Updated: November 2016
I’m not particularly prone to dry skin, but both my kids take after their dad—every winter leaves all three struggling with scaly, bumpy arms and legs.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of coconut oil, and we often put a little blob of the organic, unrefined good stuff in the bath with the boys.
My Top Pick for Best Baby LotionIf you’re looking for a creamy (not greasy), basic baby lotion with no sketchy ingredients, my pick is Acure’s Bare Baby Lotion.
Many readers have written in with their own strategies for keeping dry skin at bay, often without buying packaged lotions or creams. I have accepted the fact that I’m always going to be the type to buy lotion rather than lube up my kids with pure olive oil, but these strategies are still helpful:
- Humidify, humidify, humidify. Lots of you suggested this. I bought an ionic humidifier to help clear Felix’s sinuses, and as an added bonus, I no longer wake up feeling like my skin is a size too small for my body.
- Hydrate inside out. While at other times of the year I think the whole “drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day” wisdom lacks sufficient research to back it up, in the winter I do feel it helps to up the fluid intake. In any event, I tend to feel thirstier when I’m stuck inside a heated apartment all day.
- Bathe less. One reader said her daughter only gets one bath a week and has no dry skin issues. While I know that my own skin feels better when I take fewer showers, Felix really has always loved the bath, and he often gets more than one a day (and sometimes he sits in there for an hour!).
- Get a chlorine filter. If you have a water baby like I do, the chlorine exposure might aggravate dry skin (and carries other health risks). We used this filter for a long time and recently upgraded to this one. (In order to fill a bath, we use a hose shower head and simply drop it into the bath.)
- Apply organic shea butter. It’ll spread more easily when mixed with an oil (one reader suggests jojoba; another loves avocado). If you put the mixture near the stove while cooking dinner, it’ll melt and be perfect after a bath.
- Lube your baby up with olive oil before her bath to ensure silky skin afterwards (but be careful, as she will be VERY slippery while in the bath).
- Soap them at the end. Let your little one play in the bath first, and then after his skin becomes wrinkly, quickly use the soap to wash him. Less time in the drying soap prevents dry skin.
In addition to some of the above measures, I use a store-bought lotion on Felix and Wolf after baths (which is the best time to moisturize because skin is already full of water).
What Might Be Wrong with the Baby Lotion You Have Now
Other common ingredients in baby lotion include:
- Parabens (well-known endocrine disruptors)
- Ethanol (a penetration-enhancing alcohol)
- Phenoxyethanol (a suspected carcinogen)
Even lotions sold in health food stores and marketed as natural will contain some of these chemicals. Phenoxyethanol in particular is ubiquitous in “natural” lotions.
Coconut Oil: Refined vs. Unrefined and Virgin vs. Extra Virgin
Whether you are buying it to use as skincare or as food, definitely opt for unrefined coconut oil, as the refined variety is deodorized and bleached. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoking point and lacks the coconuty smell and taste, which is why it is sometimes preferred for cooking. And while there is a distinction between virgin and extra virgin olive oil, when it comes to coconut oil, these terms mean the same thing.
The Good Stuff
This is my new favorite line, which we just started carrying in our online store. Babo’s lotions are light, smell delicious (but not cloying), and contain none of the bad stuff discussed above. Babo Botanicals products are produced on a certified organic farm in upstate New York, and their lotions contain natural skin softeners like calendula and meadowsweet. An 8-ounce bottle of lotion–which comes in two natural fragrances–sells for $15.50.
This all-natural, organic baby lotion has gotten rave reviews from our readers and customers. Even the bottle is free of BPA and phthalates so these chemicals will not leach into the product. Lafes lotion contains nothing remotely questionable, and costs just $11 for a 6-ounce bottle. Skin softening ingredients include aloe vera, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil.
This Australian line makes super yummy baby lotions (including Soothing, Calming, and Sensitive formulations). You’ll pay about $20 for oughly 4.25 ounces, plus another $20 for them to ship it to you, which I realize is an insane amount of money for a lotion that’s mostly made up of the same ingredients as the other Good Stuff (like calendula and organic lavender oil). I’m including Enkido on this list because I like to support one of the rare companies whose entire line is safe. Almost every single product they sell—from eye makeup remover to anti-aging cream—ranks a 0 on Skin Deep, and nothing scores higher than a 1.
