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Target Baby Wipes – Consider This!

Written by Irina Webb

You did your homework before buying wipes for your baby and were on the lookout for the bad stuff.  Definitely, no harsh preservatives, PEGs, and long chains of hyphenated terms with numbers in them.  Yet, your baby got a rash again!  What did you miss?  Today we will talk about Target baby wipes and one of the ingredients that despite its seeming attractiveness may be the reason for your baby’s allergic reaction.  Target Up and Up wipes are quite popular, but let’s see what they are really up to.

There are three kinds of Target brand wipes in my Baby Wipes Rating List, and all of them have a different rating.  The mere fact that they are in the rating list doesn’t mean that I recommend them.  My purpose is to educate you, so you can make an informed decision as far as purchasing baby wipes.  As for Target baby wipes, one of them has a score good enough to make it to the list of recommended wipes.  And the other two kinds have worse scores, but one is better than the other.  Let’s look at the Target wipes with the worst score and discuss the reasons for that.  They are Up and Up Baby Fresh Scent Baby Wipes.

Target Baby Wipes – Consider This! A photo of a baby's foot.

History of improvement of Target baby wipes

I would like to start with praising the Target brand for positive changes.  What I am about to share with you is truly proof of consumer power at work, and I’m so excited about it! 

When I first wrote about Up and Up wipes in 2018, they contained ethoxylated ingredients, namely PEG-75 Lanolin and Polysorbate 20, and a formaldehyde-releasing preservative called 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol. As of today, most of these bad ingredients are not in the formulation of Target brand wipes any longer.  And shortly after my review, the Target baby wipes underwent a reformulation and started using phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate as preservatives, which represents a big improvement.

Why is this good news?  Let’s take a closer look at these ingredients.

Ethoxylated ingredients in baby wipes

There are no ethoxylated ingredients in Up and Up wipes any longer – PEG-75 lanolin and polysorbate 20 are gone.

PEG-75 lanolin is a chemically modified form of lanolin, a fat-like sebaceous secretion of sheep.  As for polysorbate 20, it is an emulsifier – a substance that keeps ingredients from separating.  The production process of both of these ingredients uses carcinogenic ethylene oxide, which may contaminate the final product with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.  In my post Hidden Ingredients in Baby Wipes you can learn how to spot ingredients that may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, even though it is not on the list of ingredients.

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Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?  

The former preservatives in Up and Up wipes

Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol

As preservatives, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate have a poor rating in the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  The former has a rating of 5-9 (with 10 as most toxic) in the EWG’s Skin Deep database, depending on the usage, and is associated with allergy and immunotoxicity concerns.  The latter has a rating of 3-6 in the Skin Deep database, depending on the use, and is associated with the same concerns.  They are nasty substances because they can trigger painful contact allergies in some people, especially babies.  Target baby wipes do not have these preservatives any longer because they replaced them with phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate.

But were those new preservatives any safer?  It’s a legitimate question, because sometimes companies just replace notorious ingredients with less notorious ones that are not any safer.  For example, plastic products or food cans that are free of BPA may have BPS instead, which is no safer than BPA.  Thus, we should always ask what manufacturers use instead.


Regarding phenoxyethanol, the Skin Deep database rates it at 2-4 depending on the usage.  It is good and important that there is NO link between phenoxyethanol and cancer or endocrine disruption.  However, it results from a reaction of highly corrosive phenol with carcinogenic ethylene oxide and, therefore, may contain residual amounts of both.  The American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists phenoxyethanol as an allergen, even in concentrations as low as 1%.  I draw a line at phenoxyethanol and do not normally recommend products with this ingredient on my website.  In my post Phenoxyethanol in Skincare I talk about this preservative in detail.

As of today, Up and Up wipes do not contain phenoxyethanol anymore!  Before we discuss sodium benzoate as the preservative used in these wipes now, let’s look at the full list of ingredients of the Target baby wipes with the worst score on my Baby Wipes Rating List.

Up and Up Baby Fresh Scent baby wipes ingredients

The ingredients in the Up and Up scented baby wipes are as follows:

Water, Gluconic Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate, Glycerin, Fragrance, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate.

There are several ingredients in this kind of Target baby wipes that arouse some concern.

Decyl glucoside

Up and Up wipes use decyl glucoside as a surfactant, i.e. skin cleanser.  There are several positive sides to this ingredient, which is common in baby products.  Decyl glucoside is one of the safest surfactants, is biodegradable and doesn’t contain petroleum contaminants.  Yet, even though it’s not likely to cause contact allergy, some babies may have a skin reaction to it.  Thus, in 2017, the American Contact Dermatitis Society added it to its list of allergens.

Tetrasodium glutamate diacetate

This is a chelating agent.  Among other things, chelating agents make metals in water-soluble for the body to excrete them more easily.  My concern with it is that there is no safety data yet.  So, we do not know if it is safe for your baby’s skin.  Therefore, I rated it at 3 out of 10 in my baby wipes rating list (with 10 as most toxic).

