I’ve been examining a LOT of baby wipes recently, as I update our Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet.
Although baby wipes manufacturers have cleaned up the ingredients in recent years, we’re not there yet. There are still bad ingredients in baby wipes, especially when you’re using them around very sensitive areas like bottoms and mouths.
And what makes me really cross is that big brands are still not telling us the whole truth. Indeed, in some cases, it’s outright lies. Don’t read the front of the pack, where it’s all marketing talk and meaningless words like ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist tested’. Read the back of the pack, the ingredients list. That’s where the truth lies, my friends!
When you’re reading the pack, here’s our list of baby wipes ingredients to avoid. If you see them, put the pack down and walk away. And to make life even easier, why not download a free copy of our Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet ebook?
What are Baby Wipes Made of?
What are wipes made of? There’s the cloth of the actual wipe, and there’s the cleansing solution. The baby wipes material is usually what’s called ‘non woven’ fibre, which is a plastic threads that are so thin that they are spun to make cloth. You can also find biodegradable baby wipes, which are often made of bamboo, but can be made of other types of plant based rayon, too.
What are the ingredients in wet wipes? Generally, you’ll find:
- Water (or sometimes aloe vera)
- Detergents (surfactants) to help remove the dirt
- Moisturising agents or humectants (like propylene glycol and glycerine)
Ingredients to Avoid in Baby Wipes
What’s in baby wipes? Unfortunately, you’ll often find these baby wipes chemicals on the supermarket shelves. Read the pack and make sure to avoid these:
Preservative also known as 2-Bromo-2-nitro-1,3-propanediol. Like DMDM hydantoin, below, this is a formaldehyde donor. It releases formaldehyde as it breaks down, and it’s got a big red number from the EWG. It’s a known irritant, and it’s an ingredient that really shouldn’t be used in baby products.
This is another preservative. The problem with this one is that it’s a formaldehyde donor, so it releases formaldehyde as it breaks down. The EWG has a big red flag on this one. It’s also an irritant, so that’s yet another reason to keep it away from baby.
Fragrance or perfume
The problem with fragrance is that you don’t know what’s in it. Manufacturers don’t have to disclose fragrance ingredients, so you could be putting phthalates, neurotoxins, endocrine disrupters, allergens or irritants onto your baby’s sensitive skin.
These are a group of common preservatives that are another group of harmful ingredients in baby wipes. There are a lot of them, but the common ones are butlyl, ethyl, methyl, and propyl (and they all end in paraben). I’ve written about them before in this post, and the main problem with them is that they are suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with the body’s hormones.
PEG’s (polyethylene glycols)
PEG’s are a penetration enhancer, so they help other baby wipe ingredients penetrate more deeply into the skin. PEG’s can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. They also should not be used on damaged skin (which means nappy rash).
Another common preservative, phenoxyethanol in baby wipes is becoming even more common as manufacturers try to avoid parabens. It’s an irritant, and shouldn’t be used around the mouth. According to the FDA, It can also depress the central nervous system in infants, so really shouldn’t be used on babies.
These are rarely used in baby products these days as an individual ingredient, but may be found in perfumes or fragrances. It’s why you should always avoid scented baby products, unless the scent is made from essential oils and that’s all. Phthalates are a concern because they’re thought to be endocrine disrupters, changing the way hormones work in the body.
Propylene glycol in baby wipes is quite common. This is a humectant, and while it’s not toxic, it is an irritant and a penetration enhancer. That means that it helps other ingredients penetrate more deeply into skin, which is not always ideal. You can read more about propylene glycol in this article. It’s becoming easier to find baby wipes without propylene glycol, but make sure to read the back of the pack – don’t assume!
Another common preservative, although it’s less widely used in baby wipes after media coverage in the last few years. Methylisothiazolinone in baby wipes has been widely associated with contact dermatitis. It’s still being used in big brands like Huggies, though. Even though their website says their wipes are MIT free, I found MIT and parabens in Huggies wipes packs in my local supermarket only last week.
We’ve listed other preservatives to avoid in this post, along with the good preservatives.
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
Sulphates are detergents that help to clean up messes. But they’re irritants, and there’s some concern about organ toxicity.
Can be found in antibacterial wipes. I’ve written more about triclosan here, and it’s another chemical that’s a suspected endocrine disrupter. It’s also contributing to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. Triclosan isn’t often found in baby wipes, but it’s worth noting that antibacterial wipes shouldn’t be used for nappy changes, even in an emergency!
A reasonably common question that I get asked is “do baby wipes have alcohol in them?”. The answer to this one is no, as it’s too harsh and too drying on the skin.
Wondering which are the safest baby wipes? Confused? Don’t be! Download a copy of our Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet and you’ll know exactly which non toxic baby wipes to look for!So now that you know about these wet wipes ingredients, you can do your best to avoid them.
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