UPDATED: March 2016
There is no reason you can’t use shampoo on your baby’s body as well as his head, and most products are labeled for use as shampoo and as baby body wash. Shampoos, even the stuff I consider Good Stuff, generally has more ingredients than a simple bar of soap, so I prefer the latter for babies.
Some companies do make a separate baby body wash that doesn’t double as shampoo; This Safe Product Guide gives you the run-down of the best and worst of these, plus recommends some great bar soaps (which, by the way, can be used on your little one’s hair, too!) and bubble baths, which I use every night for my boys just because they love it.
Adult soaps and shower gels often include harsh petroleum-based detergents, but baby wash does tend to be gentler, if not necessarily safer. Ideally, you should choose a baby wash or bubble bath that specifies 100% natural ingredients; choosing organic baby wash is an even bigger plus. It can be hard to find non-toxic baby products, so we hope our Safe Product Guides are helpful to you!
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Is Ok…Sort of
One soap ingredient that has stirred a lot of controversy is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). After lots of research, I’ve decided that while I’m okay using products that contain SLS to wash clothing or dishes, I don’t want it in anything that I rub directly onto my kids’ skin because it can be irritating. Fortunately, most baby wash doesn’t contain SLS. Note that sodium laureth sulfate is a different ingredient all together, and one that should always be avoided as it is often contaminated with carcinogenic 1-4, dioxane.
(Here’s more on the differences between these two ingredients.)
Now that you have some basic info on what you should stay away from, here is my roundup of Good, Bad, and Sneaky body washes, bar soaps, and bubble baths for babies and kids.
The Good Stuff
Babo’s line, all produced on an organic farm in upstate New York, boasts a clean ingredients list and yummy scent, without any synthetic fragrances (they’ve cracked the code!). My kids enjoy nightly bubble baths in Babo’s lavender formula, which doubles as a shampoo. Please note that we are no longer carrying Babo’s Moisturizing Oatmilk/Calendula Bubble Bath & Wash because they added sodium benzoate to the formula (read more on this below in the box titled “Some Okay Stuff”).
If you want a very pure, basic fragrance-free liquid soap/shampoo for your baby, this is a good bet, although I don’t love the way it smells (a sort of castile soap smell).
Lafe’s wash is 100% organic, with hydrating saponified oils of sunflower seed, coconut, olive, and palm. You can buy it on Amazon for around $13.
This is the best of the best, in my opinion, especially for new babies. I originally bought it to use as a facial cleanser for myself, and then began using it on my kids as well. (Parenting.com calls it one of only three cleansers they “…would ever recommend using on a child.”)
The simple ingredients list includes witch hazel, vegetable glycerin, and essential oils of geranium and lavender. We are now carrying this product in our online store, where you’ll pay $34.99 for a glass bottle (another plus). Note that is won’t work as a bubble bath.
These bags are amazing (and amazingly expensive, at $40 for enough for only 20 baths). The ingredients are organic–oatmeal, milk powder, and lavender flowers–and the scent comes from only essential oils. It comes in these fantastic little cotton (unbleached, of course) satchels, and you just rub it across your child’s wet skin. You can find Erbavia products–not all of which I would recommend–in high-end retail locations as well as Amazon.
Shea’s line of baby washes/shampoos contain safe surfactants and are scented only with essential oils. Some ingredients are organic.
Note that I do not recommend all Shea Moisture products–some contain retinyl palmitate and other concerning ingredients. That said, Shea Moisture’s eczema bar soap for babies is also Good Stuff.
If you love bar soaps, try Farmaesthetics Rainwater Bath Bars, which are gentle enough for babies and kids, and made of organic ingredients. The soap ingredients are basic: just purified rain water, olive, palm, and coconut oils, and various herbs, flowers, and essential oils. You’ll pay $12 per long-lasting bar, and you can buy these pretty soaps from the Good Stuff Store.
I am not a Paleo momma (in fact, I barely eat meat), but I love this soap! It’s mild, unscented, and made with a variety of seasonal herbs, which are gathered in the wild or grown by the soapmaker herself. This soap–like the rest of the Paleo Skincare line, is beef-tallow-based, which means it yields a rich, moisturizing lather and lasts longer than vegetable-based soaps. If you’re looking for the most environmentally friendly soap on this list, this is the one for you.
