You might want to check your shampoo.

I’m a bzzagent, which means I regularly receive samples of products and promote them socially if I like them.  (Don’t worry – I’ll let you know if I’ve received compensation for a review!)

Recently I received a bottle of Aveeno Baby Shampoo and Diaper Rash Cream samples to try out.  Aveeno often touts itself as being gentle on babies, so I was excited to try it.  And we did.  We used it as shampoo on the kids in the shower, and as bubble bath in the tub.  It smells great.

At the same time, I noticed that Thing Two, my current youngest, was breaking out in ezcema again.  And this time it was all over his body – his back, his belly, and his legs.  Some of it was the usual bright red, raised rash.  On his back and belly, his skin was rough and prickly, but I couldn’t see anything on his skin.  My kids are constantly breaking out, especially the youngest, so we did what we always do – lotion, lotion, lotion.  This time, to no avail.

About a week after I noticed the problem, I ran across this article on an ingredient found in many shampoos called quaternium-15.  Imagine my surprise to learn that by chemical reaction, the preservative quaternium-15 releases formaldahyde, which according to this peer-reviewed study from the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association and the article I linked above from, is a known carcinogen and can also cause contact dermatitis, which is often mistaken for ezcema.

Needless to say, I threw out the Aveeno Baby Shampoo that day.  I’m happy to say that Thing Two’s back and belly have cleared up, though his (actual) ezcema still remains.


I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: check what is in your bath products!  Children are especially vulnerable to harmful chemicals – their smaller bodies mean that chemicals will have a great effect on their systems than it would for adults.  Add in the fact that many children soak in the tub far longer than their parents, and the situation can get quite toxic.

So what can you do?  Have you seen what’s on the shelves at Walmart and Target?  Hardly a natural product in sight.

First of all, know the difference between a detergent and a soap.  Soap is made of three basic things: Fats/oils, lye (sodium hydroxide) and water.    Simply put, those three things will make a basic bar of moisturizing soap (and done correctly, there is no lye left in the bar.) Ingredients will only contain oils, water and any additives like essential oils or ground oatmeal.

A detergent bar is most often filled with chemicals that mimic natural soap.   Companies that provide soaps found it was cheaper to produce cleansers that didn’t use expensive oils, and the glycerin made by combining fats, oils, lye, and water is much more lucrative if used in exclusive moisturizing creams.   The problem is, the chemicals used (for instance, sodium laureth sulfate) are often very harsh on delicate human skin and strip the natural oils away.   But no worries!  You can buy the glycerin lotions to replace that moisture!


So what to do, what to do?

Handmade Lemongrass Soap

Handmade Lemongrass Soap

First, we’ve replaced our body washes and commercial soaps with all-natural soaps.  I make ours, but usually we patronize shops on etsy for variety (one I love is Toadstoolsoaps and since you probably aren’t sick of my scents, check out my shop for more natural soaps.)

The kids have their hair washed using soap.  Because it’s all oils, water, and lye, it doesn’t strip their hair like detergent bars would do.  I haven’t gotten brave enough to try this on my hair yet, but since I don’t seem to be having a reaction to the shampoos I have left, and I hate waste, I’m using them up before trying some all-natural shampoos.  There are some great brands out there, and the easiest way to find them is to look for pure Castile soap, because it doesn’t require the chemical preservatives I’ve mentioned  – check out  Earth Mama Angel Baby, and Dr Bronners.  California Baby is another brand that I’ve had recommended to me by the crunchiest of people!


5 responses to this post.

  1. Great post! i use shampoo from My Nature’s Paradise. my son seems to have very sensitive skin. I’d be interested in what you use for eczema on your toddler. Shea butter seems to work the best right now (raw, unrefined, that is), but I’m always on the lookout for new stuff.


    • I’ll have to try My Nature’s Paradise! I am a vagrant of bath products – I don’t like to stick with any one product.

      Shea butter is great for eczema as long as they don’t have contact dermatitis from tree nuts! Anything thick and nourishing like that is great stuff – and I think I need to use some myself. 😛

      If I can get my toddler to sit still while he’s moist from a bath, I find jojoba oil works really well to keep his skin moist. We don’t bathe him unless he needs it, though, and right now we are using Shikai’s Dry Skin Lotion but we find Gold Bond Healing lotion with Chamomile works just as well. ( I still need to check the ingredients on that!)


  2. Wow! Can I just say this is the exact same scenario that happened to me when I started reading the back of all the toiletry labels. There was this great Minnesota Public Radio segment that talked Aveeno and another parent company. I saw a commercial about Dove soap too…where the women are washing the mirror people and it makes me wonder about all those ingredients. I digress. Thanks for this post. Well written.


  3. Posted by Holly/Poi on February 2, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Wow, that’s sad that Aveeno would market a baby product with a known carcinogen and which causes eczema/irritation. What did they say when you told them?

    My mom has a problem with psoriasis on her head, and has had great luck with JaSon Tea Tree Scalp Normalizing Shampoo. I don’t know if it contains quaternium-15 or not, and it’s a bit strong for babies/kids, but great for adults with scalp issues.


    • When I submitted my bzzagent report, I have to tell them how many people I spoke to and what I said, as well as fill out a survey. I basically said I didn’t speak to anyone about it (I guess now I have!) but I did give some low scores. I have yet to contact the company, but I’m so very tired of Aveeno pretending to be gentle for babies and children. Maybe I should call them, huh?


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