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The best baby soap is mild, moisturizing, and lacks potentially harmful chemicals. When choosing a soap, look at the ingredients list to see if it contains ethyl alcohol, propylene glycol, or other chemicals that might harm the baby when consistently used. Avoid bubble bath products and scented soaps, which contain unnecessary ingredients that can trigger a negative reaction. In addition, remember that soap is optional for most baby baths; warm water is usually enough to clean a baby.
Make sure that the soap is gentle and moisturizing. A harsh soap can irritate the baby’s skin, while a good baby soap lets you skip putting lotion on the baby after a bath. You may want to rule out soaps not specifically made for babies, which can make choosing a gentle soap easier. Regular soap works just as well, however, as long as it lacks harmful chemicals and has a moisturizing ingredient or two.
Many chemicals used to manufacture commercial baby soaps are potentially dangerous. For instance, the petroleum by-product mineral oil is linked to cancer and is toxic to the human respiratory system. The foaming detergent sodium laureth sulfate causes skin irritation and is a common ingredient in bubble bath. Chemicals such as these are not necessarily dangerous in small quantities, but babies are more susceptible to negative side effects than adults. Other baby soap ingredients, such as cocamidopropyl betaine, coconut diethanolamide, and propyl paraben, have been identified as potentially toxic.
Scented baby soap is another product to avoid. The chemicals in these products can dry a baby’s skin and worsen diaper rashes. Baby wipes are sometimes scented, too, and they can cause or worsen the same problems as scented baby soap. The vast majority of soaps and wipes have a fragrance-free version, which is usually around the same price.
Natural products are generally a good option. Keep in mind that natural does not always mean moisturizing or safe, however. Many all-natural soaps are somewhat harsh on a person’s skin, so look for one with that specifically states that it is a moisturizing soap. In addition, look at the ingredients list to make sure that the product does not contain potentially harmful, though all-natural, ingredients.
In most circumstances, it is not necessary to use baby soap or any other kind of soap to clean babies. Newborns especially should be cleaned with warm water alone. Excessive bathing of a baby — more than a few times per week — can lead to dry skin. Wash your baby when needed, but use baby soap only when warm water fails to do a good job.
If you wash your baby just before bed, you might think about finding a product with lavender in it, or I suppose you could use lavender essential oil. (I'm not totally sure how safe that is, so please look into it.)
Lavender is an aromatherapy oil that is supposed to relax people and help them sleep better. Make sure that the product you choose has real lavender in it and not just a chemical fragrance - you do *not* want fragrance that comes from potentially irritating or allergenic chemicals! Plus a chemical version wouldn't have any aromatherapy effect. Don't know if lavender really works, but you can find it in a lot of natural baby soaps as well as mainstream commercial versions, and it does smell nice.
I know they say that you can do without the soap, but we're talking about little critters who poop and spit up all over themselves! I like to use a little bit, myself. I know there have been some controversies about it recently, but I always did fine with the yellow bottle of Johnson's baby soap.
Another consideration with choosing baby soap is that it is much more convenient to have one that you can use for the whole baby, "head to toe." There are many brands that will work as both soap and shampoo, while some soaps, like the Burt's Bees I've tried, will irritate their eyes if you use it on their hair and face.
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