6 Tips for Choosing Better Baby Products

6 Tips for Choosing Better Baby Products


That’s a newborn.  I am no medical professional, but I am a mom. I’ve had my own unfinished – though “full term” – bundles handed to me in the hospital bed, and I’ve desperately wanted to shout, “Put it back! This one’s not done yet!”

Yes, I know. They don’t fit.

But they’re really not done yet.

Babies’ systems still have so far to develop long after they’ve left the more ideal environment of the womb. One way we can help them is by keeping baby care products simple so their tiny bodies have less to process. Pause a moment before you load up on the baby wash, shampoo, bubble bath, lotion, oil, powder, cream, and think of the sheer number of ingredients contained in that lot. Because the personal care industry, even in baby care, is largely unregulated, among those products with endless ingredients are often allergens, sensitizers, hormone disruptors, and even carcinogens.

Here are some tips for what to skip to reduce chemical exposure and what to choose instead. Many of these tips necessitate reading the ingredient lists. They may look scary, but the Skin Deep Database can help you wade through.

Skip artificial “fragrance.” 

Choose… unscented or scented lightly with essential oils.

Whether its baby wipes, soap, laundry detergent, or diaper cream, “fragrance” is unnecessary to getting the job done. Because “fragrance” is actually a category and not a specific ingredient, the term can hide a range of actual ingredients, excused as proprietary trade secrets. Among the possibilities are sensitizers, allergens, and phthalates, which studies are starting to link to everything from male infertility to neurological disorders.

Skip Powder.

Choose… a simple balm to prevent chafing.

I know I’m battling nostalgia here, but powder poses an inhalation risk. It is so easily airborne. When you smell it, you’re actually taking in particles of the powder into your lungs, and baby is too. Their fragile lungs are ill-equipped to handle a steady influx of particulates.

Skip Parabens, Urea, Quaterniums.

Choose… products with tocopherols (vitamin E).

These are preservatives, in part. Certain parabens are being linked to hormone disruption and are showing up in breast cancer tumors. Both Urea and Quaterniums compounds release formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

Skip the “Tear Free.”

Choose… a mild soap, and use only pure water to clean baby’s face.

“Tear Free” is a matter of pH, and many cleansers that have the lower pH which makes them “tear free” are actually synthetic detergents which are not the best for baby’s skin. Some can be drying or irritating, and others, such as sodium laureth sulfate or polyethylene glycol (PEG), can even be contaminated with cancer causing 1,4 Dioxane.

Skip the sunscreen on newborns.

Choose… shade and light coverings until 6 months.  Afterwards, use mineral-based sunscreens.

Consider how powerful the sun is, and then consider how truly powerful sunscreen must be to fend it off, while at the same time being invisible.  Both the sun and sunscreen are too potent for newborns to face, and many common sunscreen active ingredients – such as oxybenzone and octinoxate – aren’t safe for anyone.

Skip “Baby” laundry detergents and any fabric softeners.

Choose… a clean rinsing, dye-free, scent-free soap or mild detergent. Add baking soda for extra scrubbing and deodorizing and/or pure white vinegar to the rinse cycle for fabric softening.

What is best to wash baby clothes is also what is best for adult clothes: tough on stains, exceedingly clean rinsing, dye-free, and scent-free. You don’t want one that leaves a fragrance, as said above, and you don’t want one that leaves behind softeners. Any such residue left on clothing comes in to lengthy contact with baby’s skin. Skin easily absorbs elements from its surroundings.

Babies must acclimate to so much in their new world – every noise, every smell, every sight, every touch, every taste – is all brand new to them. While the world around them is complex, baby’s personal care needs are simple. Instead go overboard on the love, laughter, and security. If we can just ignore the squalor of the baby marketing machine, our babies will be better off with low-key baby care products so they can finish the magical miracle of baby-building.

Further reading

This tip and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rachel- It depends somewhat on how much hair your little one has. When my kids were babies, I used a couple of drops of Unscented Castile soap on a washcloth because I felt I could control where the soap went more easily. For a time this included their hair, but as it grew, I used a drop or two on wet hair. Rinsing with a cup of water kept soap out of face and eyes. You can read more of my thoughts in this post here: Keep in mind, no true soaps are tear-free, so keep soap out of the eyes.

Lisa Bronner as a guest on the Mother Loving Future Podcast says:

[…] Talking with Amber and Jenna on their podcast, “The Mother Loving Future,” brought it all back.  We covered how I got started on my journey of “going green,” and how you can too – and why you would want to.  You’ll hear a little bit of what it was like “growing up Bronner,” as well as practical tips about product labels, green cleaning, and safety for children and babies. […]

Ayndrea says:

Wonderful post for a new mom, thank you! Is it necessary to dilute the Castile baby soap (light blue bottle)?

Konnie Xayabouth-Jones says:

Hi Lisa!

Our family enjoys your products! I was wondering if there is any plans for a baby unscented lotion and travel size lotion of your other lotion bottles. Currently I’m using one of the empty travel size Castile soap container. ?


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Konnie – I’m glad your family enjoys our products. One of the ingredients in our lotion is alcohol, which holds everything together and allows us to use more nourishing oils in our lotion. The alcohol is denatured (that is, made undrinkable) with the addition of essential oils. As such, this particular formula can’t be Unscented. An Unscented lotion is on our radar though. In the meantime, you can use our Unscented Magic Balm.

Konnie Xayabouth-Jones says:

We love the magic balm! It’s perfect for my hands and cuticles in this cold and dry winter. I use it mainly on my hands and I get lots of compliments at work. I just received our order of 5 balms on Saturday and I will be sharing the balms with my coworkers. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the unscented lotion.

Justin C. Higdon says:

I don’t have kids, but I’m so glad that you’re working to make the world a safer place for everyone. I’m always looking forward to your next video or blog update. Thanks for the great work, Lisa. I hope you’re having a great day!

In admiration,
Justin C. Higdon

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you for those kind words, Justin. And of course these are good general tips for us grown-ups too (although some of the applications might be different!).

James says:

Hey Lisa, I hope you’re well! Thankyou for another great post! I took your advice on using the unscented baby bar soap for face & beard care & I’m delighted to say it’s excellent, and as my wife and I are soon going to be first time grandparents (December) the baby care info that you shared is so invaluable. Great to read articles without all the ‘frills’ I appreciate your transparency & unbiased opinions. Kind Regards, Jim.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi James – I’m glad to hear the bar soap worked out for you! I always appreciate tips on beard care (for the obvious reason!). And congrats on your the upcoming arrival of your new grandbaby. What fun!

Ellen Kerley says:

This is so good to have – wish I had known when I was having my babies but at least I can share & our grandchildren will benefit- thanks so much – PS love the soft soap recipe you provided – now I can wash out our tub & don’t worry about chemical residue when we bathe the grandchildren
Thanks again

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ellen – You’re welcome. Glad you found us!

Lana Gunia says:

Thanks for great tips!! Absolutely helpful for parenting. A post must need to follow..

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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