As a parent, you always have your baby’s best interest at heart. You want your baby to be safe and healthy. So, you start paying attention to things that go on her body and her skin. Baby wipes are some of those products, as your child comes in contact with them almost immediately after her birth. Today, we will take a close look at the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes, which are in the top half of my rating list – yet, they did not make it to the top. Let’s see together what it is that prevents Pampers baby wipes from becoming the best wet wipes for newborn babies.
You do not want to have doubts about whether the baby wipes you are using are safe enough for your baby. And rightfully so. I understand you completely. Several years ago, I started researching baby wipes because I had just had a baby and had the same concerns as you. Since then, reading labels has turned into my lifestyle and full-time vocation. All the baby wipes brands I’ve investigated are included in a rating list, which I update annually.
Baby wipes and skin penetration
When it comes to wet wipes, it is important to understand that the ingredients of the wipes don’t just stay on the skin and then evaporate. Our skin can absorb things we put on it.
How do we know that products we put on our skin penetrate the skin and end up in our bloodstream?
For illustration, some prescription drugs are more effective when delivered via the skin. A good example would be nicotine patches and birth control patches which are popular and very effective. This should give us pause when we consider what to put on our skin.
If you read the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review reports, you’ll see that they talk about skin penetration. So do the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) reports. Different chemicals penetrate the skin at different rates. There are some that barely penetrate the skin because they have big molecules. Others penetrate very well, especially when a product contains skin absorption enhancing ingredients in it.
Therefore, what we want for baby wipes is to have as few concerning ingredients as possible or better yet – none whatsoever. Let’s look at the ingredients of Pampers Aqua Pure wipes to see if they have any concerning chemicals.
The ingredients of Pampers baby wipes
Here is the latest ingredient list for Pampers Aqua Pure wipes. Are they as pure as their name suggests?
Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sorbitan Caprylate, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Organic Cotton, Regenerated Cellulose, Polyester.
Let me group the ingredients for better understanding.
Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?
Pampers Aqua Pure wipes ingredients of low concern
Citric acid and sodium citrate
Small amounts of these ingredients are enough to regulate the pH of baby wipes. So, I do not think there is a skin irritation concern here. However, most citric acid/sodium citrate on the market is derived from GMO corn. As for Pampers baby wipes, I don’t have any information as to their derivation method of the citric acid.
It is a relatively new chemical and there is not much information on it yet. According to the 2002 Cosmetic Ingredient Review report, chemicals that belong to the group of sorbitans are only mild irritants. I would not worry about it when it comes to products, we use on ourselves. The big picture is that anything can cause irritation. However, when it comes to a baby, I would make a note of that.
By the way, if you use the Skin Deep database for your product research, make sure to pay attention to data availability. Here are some helpful tips on how to use the Skin Deep database effectively.
Disodium EDTA and xanthan gum
While Disodium EDTA is safe, it increases skin absorption. It means that if there are any contaminants, their absorption will increase.
Xanthan gum is a common thickener and is generally considered safe. Although, it is often produced from genetically modified corn, and we don’t know its source in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes.
Preservatives in Pampers baby wipes
Preservatives in baby wipes are one of the causes of skin irritation for babies. Unfortunately, all baby wipes must contain preservatives due to the high content of water in them. Without preservatives, water creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. However, there is good news!
When I first started reviewing wipes in search of the best wet wipes for newborn babies, I was startled. Many wet wipes contained formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. My heart ached to hear from parents about their babies’ painful skin rashes.
Luckily, many manufacturers have taken out formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Instead, they started using phenoxyethanol, which was a big improvement. Nevertheless, even though phenoxyethanol is better than formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, it’s not perfect. You can learn why this is so in the Phenoxyethanol in Skincare post. This year, while doing my annual baby wipes review, I noticed that the trend is to replace phenoxyethanol with a safer preservative. Yay! It is so great to see consumer pressure at work!
Sodium benzoate in wet wipes
Pampers baby wipes use sodium benzoate, which is a huge upgrade. However, in 2017 the American Contact Dermatitis Society added sodium benzoate to its core allergen series as one of the allergens. They say that it increases the risk of an allergic reaction if used in concentrations over 5%. I do not have information as to how much sodium benzoate Pampers baby wipes use. So, if you see irritation on your baby’s skin, I recommend you discontinue the use of the wipes immediately.
Pampers Aqua Pure wipes ingredients with contamination concerns
The ingredient of highest concern to me in these wipes is PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil because it is an ethoxylated ingredient. Let’s talk about what that means.
Ethoxylated ingredients in baby wipes
Regrettably, to make their wet wipes, many manufacturers use harsh petrochemicals as raw materials. To reduce their skin-irritating properties, manufacturers use the process of ethoxylation. During this process, they add ethylene oxide. The concern is that traces of unreacted ethylene oxide may remain in the final product. However, they will not show up as a listed ingredient. I expand on this subject in the Hidden Ingredients in the Best Baby Wipes post.
Additionally, ethoxylation generates a byproduct called 1,4-dioxane, which is nasty. Again, you won’t find 1,4-dioxane listed among the ingredients. The law considers it a contaminant and not an ingredient that manufacturers need to disclose. They can use a vacuum-stripping method to eliminate 1,4-dioxane, but if they don’t, the harmful chemical can remain in the baby wipes.
Both ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are classified as carcinogens. The Environmental Working Group has given the latter the rating of 5-8 depending on the use. And it rates ethylene oxide at 8-10. Besides, both ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane can cause skin rash.
PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil in the Pampers baby wipes
The word “PEG” with a number linked to it is an indication that the ingredient may be contaminated with the carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. The ingredient may not be harmful in and of itself. However, if the ingredient manufacturer does not use the vacuum-cleaning process, it can become contaminated. Therefore, it is best to avoid ethoxylated ingredients if possible. It is because the only way to be certain they are not contaminated is to send the wipes to a testing laboratory.
Some other ethoxylated ingredients to avoid are
- Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone
- Potassium Laureth Phosphate
- Polysorbate 20
- PEG-75 Lanolin
As I mentioned above, there is no way of knowing for sure whether these ingredients are present in a wet wipe. Therefore, out of caution, I penalized baby wipes brands that use ethoxylated ingredients in my Baby Wipes Rating List.
Pampers Aqua Pure wipes fabric
The fabric is made of organic cotton, regenerated cellulose, and polyester.
It is great that the Pampers baby wipes use organic cotton instead of conventional cotton. The fact of the matter is that agriculturally conventional cotton needs a lot of pesticides and fungicides. In accordance with Pesticide Action Network UK, globally, this crop covers just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land but uses 6% of the world’s pesticides (and 16% of insecticides). It is more than any other single major crop. And the US is the main user of these pesticides.
Therefore, organic cotton is always better than conventional cotton. However, it is not clear whether the cotton in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes has GOTS certification.
Regenerated cellulose is also called rayon, which is made from wood pulp. EWG’s Skin Deep database rates rayon at 1 (with 10 being the most toxic) with limited data. Unfortunately, the process of conversion of the material from wood to fabric may involve solvents that may be potentially toxic to the environment.
Frankly speaking, I’m not very happy about polyester being a part of the Pampers baby wipes. I always wonder about chemicals to which this material may expose my baby. To produce polyester, a polymer gets synthesized from crude oil. Then, the polymer is turned into a fabric. The manufacturing process involves multiple chemicals at its various stages. They act as lubricants, sizing agents, anti-static agents, bleaches, and wetting agents.
Manufacturers say they get rid of these chemicals before the fabric reaches consumers. However, there are many other chemical agents they frequently add during the later stages of fabric manufacture. They stay there to impart a variety of features on polyesters. Some of these features are shrinkage, as well as wrinkle-, stain-, bacteria-, and static-resistance, softness, color, and flame retardant qualities (source).
Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?
Pampers Aqua Pure wipes and other Pampers baby wipes
I included three kinds of Pampers wet wipes into my Baby Wipes Rating List. They are Pampers® Sensitive™ Wipes, Pampers® Baby Fresh™ Wipes, and Pampers® Aqua Pure Baby Wipes. This does not mean that I recommend them all. I only recommend some brands in my rating lists.
Comparison of Pampers baby wipes
In general, the ingredients in Pampers sensitive wipes and baby fresh wipes are basically the same as the ingredients in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes, except for a few additions. However, these additions turn out to be crucial in the baby wipe rating process.
To begin with, both sensitive wipes and baby fresh wipes contain ethoxylated ingredients. Not only do they have PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, but they also have Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone. And we’ve discussed ethoxylated ingredients earlier in the article.
Then, unlike Pampers Aqua Pure wipes and sensitive wipes, Pampers baby fresh wipes contain fragrance. I have so much to say about natural fragrance that it can turn into a whole new post (which I already have, by the way). In short, fragrance is a combination of numerous ingredients that manufacturers have a right not to disclose. These multiple ingredients – read ‘chemicals’ – may cause all sorts of allergies. Therefore, in my Baby Wipes Rating List, I rate fragrance at 8 (with 10 being the most toxic).
Lastly, the fabric is different in Pampers baby wipes. As you know, Pampers Aqua Pure wipes utilize organic cotton, regenerated cellulose, and polyester. Both the sensitive wipes and the fresh baby wipes use polypropylene and regenerated cellulose. Polypropylene means plastic with recycle code 5. While it is one of the safest types of plastic, I am still not a big fan of it. First, it is not biodegradable. Second, recent studies have shown that almost all plastic may contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals, also known as hormone disruptors.
What are the best baby wipes for sensitive skin?
So, what are the best wet wipes out of the three kinds of Pampers baby wipes?
Well, the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes hold the highest position among the three. Yet, they are not the best out there. It is important to understand that even the best wipes may have side effects. Because babies’ skin is very sensitive and must undergo a lot of wiping, even the best disposable wipes can cause a reaction. While some people prefer homemade baby wipes, others use water washing over the sink.
But here is something important I want to tell you: in our dynamic world it’s ok to use wet wipes. Don’t blame yourself for it. Just stop using them if you see signs of irritation. The important thing is now you know that baby wipes can be a culprit of skin irritation and you will know to watch out for that. Not many parents know that, so you are ahead of the curve. And you should feel good about it.
Conclusion about Pampers Aqua Pure wipes
So, are the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes really pure? I can say for sure that they have an improved formula and I applaud Pampers for that. However, they are not at the top of my baby wipes list mainly because they contain an ethoxylated ingredient. In other words, there is room for improvement, Pampers. If you want to know which baby wipes I consider the best, check out my Baby Wipes Rating List.
Free 5-Day Healthy Baby Registry Email Course
Are you fed up with disappointing products, being confused by product descriptions, and not knowing what questions to ask of companies?
You can learn simple techniques to get healthy non-toxic baby products with confidence! And yes, you can transform into a relaxed consumer.