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10 Products You Should Avoid Using on Your Baby

So many baby products, so little time to research the best brands out there. Here are the baby products you should use, and the ones you should avoid.

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Making the best choices for your baby is challenging in many ways, including knowing what products to choose to wash, feed, protect, and care for them. You can only do the best you can on any given day, but having some expert advice helps. To that end, take note of the following products dermatologists don’t recommend using on your baby.

hand squeezes sunscreen on handyurakrasil/Shutterstock

Sunscreens before a certain age

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to protecting your skin, so be sure you’re not falling for any of the top ten sunscreen myths. Parents want to minimize how many chemicals their baby is absorbing, which is why they should stick to zinc-oxide based sunscreens: The block will protect babies from ultraviolet light with minimal risk of irritation or chemical absorption. “Before the age of 6 months, babies can be protected from sun through ultraviolet-blocking clothing and avoidance of direct sunlight,” says Rachel Nazarian MD, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “After 6 months, apply liberal topical sunscreen on your baby 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every two hours.” As for spray sunscreens, avoid them until your child is older. “Even with toddlers, there’s a risk of inhalation of sunscreen and irritation to the child’s respiratory tissue and lungs,” Dr. Nazarian adds. Additionally, it’s much more difficult to determine if an appropriate amount of sunscreen has been applied when using spray form; much of the sunscreen is lost in the breeze.

woman looking over her shoulder in the shower, soaping upVGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Scented body wash

Parents can overdo the scrubbing at bath time, warns Dr. Nazarian, who recommends using gentle cleansers free of any synthetic fragrances, parabens, or irritating sulfates. The fewer additives in the product, the less chance of irritation. “In addition to parabens, try to avoid ingredients listed as perfumes and coloring. You don’t want to strip natural oils and hydrators on baby’s skin,” she says. And yes, babies can be prone to eczema, so review all ingredients carefully. According to Dr. Nazarian, when it comes to baby’s bath time, it’s best to look for products containing soothing oatmeal or calming coconut butter. If you or your baby are battling skin issues, try some of these home remedies for eczema and psoriasis relief.

talcum powder spilling out of a bottle on a pink surface279photo Studio/Shutterstock

Baby powder

Yes, it’s right there in the name—how could baby powder be bad? “I recommend against the use of baby powder and other powders for diaper rash,” says Dr. Nazarian. “The aerosolized particles are quite irritating to a baby’s lungs and have the potential to cause respiratory problems.” Also, avoid putting baby powder in the diaper regions.

baby in a soapy bathFamVeld/Shutterstock

Bubble baths

As fun as bubbles may seem, remember that baby’s skin is already quite delicate and sensitive. And, according to Dr. Nazarian, bubble baths are a quick way to strip away natural hydrators, drying out baby’s skin and leaving him or her itchy. (Moms, on the other hand, might find a bubbly bath is the stress melter she needs.) “I recommend a quick bath time with minimal gentle cleansers limited to three times weekly,” she says. “Baths can be introduced as early as the first year of life, but bubble baths are never fully recommended for infants because there’s no need for a large amount of soap when cleansing a baby.” Infants should be bathed in a tub of mostly water, with a very small amount of cleanser. “Children and adults love bubbles baths, but unfortunately they’re just not great for our skin.”

a package of NeosporinTerry Putman/Shutterstock

Neosporin

Baby has a scratch or cut? Think twice before grabbing topical antibiotics like Neosporin. “We almost never recommend Neosporin or antibiotics for use on babies since there’s a risk for potential contact allergic reactions,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Instead, Aquaphor prevents the growth of bacteria and can be used to keep little areas of injury clean.”

a collection of skin products on a yellow surface with palm leavesAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Adult skin products

They can be quite cosmetically elegant, but adult moisturizers are usually filled with added scents and perfumes. “These additives are not recommended for babies and the pediatric population because they are triggers for allergies and eczema,” explains Dr. Nazarian. Your fave scented skin cream might just be irritating for your infant. “Instead look for products that are specially formulated for babies and children—which should be ideally fragrance-free and paraben-free.” Check out dermatologists’ eight rules for using moisturizer.

close up of a woman's hands as she applies lotion to her wristVGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Lotions

If your baby has dry skin or minor skin irritations, soothe it with creams or ointments which are less likely to contain ingredients that can provoke a reaction. Lanolin can be an option: “Babies can have all kinds of allergies, to anything, but unless you’re noticing a rash after application, lanolin is generally quite safe for use,” says Dr. Nazarian. She recommends products from the Promise Organic Baby line—she’s a spokesperson for the brand—because the ingredients are organic and the products avoid harsh or irritating substances (no parabens, added fragrances, or harsh surfactants).

close up of a dropper and bottle topAmyLv/Shutterstock

Be wary of essential oils

Although popular with adults, essential oils can be heavily perfumed and are potentially irritating to delicate baby skin, according to Dr. Nazarian. Try to use products that are specifically formulated to moisturize the sensitive skin of a baby, such as those containing coconut butter (a mix of coconut oil and shea butter) or oatmeal-based creams. (For adults, essential oils can really help with acne).

blue washing machine soap pouring into a washing machine soap applicators-ts/Shutterstock

Fragrant detergents

Many retail brands produce “sensitive skin” laundry detergent, which is free of dyes and perfumes. When washing baby’s clothes, Dr. Nazarian recommends Dreft, Tide Free, and Gentle, or All Free and Clear. “They are all safe for use on babies and adults alike,” she says.

close up of hands putting a diaper on an infantGeorge Rudy/Shutterstock

Scented diaper rash creams

Look for creams without synthetic fragrances—you want something that will be naturally calming since these creams are continuously used on a very delicate and sensitive area, explains Dr. Nazarian. Zinc oxide and petroleum are both safe ingredients to look for in diaper cream. Aquaphor is a good option, as is Promise Organic Baby, which makes a diaper rash cream with zinc oxide and has added oatmeal, a naturally gentle and soothing ingredient.

Sources
  • Rachel Nazarian MD, dermatologist, Schweiger Dermatology Group, New York, NY.
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on January 16, 2020