Tocopheryl acetate

On the one hand, this compound, consisting of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E), makes sense as an ingredient in Target baby wipes.   Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it is rather beneficial for the skin.  On the other hand, tocopheryl acetate is often manufactured synthetically with the use of hydroquinone.  Unless the product is very well cleaned, there may be hydroquinone leftover in the baby wipes.  In a way, hydroquinone can be a hidden ingredient.  Bear in mind that I don’t have any information as to whether hydroquinone is present in the Up and Up wipes.  But for general education, the Skin Deep database rates hydroquinone at 9 out of 10 (with 10 as most toxic) because it is linked to allergy and is associated with limited evidence of cancer.

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Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?  

Sodium benzoate

The preservative that Target baby wipes use now is sodium benzoate.  This is a much better preservative than 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate which we discussed above.  Sodium benzoate has a rating of 3 in the Skin Deep database.  It is a very common preservative in baby wipes and in so-called “green,” “natural” and “organic” skincare products.  Please know that it may also cause an allergic reaction in some people if used in concentrations over 5% (source).  When it comes to grown-ups, I believe sodium benzoate is one of the safer preservatives, and I use products with it.

Are preservative-free baby wipes safer?

Wouldn’t it be easier for Up and Up wipes to have no preservatives whatsoever?  Well, the fact that wipes contain water makes it necessary for them to have preservatives.  Water is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold, especially when you open a package and introduce air and new bacteria.  It is true that preservatives are often a source of concern, and in an ideal world, you would want to use products without them.  But if wipes are wet, we will always need some form of a preservative in them. 

The good news is that there is an option of waterless baby wipes for you.  They are called Earthly Not Yet Wet Wipes and consist of 50% OEKO-TEX certified unbleached cotton and 50% post-industrial repurposed white clothing scrap (please use the ReadLabels code to get 10% off).  With these wipes, it is up to you to choose what to wet them with, so you know exactly which ingredients are touching your baby’s skin.  And to become a master ingredient reader, get your Superpower Method today.

The ingredient of high concern in Up and Up Baby Fresh Scent baby wipes

We have discussed the ingredients of some concern in the Target baby wipes; however, they are not my biggest pet peeve.  The ingredient that gives such a poor score to this kind of Up and Up wipes is fragrance.  On a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 as most toxic, I rate fragrance at 8 in my Baby Wipes Rating List, which coincides with the Skin Deep database rating.  So, let’s talk a little bit about fragrance in Up and Up wipes.

Fragrance in baby wipes

When scanning the ingredients on a product, many people don’t give a second look to fragrance because it seems innocent.  Some may even look for products with fragrance deliberately – the scent is pleasant, after all.  What you should know is that the word “fragrance” on the list of ingredients does not mean just one ingredient.  Rather, it is a mix of undisclosed ingredients, because US law doesn’t require fragrance ingredients to be disclosed.  According to the International Fragrance Association, fragrance mixes may be a product of as many as 3,999 ingredients.  And if you look at the list carefully, you will see chemicals associated with allergic reactions, endocrine disruption, and cancer.

The European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety associates fragrance with allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, airborne contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, immediate contact reactions (contact urticaria), and pigmented contact dermatitis. 

Conclusion about the Up and Up wipes

Within the past few years, Target baby wipes have seen several important improvements.  Safer preservatives have replaced the harmful ones, and ethoxylated ingredients are off the list.  However, the ingredient of highest concern to me is the fragrance which is on the list among the Up & Up Baby Fresh Scent Baby Wipes ingredients.  These Target baby wipes have a poor score on my Baby Wipes Rating List, but there are two other kinds of Up and Up wipes that have a better rating.  Moreover, one of them even made it to the list of recommended products.  If you would like to know the names of the target baby wipes with a better score, check out my Baby Wipes Rating List

In addition, you can read my post about Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes and Huggies Baby Wipes and their position in my Baby Wipes Rating List.

Since I started reviewing all major baby wipes every year and publishing my findings in the Baby Wipes Rating List, I have noticed the following. A lot of baby wipes have undergone reformulations to remove formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.  Now there are no baby wipes that contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives!  That’s why I believe with my whole heart that as consumers we have enormous power.  We vote with our dollars.  Please, make informed decisions based on ingredients, not on advertisements. 

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10 thoughts on “Target Baby Wipes – Consider This!”

    1. Yes, I will. Thank you, Ruthanne. In the meantime, if you happen to be in Target, could you take a picture of ingredients for me? ~Irina

  1. Ruthanne Swanson

    Sure! I have a picture but I don’t know how to share it in the comments here, so here are the ingredients listed:
    Water, phenoxyethanol, decyl glucoside, tetrasodium glutamate diacetate, sodium benzoate, sodium citrate, citric acid, microcrystalline cellulose, cellulose gum

  2. Hi there. Would it be safe to say that the Up and Up Green Tea Melon wipes use a phenoxyethanol concentration of 1%? I chatted with a Target rep online, and they didn’t know the answer. I’m going to discontinue use of the baby wipes, because it makes me nervous that it’s possibly toxic.

        1. Unfortunately, in my experience of a full-time product researcher of 7 years, normally, companies do not disclose that information. ~Irina

  3. There is also the issue of the Up & Up Baby Wipes “fabric.” What is it made of? Thank you in advance.

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