common chemicals to avoid in baby products

May 18, 2012, Michaela Evanow, 12 Comments

Common Chemicals to avoid in baby products and a talc free baby powder recipe.There a bazillion different chemicals out there that are not good for you or the planet. Now, I love my planet, but, call me crazy, I love humans more than animals! I love animals, I do, but if it’s not good for me, then I don’t flush it down my drain. I can’t possibly keep track of every little thing that may or may not affect the fish (sorry Mr. Suzuki). And many environmentally friendly products are not human friendly. However, when I am looking to purchase a big haul of sanitisation, skincare, and other beauty products I’ll make sure to stay clear of some chemicals that could be in each product.


I really care what I put on my body and baby and what floats around my home. I would potentially consider myself a “semi-crunchy mama” but I don’t make my own soap (yet) and I do buy products (because I’m a bit of a natural product junkie). Floating through the aisles of Whole Foods, reading labels, writing down ingredients, smelling, applying…it’s a bit of an escape for me. Plus, Whole Foods is kind of like my playground. So that in itself is an escape, and they have really great coffee with carafes of almond milk and the aisles are buggy friendly and…it’s embarassing really.

I do like to make my own products, but some things, like homemade shampoo, just don’t work for me. I don’t like the smell of apple cider vinegar spiked with lavender on my head. I don’t like baking soda on my body. Every so often I need a tube of Sensodyne for my sensitive teeth (thank you pregnancy). But, because I cut corners on some things (and let’s be honest, we all do it) I really like to go hardcore on others. These are the common chemicals I avoid. These are the ones I obsessively look for, and they are found everywhere. But you can be free from them! Start with your children. I swear Johnson and Johnson is trying to poison us all, especially our babies. They are the devil in the baby aisle.

Ok, I’m a bit dramatic, but they are evil. Throw in Aveeno Baby too. Check your labels mums and dads!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS ) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Common culprits: Shampoo, hand Soaps, detergents, mouthwash, body Wash and anything that foams and lathers.

Surprise! It’s often found in toothpaste, and even Tom’s of Maine natural toothpaste!

What is it?: This junk is in a lot of things, because it’s cheap. It has a drying effect and takes a long time to get out of our bodies, because the liver can’t metabolize it. It also mimics estrogen, which we all know is a bad thing (don’t get me started on the Pill! Scary stuff!)

Parabens (Methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, sobutylparaben, ethylparaben or anything else paraben).

Common Culprits: Lotions, sunscreen, cosmetics, hair products, conditioner.

Surprise: It’s often found in Gripe Water.

What is it?: It’s a preservative that mimics estrogen in the body. It has been found in breast tumors, which means it could potentially cause cancer. It also affects male fertility and sexual function and can cause aging and DNA breakdown.

Tetrasodium EDTA

Common Culprits: Baby Wipes, lotions, sunscreen, cleaners, cosmetics, soap.

Surprise: It’s often found in processed foods like mayonnaise.

What is it?: It works as a preservative. The big thing to watch out for here is that many natural companies will use Tetrasodium EDTA instead of parabens. It is just as bad. It’s actually composed of formaldehyde and sodium cyanide (!!) and penetrates right into your blood stream when used. In itself, it may not be awfully harmful, but when used in conjuction with say, parabens or SLS, it works as a penetrator, allowing those chemicals to enter straight into your bloodstream.

Petrolatum and Petroleum

Common Culprits: Conditioner, hair products, lotions, petroleum jelly (vaseline), lip gloss/chap/balm/stick!

Surprise: Petrolatum is often found in many natural products, especially conditioners.

What is it: It’s a mineral oil. It has be linked to cancer, which is why the EU bans it, as they classify it as a carcinogen. Lucky Europeans. It’s not regulated in North America. If you’re going to avoid one, avoid petroleum.


Common Culprits: Baby powder, eyeshadow, face powder.

Surprise: It’s almost always in cosmetics like eyeshadow.

What is it: A powdered rock and a known carcinogen. It’s dangerous stuff. It is similar to asbestos, a well known cancer causing agent. If it’s used in the female genital area (which of course, is where baby powder is used) it can cause ovarian cancer. It has also been associated with lung cancer, when inhaled on a regular basis. There have been some terrifying reports of infants actually dying from excessive inhalation of talc. If it’s used routinely at the diaper changing station, it’s dangerous. Find talc free baby powder, or make your own.

