.
As I wrote, this has been such a change and learning experience for me. Growing up with 3 other siblings, money was tight, and my mom bought the least expensive skin care products she could. This usually meant the typical products you would find at any drug or grocery store.

I am a beauty product junkie I’ll admit it. So I love trying out new shampoos, conditioners, make-up, lotion, and skin care products. Over the years I have gravitated towards more natural brands. I have very, very, dry and somewhat sensitive skin, and these products just work on my skin better.

I don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots, -if I was getting better results with natural products, then they were probably better for my baby, when Ryan was born. Like a lot of new mothers, I stocked up on Johnson & Johnson baby products. I also had received a Burt’s Bee Baby Starter Kit. I noticed right away after using J&J lotion on Ryan, his skin seemed very rough and dry. After using the Burt’s Bee lotion, his skin was softer and never felt dry.

I noticed this with all the skin care products we used on Ryan. The “traditional” products were always drying and somewhat irritating, where the more natural ones were not. I tried out a lot of lotions to try to keep Ryan’s skin hydrated, to reduce his KP flare-ups.

About two years ago, I came across this eye-opening, and educational website, Skin Deep, which is a cosmetic and personal skin care data base. It breaks down the ingredients in thousands and thousands of products, and lets you know which ones are the most dangerous based on ingredients in the products that are linked to cancer, developmental/reproduction toxicity, violations, restrictions, and warnings, and other issues like skin irritation. The most dangerous ones are a 10, down to 0 (with minimal hazards). It will tell you too, if the company tests its product on animals and if they have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetic pact.

I was SHOCKED and quite honestly, appalled to see the rankings of some of the products I was using on Ryan at the time. Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Lotion had a hazard of ranking of 7. In fact, 95% of baby lotions on the market have lower concerns. It is one of the most hazardous baby lotions, and how many millions of people are using it on their babies? No wonder Ryan’s skin always seemed stressed after using it.

I started to feel deceived by these baby companies, because so many of the products that sound natural, and sound good, like something you would want on your baby’s skin, is anything but. Like Huggies Baby Lotion with Shea Butter- sounds good but it also has a ranking of 7, which is a high hazard. The Burt’s Bee’s Baby Buttermilk Lotion has a ranking of 4, which put it in the moderate hazard category. I had to conclude that the lower the ranking on the products we were using, were not only better for my son’s skin, but also better for his potential health. What mother would want to knowingly expose her baby to potential toxins?

I was also surprised to find some products I thought would be high on the list actually weren’t. An example was Vaseline 100% Petroleum Jelly. Its ranking is 0, which is considered a low hazard. Another one was Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil. I thought it would be at least a 7 or 8, but it is a 3, with a moderate hazard. There are some baby oil’s that ranked at 0′s though, so baby oil wasn’t as bad as I had thought.

All of this taught me that I have to read ingredients on skin care products. I can’t just assume because a company claims the product is “natural” or because it says “baby” on it, it is safe and non-toxic to use on my children. I feel like my kids will be exposed to so many toxins in life anyway that I can’t control, but I want to cut down on the amount they are exposed to at home by using less toxic products in their bath, and on their skin.

Of course for Ryan this also means his KP doesn’t flare-up as much, and that is reason enough for me to have made the switch to less toxic skin care products for our family.

When not blogging at A Mama’s Blog, guest blogger Heather is an almost full-time stay-at-home mama to two boys, and works part-time a few days a week. Heather enjoys blogging about daily life with her sons, pregnancy and birth, and natural living. Heather is also a monthly contributor at API Speaks, Attachment Parenting International’s blog.

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12 thoughts on “Guest post: What’s in Your Skin Care Products?

  1. Both my children have eczema, and my daughters has been flaring lately. What works best for it is good old Vaseline! After her bath, I smear it on the patches and put on an old tshirt. Her skin looks great! Makes me feel like a fool for those expensive lotions and prescription creams we tried.

    I found the Skin Deep website through this website when CDG wrote about baby sunscreens. I too was shocked at what products recieved hogh ratings…and it has completely changed the way I shop for H&B items now.