I love that Poofy’s lotions are made to order, which means they don’t need to use hardcore preservatives (although they still have a generous one-year shelf life). This fragrance-free lotion also has some interesting ingredients, including kimchi seaweed and apricot kernel oil.
Some Beautycounter products contain a ton of ingredients, not all of which are natural (although all of which seem to be safe)–this balm is an exception. It contains a short list of ingredients–mostly organic–such as sunflower seed oil, beeswax, and shea butter. It’s also garnered major praise from users!
EMAB’s Baby Lotion smells super yummy (a combo of vanilla and sweet orange oil lend the lovely scent). Shea butter again makes an appearance here, along with olive oil, aloe, and calendula. Other good stuff about this Good Stuff: like the other lotions listed here, it scores a 0 on Skin Deep, all the ingredients are organic, and a 4-ounce bottle costs around 10 bucks.
Check out our Hand & Body Lotion Review for some more clean lotions that are safe for kids and babies.
Pleni sent us a sample for review. This is a balm rather than a lotion or cream, but is nice for kiddos with very dry skin. It contains mostly organic ingredients.
Lac Larde organic baby lotion is my husband’s current favorite (for himself!), and because I consulted with the founder of this company when she was developing her line, I have personally vetted every ingredient in this non-greasy, subtly scented body lotion.
The Bad Stuff
I feel like I’m picking on J&J, but most Johnson’s baby lotions score a 7 on Skin Deep. They’ve got fragrance, three different kinds of parabens, benzyl alcohol, BHT, propylene glycol, and artificial colors. To give credit where credit is due, however, the recently launched Johnson’s Naturals lotion is actually pretty safe (it hasn’t been reviewed by Skin Deep yet, but none of the ingredients scores more then a 2).
Aveeno (also produced by Johnson & Johnson) makes a Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream, which, despite being fragrance free, contains numerous parabens, as well as ethanol. It also contains several ingredients that rank as medium to high hazard on Skin Deep, including cetearteth-6, benzalkonium chloride, and PEG-25 soya sterol.
The Sneaky Stuff
BabyGanics Smooth Move Daily Lotion isn’t totally terrible–but it does contain phenoxyethanol (a possible carcinogen), as well as several other ingredients that Skin Deep rates a 3.
Burt’s Bees seem to subscribe the same theory that allows lettuce on a hamburger to negate the calories of the burger itself (and the fries you’ll eat with it). Their Baby Bees lotion includes a dizzying list of flower extracts, but that doesn’t make up for fragrance, lactic acid, phenoxyethanol, and limonene.
Mrs. Meyers Baby Blossom Lotion contains fragrance, phenoxyethanol, and ceteareth-20, which is often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. Despite bragging about aromatherapy all over the label, I knew all of the Mrs. Meyers stuff smelled too good to be true (take a whiff of anything with the geranium scent—it’s heavenly), and so I asked for more details. I was told:
“To answer your question regarding our fragrances – our aromatherapeutic fragrances are a proprietary combination of natural essential oils and synthetic fragrance ingredients formulated in compliance with IFRA / RIFM’s (International Fragrance Association and Research Institute for Fragrance Materials) guidelines for safety. Please note…none of our fragrances contain phthalates.”
Perhaps Skin Deep would lower the score on this product if they knew that it was phthalate-free (they currently give it a 4), but I still don’t feel comfortable using it.
What About Baby Oil?
I doubt many people are buying baby oil these days, but if you are thinking of using it, you should check the label first. Baby oil is generally a combination of mineral oil (a petroleum byproduct) and synthetic fragrance, and according to some sources, it seals up the pores in a way that doesn’t allow skin to breathe effectively. Baby massage oils are now readily available due to the popularity of baby massage (which, along with baby sign language, I never got around to trying, although I’m sure they are both amazing). I will do a review of massage oils in the coming months, but from the cursory research I’ve done, it looks like there are lots of safe options. This one from Badger is my favorite.
Beautycounter also makes a nice Soothing Baby Oil.
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