Here’s a quick recipe for talc free baby powder:

  • 1 cup white clay
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1-2 drops lavender essential oil

Mix well with your fingers. Put it in a spice shaker, or a parmesan cheese shaker, like I do! It smells divine and is oh so gentle for baby’s bum.

Note: You can find white clay at a health food store, Whole Foods, Finlandia and even some pharmecies.

Other chemicals to keep an eye on include:

Dibutyl phthalate, parfum, BHA and BHT, PEG’s, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA.


Baby products I’m fond of:

Aleva Naturals: really fantastic, affordable stuff. I love their baby washes, lotion and bamboo baby wipes. They also use essential oils, which is wonderful. Florence smells so naturally sweet after bath time, like oranges and lavender. I’m not the biggest fan of Burt’s Bee’s baby products because they contain parfums.

Live Clean Baby is good if your little one has sensitive skin and if you’re in need of a petroleum free jelly. I don’t use it, because I’m not fond of the “gentle baby smell” and I don’t use jelly. But I have used it in the past for myself!

Dimpleskins Natural Bum Bum Balm is cloth diaper friendly, smells divine, isn’t too oily and really works wonders.

Mama products I’m fond of:

Pacifica makes delightfult lotions and perfumes. Their lotions are luxuriously soft and the smell sticks around all day. They also have wonderful candles which really work for deodourizing. All natural scents too.

Anything and everything from Saje Natural Wellness. Love, love, love!

Talc free eyeshadows can be found at the Body Shop and Physician Formula has a Talc-Free line. Bare Escentuals makes wonderful talc free makeup and can be found at Sephora.


  • Reply Katrina May 25, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    just wondering what you know about Disodium EDTA – is it as bad as tetrasodium EDTA?

    • Reply Michaela Evanow May 25, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      it’s still a chemical preservative. It’s most dangerous when used in food products, but I would still try to avoid it. The real danger with tetrasodium is formaldehyde. I don’t believe disodium EDTA contains it.

  • Reply George January 7, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Good reporting. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Reply tdblue June 6, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Great list of clean products! I’ll have to print this off.

  • Reply Elena @The Art of Making a Baby June 4, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    great post! I couldn’t have said it better!
    And I do also hate J&J with all my heart! Shame on them for poisoning our babies!

    • Reply Michaela. June 4, 2012 at 8:39 PM

      Thanks for visiting! Glad to hear there’s another J&J hater 🙂

  • Reply The Laundry Lady May 20, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    I just started using Everyday Minerals make-up, and I mostly like it so far. I’ve almost exclusively used California Baby products on my kids and now I use some of them for myself. I do use baking soda and vinegar on my hair and I’ve grown to really like the Oil Cleansing Method for my skin and coconut oil as an all around moisturizer. While I know it still has SLS in it, I do use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste for myself and my daughter because it avoids some of the other nasties like saccarin. But we are far from an “all organic family.” I don’t even buy much organic produce because of how expensive it is, but I do try and grow some of my own and buy local when I can. Like you said, you compromise.

    • Reply Michaela. May 20, 2012 at 8:21 PM

      I wish we had California Baby products here in Canada! I’ve seen then at Target in the States, when we head over the border to do some shopping. Perhaps I’ll pick some up. They look lovely. I like Trader Joe’s anise toothpaste; very similar to Tom’s of Maine, but without the SLS.

      • Reply The Laundry Lady May 21, 2012 at 6:10 AM

        Look around and see if there are any Canadian based online cloth diaper retailers who carry California Baby products. The only brick and mortar stores I’ve seen them in besides Target are Bed Bath and Beyond and Buy Buy Baby, but many online retailers including,, Vitacost and others carry a decent selection of products, at varying prices.

        • Reply Michaela. May 22, 2012 at 2:19 PM

          Oh that’s great! I love Vitacost, so I’ll check there. Thanks LL!

  • Reply Michaela. May 20, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    thanks H!

  • Reply Mrs Loquacious May 18, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    I like Everyday Minerals make-up! Also the Daily Renewal Naturals line of baby bath stuff is pretty good too! 🙂

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