Have you ever thought what baby wipes are made of? If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have done tons of research into baby wipes. One of my first posts on “Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes and Others” brought me a lot of grateful readers who took my warnings of their toxicity seriously and decided to go with less toxic options, e.g. baby wipes by Honest company (http://www.old.ireadlabelsforyou.com/biodegradable-baby-wipes/). Because one of my subscribers asked me whether Huggies baby wipes are as toxic as Kirkland Signature baby wipes and because Huggies baby wipes are widely used, I thought that it would be a good idea to create a post about Huggies baby wipes. In this post, I am going to delve into the ingredients of Huggies baby wipes so we can see for ourselves how natural Huggies baby wipes are.
Typical Baby Wipes Ingredients
Before we talk about Huggies baby wipes, let me give an overview what typical baby wipes are made of. In short, most baby wipes, whether they are so called “natural” or not, contain 5 types of ingredients:
- synthetic cleansers,
- product enhancers (which are used for smooth application, skin absorption, lumpiness prevention, ph-adjusting, etc),
- synthetic preservatives (which prevent bacteria growth), and
- skin conditioners.
In each ingredient category, ingredients vary on the scale of toxicity. All baby wipes use synthetic cleansers and most of them (even plant-based ones) use toxic chemicals in their manufacture. Product enhancing ingredients are relatively ok, although some of them may be quite toxic. As for preservatives (and they have to be used in baby wipes because a moist environment is a breeding ground for bacteria), they are the most problematic group in baby wipes. There are no synthetic preservatives that are absolutely free of any concerns. Again, it is a matter of toxicity degree.
Huggies Baby Wipes Ingredients
Huggies describes their baby wipes as “Natural Care” baby wipes. But what do they mean by “Natural?” Based on what I noted above, are the Huggies baby wipes really “Natural?” Let’s take a look at Huggies baby wipes ingredients and see for ourselves if they are truly natural and if their manufacturer made choices that are in the best interests of babies. By the way, Huggies baby wipes ingredients are not disclosed anywhere online, not even on the Huggies website. Costco describes Huggies as follows, “HUGGIES Natural Care® Plus wipes are hypoallergenic and fragrance free so there’s nothing unnecessary against your baby’s skin. Made with a touch of Aloe and Vitamin E to keep baby’s skin naturally healthy.”(http://www.costco.com/Huggies®-Natural-Care®-Plus-Baby-Wipes.product.11708781.html). I went to the store to take a picture of the Huggies baby wipes package to show you a list of the ingredients. Apparently, there are a few different formulations. And from what I gathered the formulation I took a picture of is not the most toxic.
Huggies Baby Wipes Cleansers
There are two synthetic cleansers in the Huggies baby wipes, which are potassium laureth phosphate and polysorbate-20. These cleansers have something in common. To produce them, a carcinogenic chemical, ethylene oxide, is used to make harsh petrochemicals less irritating to the skin. There are three problems with that: 1. The manufacturing process is toxic; 2. The cleansers remain irritating to the skin; 3. Ethylene oxide produces carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane that may remain in the final product (for more information see my “1,4-Dioxane in Cosmetics and Personal Care and Cleaning Products” post). Often manufacturers do not make an effort to remove 1,4-dioxane from the final products, even though it is not expensive to do. According to a 2008 Organic Consumer Association and EWG study, 46% of personal care products and 57 percent of baby soaps are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, and not much has been done since then to fix this situation (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/726331/1,4-DIOXANE/).
I do not recommend products that use cleansers produced with the use of ethylene oxide for two simple reasons. One is that there is no sure way for consumers to know that a manufacturer removed 1,4-dioxane. Second, I do not believe that in order to produce a simple cleaning product we have to use unsustainable petroleum resources while sustainable alternatives exist.
Huggies Baby Wipes Preservatives
There are two preservatives used in Huggies baby wipes, which are methylisothiazolinone and methylparaben. One of the main reasons I do not like to use baby wipes is that they all have to contain preservatives because their moist environment is a breeding ground for bacteria. There are no absolutely non-toxic synthetic preservatives; however, some preservatives are more toxic than others. Methylisothiazolinone and methylparaben are potent toxins. Methylisothiazolinone may cause an allergic skin reaction and lab studies in mice suggest that it may be toxic to brain cells (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703935/METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE/). The major concern about methylparaben is that it mimics estrogen and disrupts the function of the hormone system (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703937/METHYLPARABEN/#).
Huggies Baby Wipes Enhancers
Tetrasodium EDTA and malic acid are two ingredients used to help Huggies baby wipes do their work. Tetrasodium EDTA is a chelating agent and malic acid is a ph-adjuster. The EWG gives a favorable rating for Tetrasodium EDTA of only 2 out 10, with 10 being the most toxic (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706510/TETRASODIUM_EDTA/). However, there are other sources on the Internet that consider it much more toxic. I looked at the Tetrasodium EDTA MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and what stood out for me the most was as follows, “The toxicological properties of this substance have not been fully investigated.” (http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9923980). As for malic acid, its main concern is that it may cause skin irritation (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703723/MALIC_ACID/).
Huggies Baby Wipes Skin Conditioners
Lastly, there are a few ingredients in Huggies Baby Wipes that are actually good for the skin, such as glycerin, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, and tocopheryl acetate. All of them have skin conditioning properties. There are two things I want to say here. One is that tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), if derived synthetically, might be contaminated with carcinogenic hydroquinone (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706569/TOCOPHERYL_ACETATE/). And the second thing is that given the concerns I have mentioned above, any benefit is outweighed by the potential harm.
Huggies Baby Wipes Conclusion
So this is an analysis of Huggies baby wipes in a nutshell. I do not recommend Huggies baby wipes. Baby wipes by the Honest company remain my top recommendation among baby wipes (http://www.old.ireadlabelsforyou.com/biodegradable-baby-wipes/). Ideally, I recommend water, natural soap, and organic cotton reusable cloth. This is what I use on my baby.
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