  2. I have become very conscience of the grooming products I bring into the home. I discovered the Skin Deep website several weeks ago and after checking products I had in my bathroom, I was appalled!

    Now, in addition to trying to find eco-friendly packages, I’m looking for products that are safe for the family.

  3. The Skin Deep Database has been an invaluable resource for me. I haven’t tried the Burt’s Bees products yet, though, and it sounds like I should. I’ve been working my way up from the 0′s in the baby wash and lotion categories, and everything I’ve tried so far doesn’t do as much as I’d like to keep her skin soft. I have to admit, I didn’t give Emily Skin Soothers much of a chance – it made her smell like a turkey dinner the first time we tried it so I sent it back. Babies aren’t supposed to be savory! ;)

  4. I too discovered the Skin Deep database, and actually used it to do a brand comparison of preservatives in natural skin care brands in a post last week! It truly is shocking when you look underneath the hood of some popular and seemingly innocuous products, isn’t it? I’ve also been researching and writing an ongoing guide to natural preservatives, which has been very eye-opening in terms of the whole manufacturing process.

    A few things I would add is that although Skin Deep discusses safety based on scientific studies — a great resource! — it does not cover the eco-friendliness of products, another aspect to consider especially when using something like petroleum jelly, a non-renewable resource (it’s made from crude oil, after all). A great alternative to Vaseline is a non-petroleum jelly, like the one I make inexpensively from olive oil. You can also buy “non-petroleum jelly” at health food stores.

    Finally, although I know it’s not the most popular suggestion, what’s worked for me and my family for soft skin and treatment of eczema is simply bathing less often, coupled with a simple oil, such as almond oil, after bathing. For babies, massage with vegetable-based oils was scientifically shown to improve growth rates when compared with petroleum-based oil!

    I know that Amy has a wonderful 5-minute shower challenge going; for our family we meet that by bathing together (me n’ baby) and only showering 1-3 times per week (depending on the season of course). If you’re skeptical, I posted a couple of links on bathing and skin health. Sorry for such a long comment! Been thinking a lot about skin care and eco-consciousness!

  5. hopealo & others,

    Thank you for all your suggestions. I have tried almond oil, and it didn’t work. Neither did vaseline, or the un-petroleum jelly from Alba. It made Ryan’s skin softer, but it nothing to reduce the bumps, or soften the bumps.

    KP can be so different for everyone though, keep the ideas coming, because it could work for someone else. :-)

  6. hopealo & others,

    Thank you for all your suggestions. I have tried almond oil, and it didn’t work. Neither did vaseline, or the un-petroleum jelly from Alba. It made Ryan’s skin softer, but it nothing to reduce the bumps, or soften the bumps.

    KP can be so different for everyone though, keep the ideas coming, because it could work for someone else. :-)

  7. Thanks to East End Jen for the mention above of our product, which rates a zero for risk in the Cosmetic Safety Database. We gladly returned her $ and had a good chuckle at the ‘hearty turkey dinner’ description. That was a first for us.
    Our product has only beeswax, olive oil and 3 herbs, and no added scents, but it has an earthy herbal smell. Many people who use herbal products find it pleasing and for those who are used to more traditional bodycare products we also have a LAVENDER version which has just a few drops of lavender essential oil to mask the herbal smell.We have seen good results with both our soap and salve for KP and we also are committed to helping people. We have posted a whole website of self-care tips for the skin (free and non-commercial) at http://www.myskinbetter.com . Hope we can help you. Our products are also cruelty free, so I can assure you there is no turkey added. :)

  8. Skin Deep is a terrific resource, if I do say so myself as an employee of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) who created it.

    Please forgive me if this sounds like shameful self-promotion, but I thought you all might also find our For Parents web page useful and we’re working to expand it right now. It’s at http://www.ewg.org/forparents and has loads of useful tips (and tedious chemical and health information if you like that stuff) for choosing safer products for your family and getting active to create policy change, too.

  9. Hi,
    Skin Deep, which is a cosmetic and personal skin care data base and also a eye-opening, and educational website.It breaks down the ingredients in thousands and thousands of products, and lets you know which ones are the most dangerous based on ingredients in the products that are linked to cancer,skin irritation.

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