Is there anything softer and more perfect than your baby’s skin? You want to protect him from everything, including dry and itchy skin, but the wall of lotions and creams in the baby section can be overwhelming. How do you know which lotions actually contain the best natural ingredients and what is the difference between baby lotion and regular lotion anyway?
Baby lotions are designed to include safer and milder ingredients that are better for their sensitive skin than regular adult versions. Some natural and organic adult lotion brands could be suitable for babies, but be sure that they avoid potential irritants and allergens such as alcohols, exfoliants, fragrances, parabens, and phthalates.
My son likes his baths long and warm – both surefire ways to ensure dry skin – so I need to slather him in a good (and good for him!) lotion after each and every bath. I’ve tried out lots of lotions in the last several years, so I’m going to break down the things to look for in a lotion for your baby and give you a couple of recommendations for the best ones I’ve found.
The difference between baby lotion and regular lotion
Depending on the type of lotion you regularly use, there may be ingredients such as exfoliants, alcohol, or heavy scents which can be useful and helpful (or at least enjoyable) when used properly for adults. All of these ingredients serve a particular purpose such as getting rid of dead, loose skin, helping you smell better throughout the day, or just making sure the lotion dries quickly and isn’t greasy.
However, you want to avoid all of these ingredients in your baby’s body lotion because, while reasonably safe for adults, they can potentially cause irritation or other issues if you use them on your baby. Think about it – does your baby really even have any loose, dead skin yet that we need to worry about exfoliating?
Keep in mind that some baby lotion brands aren’t all that different from their adult counterparts, especially if you’re already using a high-quality natural or organic brand, but you still need to check the ingredients because even great ingredients can potentially irritate your baby’s skin. At the end of the day, a high-quality baby lotion is designed to meet the needs of baby skin and not adult skin.
I’m going to cover a lot more information about baby lotions, but if you want to skip that and just check out my current favorite natural baby lotion for your little one, then you can do so right here.
Made Of’s lotions have an excellent ingredients list, they are EWG verified and have performed very well with my children. Honestly, I can’t think of a downside to this lotion.
What is baby lotion made of?
Obviously every brand is different, but most lotions contain water, glycerin, at least one kind of oil, an emulsifier/stabilizer, and a preservative. Many lotions also contain a fragrance, even the ones that claim to be unscented. If you’re unsure of a particular ingredient or what it is used for in a lotion, many natural brands are very open and transparent and have included that information on their website.
If you are having a hard time learning about a lotion’s ingredients or the manufacturer isn’t providing the information, it’s a bad sign.
Ingredients to avoid in baby lotion
Since anything you put on your baby will be absorbed quickly, you should look for a lotion that doesn’t contain the following ingredients because studies show that all of them can cause one problem or another when used by babies:
- Parabens – Typically used as a preservative, especially in products that are primarily water-based. They have been shown to mimic estrogen and affect the development of both male and female reproductive systems. Avoid any ingredient with the “-paraben” suffix.
- Phthalates – Used to stabilize fragrances. They can be hidden on an ingredient label by classifying them as “fragrance,” which the FDA doesn’t require to be listed individually. Ensure the product is “phthalates-free” as unscented products may actually contain masking scents.
- Artificial Fragrances – Used to add a pleasing scent to the product (or to cover up a displeasing chemical scent). This should be avoided because it often goes hand-in-hand with phthalates. Additionally, babies and small children are especially sensitive to heavy fragrances, and they could potentially trigger an allergic reaction in a child with an existing sensitivity.
- Ethanol (or phenoxyethanol, a surprisingly common ingredient in “natural” lotions) – Used to speed drying to avoid a slimy or oily feeling after application. With adult skin, this leads to needing to apply lotion; with baby skin, it can lead to irritation or excessive dryness.
- Mineral Oil – An inexpensive oil that can react with artificial fragrances to block your baby’s skin’s ability to release harmful toxins.
Typically, the brands that don’t use these ingredients will make a point of advertising it on the front of the packaging since it’s such an important differentiator for the growing number of parents who want to raise their children as naturally as possible. As with most processed products, the fewer ingredients, the better.
Does baby lotion have oil in it?
