Huggies Baby Wipes – Safe or Toxic?

posted in: Baby Wipes | 6

Huggies Baby Wipes


Aren’t you tired of the unpronounceable ingredients?  Don’t you just want to use baby wipes without getting a degree in chemistry? Who has the time to understand what all those ingredients mean? The answer is nobody. I actually read ingredients of all baby wipes on the US market.  But that’s because helping you get rid of harmful chemicals became my calling.  I was actually a trade room analyst before I had a baby who rocked my world. Anyway, manufacturers take a notice of my blog.

As of January 2014, Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes have been reformulated. The new formula is called Huggies Natural Care Simplest Formula. Let’s look at the changes and see if they are good enough.


The Old Formula Ingredients of Huggies Baby Wipes


Water, Potassium Laureth Phosphate, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Malic Acid, Methylisothiazolinone, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate


Possibility of 1,4-Dioxane Contamination


The most toxic ingredients in the old formula were the cleansing agents and emulsifier, Potassium Laureth Phosphate and Polysorbate 20. They are both produced by using carcinogenic ethylene oxide, which may contaminate the final product with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.


Preservatives in Huggies Baby Wipes


The preservatives chosen for the Huggies baby wipes were not the safest I have seen. They are Methylparaben and Methylisothiazolinone. Methylisothiazolinone may cause an allergic skin reaction and lab studies in mice suggest that it may be toxic to brain cells. The major concern about methylparaben is that it mimics estrogen and may disrupt the normal function of the hormone system. Tiny amounts here and there do add up when you use multiple products on your baby every day. The baby’s skin is thinner than adult skin, meaning that more substances get absorbed into the bloodstream.


The New Formula Ingredients of Huggies Baby Wipes


Water, Phenoxyethanol, Amodimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Malic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate


Change in Preservatives in Huggies Baby Wipes


The problematic preservatives, Methylparaben and Methylisothiazolinone, were replaced with a less problematic one, Phenoxyethanol. However, Phenoxyethanol is not at the top of my list either. It is associated with skin irritation but at least it is not an endocrine disruptor.


Change in Cleansing Agent in Huggies Baby Wipes


The cleansing agent no longer has a contamination problem with 1,4-dioxane, which is an improvement. But Cocamidopropyl Betaine is not the best cleanser out there either. It has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis. In fact, it was named Allergen of the Year in 2004 (for more information, visit here). I have seen it in dishwashing liquid used for its powerful foaming properties. I wish Huggies Baby wipes had a milder cleanser.


Conclusion About Huggies Baby Wipes New Formula


While there are improvements, Huggies Baby Wipes are not at the top of my list of baby wipes. Not yet. I would like to see more improvements before I recommend them.


Here is a list of other posts about baby wipes

Hidden Ingredients in Baby Wipes

Honest Baby Wipes

Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes: Safe or Toxic?

Products I Like – Biodegradable Baby Wipes

Products I Like – Toxin-Free Baby Wipes Not Made in China

Are WaterWipes Baby Wipes Natural and Safe?

Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes and Others

Naty Baby Wipes – Organic or Toxic?

Baby Wipes Rating ListI was able to create the list because I’ve reviewed almost all baby wipes available on the US market. I scrutinized every ingredient over and over again. This list is the result of my two-year research. In order to assign a specific number I studied MSDS’s (Material Safety Data Sheets), PubMed databasethe Skin Deep databaseTEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange), and the State of California proposition 65 list to name a few.

If you are new to the blog, please check out the Start Here page.

If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn, check out my recently published Non-Toxic Guide to Non-Toxic Baby Products.

 Huggies Baby Wipes

Original Post About Huggies Baby Wipes


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.  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:

  1. water,
  2. synthetic cleansers,
  3. product enhancers (which are used for smooth application, skin absorption, lumpiness prevention, ph-adjusting, etc),
  4. synthetic preservatives (which prevent bacteria growth), and
  5. 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 Baby WipesHuggies 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 websiteCostco 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.”  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.

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. The major concern about methylparaben is that it mimics estrogen and disrupts the function of the hormone system.

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.  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.”  As for malic acid, its main concern is that it may cause skin irritation.

Huggies Baby Wipes Skin Conditioners

Lastly, there are a few ingredients in Huggies Baby Wipes that are actually good for the skin, such as glycerinaloe 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.  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 (see my post here).  Ideally, I recommend water, natural soap, and organic cotton reusable cloth.  This is what I use on my baby.

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6 Responses

  1. Brittany

    Thank you so much! Now I understand why my hands have been reacting strangely, and mainly my right hand…

  2. Just out of curiosity, have you tried the Baby Looney Tunes Soft & Silky baby wipes? The ingridients show 3 ingredients and are supposed to be hypoallergenic. Can you comment on these, are they safe to use?

  3. Thank you so much for your informative information, i already knew that huggies are toxic sometime, but you clear everything, Thanks again.

  4. Hi Irina, how exactly do you use water, natural soap, and organic cotton reusable cloth in place of baby wipes?

    • Hi Courtney! Thank you for asking. I have done it in two ways. I put my baby in the sink, supported his body with my hand, leaned him against my body, while washing him under running water with soap. I did not even need to use any cloth. Or I put warm water in a little container and wiped him with a cloth dipped in the water. That worked for pee. For poop, I used dipped in water paper towel first so I can toss it away. Does it make sense?

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