Yep, that’s right. That staple in many homes contains some not so nice chemicals. I’ve posted before about the problems with the ingredients in Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash. The No More Toxic Tub report from the Campaing for Safe Cosmetics led to several posts about hysterical mommy bloggers.
A new peer-reviewed report published in the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association revisits the problem. The report finds that Quaternium 15, a preservative found in Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash and many other conventional bath and beauty products, may be responsible for dermatitis in many users (dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as eczema).
The report states that Quaternium 15 is “the most sensitizing formaldehyde-releasing preservative and has been repeatedly shown to be a strong allergen that can cause contact dermatitis.”
As quoted in the press release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Quaternium 15 is present in an alarmingly high number of baby products, making exposure and sensitization at an early age increasingly common,” said Sharon Jacob, M.D., co-author of the paper and physician at the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics at Rady Children’s Hospital. “This is a concern because repeated exposures to sensitizing chemicals, especially in early life, can cause a person to develop allergic reactions over time. Therefore, we advise parents to choose products without quaternium 15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives whenever possible.”
Okay, so say you want to skip products containing Quaternium 15 or any other formaldhyde donor preservatives. I understand that you don’t want to need a chemistry degree just to shop. So, my general advice is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database and look for products with a score of 2 or lower, and with no ingredient about 4. Another general recommendation is to find a company you trust, and use those products.
For baby washes/shampoos,, one way to avoid preservatives is to avoid detergent shampoos as opposed to soap shampoos. Pure castile soap – a vegetable based soap – doesn’t require a preservative because the pH prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. It’s easy to be confused here because most “shampoo” and “body wash” products are actually detergents that require artificial surfactants, emulsifiers and preservatives. There are some safe detergents, but if you want the easiest and quickest way to buy safely, look for pure castile soap like Earth Mama Angel Baby and Dr. Bronners. (Disclosure – if you click on the Earth Mama Angel Baby link over on the left, I make a little money since I’m an affiliate. Also, in connection with my other company, 3 Green Angels, Earth Mama Angel Baby has retained the company to host several Twitter parties.)