Do Baby Wipes Have Chemicals?
A guide to the chemicals we avoid when picking wipes
by Coterie Team
Diaper wipes often contain various chemicals, and it can be difficult for even the most careful parent to translate ingredient lists, particularly when they use scientific and technical names to characterize the contents.
While many moms and dads will appreciate that the best baby wipes should avoid any toxins or chemicals that have the potential to cause irritation and sore skin, we know that differentiating between naturally occurring vitamins and synthetic chemicals is not always straightforward.
Today, we'll look at the ingredients excluded from The Wipe, our premium baby wipe product engineered to impeccable skin safety standards, and clarify what each component you might see on a pack of baby wipes really means.
Why Are There Chemicals in Baby Wipes?
We normally associate 'chemicals' with harmful, dangerous substances. However, it's important to explain that some chemicals are 100% skin-friendly and approved for use in baby care products, even for tiny newborn infants and babies with sensitive skin.
Many parents are also concerned about whether baby wipes have soap because petrochemicals, preservatives, and fragrances used in soaps are rarely approved for use in younger babies and children. The ideal is to use purified water with natural vitamins, neutral aqueous solutions, and food-grade preservatives that do not cause adverse skin reactions.
Of course, The Wipe by Coterie is carefully made to exclude more than 200 common chemicals featured in baby wipe brands, with 99% purified water that is far gentler for cleaning and diaper changes.
Next, we’ll run through a list of chemicals to watch out for and explain why they are best avoided.
Formaldehyde is used in baby wipes as an additive with antibacterial and antifungal properties–it is also a well-known preservative used in the medical and cosmetic industries. The issue with formaldehyde is that exposure to the chemical over the long term can cause severe skin reactions, from rough, red skin to peeling, blisters, and more serious inflammation, often for babies with more delicate skin for whom formaldehyde is an allergen.
Need help determining whether your baby wipe brand contains formaldehyde? It can go by several names or be an ingredient in other chemicals, such as DMDM Hydantoin, Glyoxal, and Bronopol.
We’ve mentioned petrochemicals, which are often considered too harsh and abrasive for babies. One of the ways to avoid adverse reactions to petrochemicals is to introduce an additional chemical called ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide won’t be shown on the ingredients, but if there are traces of the chemical that have not reacted during production, this can be a concealed ingredient.
The by-product, called ‘1,4-dioxane,’ is seriously harmful and legally categorized as a disclosable contaminant and carcinogen. Still, if trace chemicals remain, they may cause painful skin reactions.
Fragrances in cosmetic and skin care products are recognized as potential allergens for infants and adults with sensitive skin. While some fragrances are routinely excluded from the ingredients list, ethical manufacturers will always highlight these to help safeguard consumers with skin allergies or intolerances.
Some chemical mixtures used for fragrance can lead to dermatitis, allergic skin responses, and even respiratory problems, particularly those including diethyl phthalate. Phthalates can be shown as assorted acronyms, including ‘DMP,’ ‘DEP,’ ‘BBP,’ ‘DNOP,’ and ‘DBP.’
Abbreviated to ‘MIT,’ Methylisothiazolinone, and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) are like formaldehyde in that these chemicals inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. They are used in makeup removers, hand sanitizers, antiseptics, and baby wipes.
Classed as an allergen by the FDA, MCI can cause skin problems and even burns in the worst cases, whereas other milder symptoms of exposure can include swelling, peeling, itching, and redness. Because these chemicals are inexpensive and widely available, they are prevalent in water-based cosmetic and personal care products yet carry an elevated risk of harm, particularly for newborns.
Finally, parabens are synthetically manufactured preservatives, and as with many of the chemicals in this list, are used within lots of products, including deodorants, moisturizers, shaving creams, and hair care–as well as in baby wipes and shampoos.
While parabens can stop mold and bacteria from forming, they carry health risks, including impacts on the immune system and even long-term effects that can increase exposure to certain cancers and conditions that affect the endocrine system, which regulates hormones and growth.
Avoiding any baby wipe with an ingredient that ends in 'paraben,' such as butylparaben, propylparaben, and isopropylparaben, will ensure your baby's wipes are clean, safe, and free from these high-risk chemicals!