Most baby lotion does have oil, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s oily or greasy. If the lotion is using high-quality oils, it’ll nourish your baby’s skin better in the long run instead of sinking and disappearing quickly.
Whenever you use a lotion that has a new type of oil, however, be sure to put just a dab on your baby at first and keep an eye out for any allergic reactions. Though rare, they do happen and one red spot is better than a whole body!
Your best bet is to find a lotion with organic oils and to avoid petroleum-based products (PEGs). The most common PEG used in baby lotion is mineral oil, which can react with other ingredients to block your baby’s skin from releasing harmful toxins.
Is baby lotion good for skin?
High-quality baby lotion without harmful ingredients is great for most baby’s skin.
Some babies, like adults, may have especially sensitive skin or eczema. For sensitive skin, you’ll want to be careful to avoid any scents (even natural or essential oil-based ones).
Of your baby suffers from eczema, it’s especially important to fragrances and sulfates, which can actually strip the skin of its natural oils. While some baby lotions may be effective in treating eczema, there are thicker creams and ointments that are better suited to help heal rather than simply hydrate.
Baby skin compared to adult skin
Baby skin is much more sensitive than adult skin. Unlike fully developed adult skin, baby skin is much thinner and it is still stretching as the baby grows.
This means that baby lotion needs to be as mild as possible because the ingredients will be absorbed into your child’s bloodstream. It’s also important to keep in mind that the amount of a chemical that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem for a fully grown adult will likely be much more significant to a baby’s little body.
Because of this, it’s even more important to ensure that the ingredients in baby lotion are natural and helpful.
Can adults use baby lotion?
If you find yourself short on your own lotion, feel free to use your little guy’s stuff.
In fact, baby lotion is already formulated for sensitive skin so you can use it as a facial moisturizer in a pinch (just don’t depend on it for your daily SPF or to offer any help those crow’s feet you’ve started seeing since having kids). Personally, I had to “borrow” my son’s lotion so often during his first six months that I specifically purchased an unscented replacement because I was tired of smelling like lavender.
What is the safest baby lotion?
Obviously you want to use the best lotion on your baby, but it can be very difficult to navigate the overwhelming selection of choices available both in-store and online. In general, you want to avoid all the ingredients that you wouldn’t want to be included in your own body products, and also keep in mind that some harmful ingredients are shown to affect development but may not be shown to have an extremely negative effect in adults.
With that being said, here are two of my top picks for natural baby lotions!
MADE OF’s mission is to bring clarity and transparency to the packaging and marketing of baby skincare because “parents have the right to know.” All their products are guaranteed to be at least 70% organic and are made without GMOs, SLS, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, dyes, pesticides, BPA, chlorine, and more. All this and they’re made in the USA.
Check out their Ultimate Transparency Promise here.
The Organic Baby Moisturizing Lotion specifically is 86% organic (and the other 16% is natural) and includes a cocktail of aloe vera, argan oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, and gluten free oats. I love that the ingredients list on the website tells why each ingredient is included.
The lotion itself is thinner and actually has more of a gel-like texture, probably due to lack of water and the variety of oils, but it’s incredibly moisturizing for the weight and is recommended for eczema relief as well as daily use. Because there are no added fragrances, it’s not the best-smelling lotion I’ve ever used, but the smell doesn’t linger once the lotion sinks in.
If you want to check out this lotion then you can do so right here (and look at other great reviews from parents like you!).
The Honest Company is a lifestyle brand focused on transparency and design (I can’t name another brand that has limited edition disposable diaper patterns). All Honest products are hypoallergenic and are never tested on animals. Because of the ease of availability – aka I can pick up when I’m at Target – and the fact we were given a gift set with several deluxe sized samples before my son’s birth and I just really liked it, this is what I’m currently using.
The Face + Body Lotion is designed to be perfect for everyone’s skin, and I’ve never had a problem with the scents I’ve used from other products in this line, but the Purely Sensitive version (fragrance-free) is the best place to start with newborn skin. You wouldn’t want anything to cover up that delicate baby smell anyway.
If you want to check out The Honest Company baby lotion then you can do so right here (and see the other great reviews from real parents!).