Earth Mama offers another safe bar soap option. With some slightly more interesting ingredients than most natural bar soaps—such as oats, cabbage rose, and lemon balm–this pleasant smelling soap is available on Amazon for $5. By the way, Earth Mama’s Baby Wash & Shampoo is also Good Stuff!
This unique product is a shampoo, body wash, hand product, and also a bubble bath. For budget-conscious mommas, this is a great find at $9.99 for the multi-purpose $16-ounce bottle. Acure is a rare brand that’s across-the-board safe, without sodium benzoate, synthetic fragrances, or parabens. This Foamer is unscented.
I am normally not a fan of direct sales companies (Arbonne, Ava Anderson, etc.), but there are some exceptions. Beautycounter is one of the companies that seems genuinely committed to bringing safe products to market. The only caveat here is that their stuff is definitely NOT all natural or organic–but they do choose all ingredients that EWG has rated as low concern–and conduct their own research to boot. Beautycounter’s body wash for kids has a pleasant smell (and doesn’t contain any undisclosed chemical fragrances), and is free of sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates. It also doesn’t contain sodium benzoate. You’ll pay $18 for a 10-ounce bottle.
While not 100% natural or organic, the bubble bath by The Honest Company is a safe option from a fairly reliable company (there are just a few of their products that I wouldn’t recommend–the majority are non-toxic). You’ll pay around $12 for the 12-ounce bottle, and the bubble wand they include is a fun touch. Honest Bubble Bath is now available on Amazon.
This very basic soap contains only a few organic ingredients, but one of them is potassium hydroxide, which some readers have been concerned about (it gets a 3 from Skin Deep). Otherwise known as lye, potassium hydroxide is a caustic agent used to turn the coconut oil in Bronner’s soap into, well, soap. Fortunately, none remains in the finished product, and therefore, I consider this Good Stuff.
Some Okay Stuff
The following products are not quite Good Stuff because they contain sodium benzoate, an ingredient that Skin Deep rates a 3 and about which I have some concerns.
Despite the small amount of sodium benzoate it contains, I would feel comfortable using this wash on my own kids, as it has a short ingredients list and Beautycounter is committed to testing all their products for purity.
California Baby products are widely available and people ask about them all the time. Despite a recent change in their formula (now containing sodium benzoate), I would be okay using this bubble bath.
As I mentioned above, we are no longer carrying this variety of Babo’s bubble bath in our store since they added sodium benzoate to their formula. If you want a Babo bubble bath, choose their Lavender Bubble Bath, which does not contain this questionable preservative. In a pinch, however, any of this Okay Stuff is fine.
The Bad Stuff
Fisher-Price not only makes toxic plastic toys, but also toxic bubble baths and baby washes, complete with synthetic fragrances and PEG chemicals galore.
Johnson’s tops the gross list, since most of their baby washes and soaps include fragrance, parabens, and artificial coloring. Johnson’s has, however, recently launched a natural line that is free of phthalates, parabens, artificial fragrances, and dyes (although none of it is organic).
Mustela, a high-end but noxious baby product line, makes several formulations of baby wash and bubble bath, full of fragrances and PEG chemicals.
Aquaphor’s Gentle Wash & Shampoo throws chamomile in their formula and hopes you won’t notice the PEG chemicals.
The Sneaky Stuff
Burt’s Bee’s Bubble Bath contains synthetic fragrance (which can be home to dozens of undisclosed chemicals).
Earth’s Best Soothing Bubble Bath contains a host of concerning natural ingredients, such a linalool and limonene (both linked with immunotoxicity), as well as benzyl alcohol.
Gaia Natural Baby Bath & Body Wash contains the scary formaldehyde-releasing sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.
Gentle Naturals Eczema Baby Wash is not particularly gentle nor natural, with phenoxyethanol and several PEG chemicals among its ingredients.
Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Bath contains synthetic fragrance and immunotoxic cocamidopropyl betaine, plus a range of PEG chemicals.
BabyGanics Bubble Bath is better than the other products listed in this Sneaky Stuff section–but I don’t like that it contains phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate.
Yes to Baby Carrots Naturally Cleansing Bubble Bath contains retinyl acetate, which Skin Deep gives a 9 (out of 10) on their hazard scale.
Little Twig Organics Bubble Bath contains suspected immunotoxin cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium benzoate.
Read our Safe Bar Soap Guide for other great natural soap and organic soap options for kids and grownups alike.
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