Interpreting Baby-Care Labels: The Honest Truth
We’re now well past trusting what advertisements say. With growing awareness, we are starting to read the labels of all the consumer goods that we buy. Reading and interpreting the labels of the products we buy, baby products in particular, can be very daunting to begin with but can be quite rewarding as you get better at differentiating what they intend to mean from what they really, actually mean. A baby’s skin is three to five times thinner than an adult’s, meaning that any harmful chemical present in the products is likely to seep in through the skin.
Let us take a look at some of the things baby product labels say and how to interpret them.
What the label says – “Alcohol free”, “No harmful chemicals”, “Mineral base”, “gentle cleanser”
What to look out for – Looking out for toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients is possibly the most important reason we read labels. We often look out for simple labels such as “alcohol free” but these products may contain harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Baby products use a number of ingredients which may be cleansers, emulsifying agents, chelating agents, preservatives, thickeners, colouring pigments, fragrances, pH balancers, and conditioners. Some of these such as ammonium lauryl sulphate and cocamidopropyl betaine may be quite harsh on the skin while others such as decyl glucoside are gentler. It is not necessary to remember the whole lot of ingredient names either.
Look out for product labels that read no alcohol, no sulphates, parabens, silicanes or phthalates and no mineral oil. A product made of organic ingredients or a certified organic product without these chemical irritants is best suited for your baby’s skin.
What the label says – “Safe for baby skin”, “hypoallergenic”, “tested”
What to look out for - Most of us are worried about allergies and adverse skin reactions from products that we use on the sensitive skin of our babies. Most baby products in the market say that they are hypoallergenic. Using products with hypoallergenic ingredients makes it less likely for allergic reactions to occur and for your child to have blisters, rashes, or painful hives. It is imperative that you use new products with caution. It is also a good idea to use baby products that are certified by dermatologists and paediatricians.
What the label says – “Keeps your child smelling fresh”, “New floral fragrance”, “For sweet smelling babies”
What to look out for - While reading labels, you may be looking out for the active ingredients such as natural cleansers, or organic moisturisers in your baby products, it is possible that you may be ignoring a very harmful chemical – the artificial fragrance added to make the product alluring. Common fragrances included in baby products are aubepine para cresol, bicyclononalactone, benzyl acetate, phenethyl alcohol, and ethylene brassylate. It is best to steer clear of these chemicals, though.
Baby care products that use only natural fragrances such as organic lavender and organic rose water are best for your child’s skin and health.
What the label says – “All-natural”, “Made from natural ingredients”, “Ayurvedic product”. Or the label may simply carry a picture of green herbs.
What to look out for - It is important to understand the use of the words natural and organic. While many different skincare products in India use the words “natural” or “safe” and add images of herbs or plants, not all of these are toxin free. Natural products may be grown in farms that use artificial pesticides and chemical fertilizers. On the other hand, when one claims, ‘organic products’ or ‘organic ingredients’, it means that the product has natural ingredients that have been grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, etc. So, look out for the words “made with organic” or “organic product” to remain reassured that the ingredients come from organic farms.
What the label says - "Clinically approved", "Globally certified", "Approved for baby use"
What to look out for - While most baby products claim to be all-natural or certified by some organisation or other, it is best to look out for specifics. For example, baby products that have a COSMOS organic certification by Ecocert Greenlife have the approval of the COSMOS standard on the use of organic ingredients.
It means that 99% of the ingredients in the baby product are of natural origin. It is always safe to pick products with labels that display this certification.