Nearly every personal care product that you’ll find in the store will have some kind of scent to it and while you would probably expect the shampoo and lotions to include one, you might not suspect diapers. If you have concerns about fragrances in general then you might be wondering whether or not scented diapers are bad for your baby and how to avoid them.
Scented diapers can be bad for your baby because fragrances often include many undisclosed chemicals that are potentially dangerous. Due to a loophole in the FDA’s regulation, manufacturers aren’t required to list individual ingredients in their scents, which can include dozens or even hundreds of chemicals – some of which have been proven carcinogens, allergens, and irritants.
It can be challenging to find baby products that don’t include these extra fragrances, but it can be done. Let’s explore why scented diapers can cause trouble and then look at some alternatives that you can use without having to worry!
Scents and fragrances can hide many dangerous chemicals
All other things being equal, the biggest concern with scented diapers is the fragrance used to give them that pleasant aroma.
The problem with fragrances in diapers, just like everything else, is that it is almost impossible to determine exactly which chemicals are being used to make that particular scent and whether or not they are dangerous. According to the FDA, fragrances are excluded from the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act and can simply be listed as “Fragrance” on the list of ingredients. Their official recommendation is to avoid fragrances if you have a reaction to them.
This loophole could be bad news for many people because there are about 4,000 chemicals currently on the International Fragrance Association’s list of active formula ingredients. Over the years, many of these ingredients have been tested and revealed to be probable carcinogens, allergens, and irritants.
As recently as September 2018, the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners conducted a study on common beauty, personal care, and cleaning products to determine what chemicals were hiding beneath the label and the potential risk they carried. Their results showed that in the 32 products tested, 25% of the fragrance chemicals were linked to serious, chronic health effects.
While not every fragrance is going to cause problems, you can see that the potential is strong for there to be some risk involved as long as it’s impossible to see what’s hiding behind one word on an ingredient list.
What to look for on the label of scented diapers
There are lots of ways to give a pleasant scent to a product without resorting to using risky chemicals, but the reality is that you will never truly know exactly what is included in the product if companies aren’t required to tell you.
With that in mind, you need to be on the lookout for the words ‘fragrance’, ‘perfume’, or ‘parfum’ on the list of ingredients of any diapers that you are considering for your baby.
As you can see above, it’s easy to sneak that word into a list without highlighting the risk that it could include. Notice that on this particular label, it’s actually fairly high up in the ingredients list as well (ingredients are listed in order of highest concentrations). Assuming that every fragrance includes dozens of individual ingredients, listing them all on a label would get ridiculous pretty fast, but there should still be some way of finding out what’s in the product you are buying.
Some companies, even the biggest ones like Unilever and SC Johnson have publicly disclosed the chemicals they have approved for their fragrances, but these lists are still several thousand entries long and there isn’t a way to see the specific ones used in any given product.
Great non-scented diaper options
If you are looking for a non-scented diaper that still performs great, then you still have a lot of options! These days, many companies are building their reputation around providing safer products for babies and they understand that scented diapers are bad for your baby. Here are three options that I’ve personally used so I can stand behind the quality and value they provide.
- Earth + Eden – This is a relatively new premium diaper, launched as a private label under Amazon. All things considered, Earth + Eden definitely offers the best value of any premium natural diaper that I’ve seen on the market (almost half the price of their competitors) and they are completely fragrance-free. They also do not include any lotions, parabens, latex, or chlorine in their list of ingredients along with water-based inks for their designs. The lining is hypoallergenic and they use cotton to fill their dryness layer for a super soft and absorbent diaper.
- Pampers Pure – We are big fans of the Pampers Aqua Pure baby wipes and we’ve used these diapers many times as well. They avoid the same fragrances and ingredients that Earth + Eden does but also specifies excluding the EU 26 list of the most allergen-prone ingredients. These also include a wetness indicator which is super helpful on younger babies!
- The Honest Company – I’m a big fan of most of The Honest Companies’ products and the diapers are no exception. They have awesome prints, fit great, and can hold a lot of poops and pees! They are free of fragrance, latex, chlorine, and lotions.
Check the links provided for the latest reviews and prices on Amazon if you are considering any of these. If you aren’t already a member of Amazon Prime, you can also check out their Amazon Family benefit below that allows you to get up to 20% off of monthly subscriptions to lots of different baby products, including diapers!
Even if you are already a member, you may not have realized that this is available to you!
Safer options for scenting diapers on your own
Even if we are trying to avoid scented diapers for your baby, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want a diaper that smells good!
Fortunately, there are ways that you can make your diapers smell nicer without resorting to mystery chemical concoctions. By using natural essential oils and a few other ingredients, you’ll be able to make a DIY natural spray that you can dab onto your baby diapers or clothes to give them a burst of freshness.
I’m not an essential oil expert, personally, but I’ve found many different recipes over the years that work really well depending on what you need them for. With diapers, I think a spray that is meant for linens will work well because it’s diluted – we just want a whiff not a wall of scent! My favorite recipe for this occasion comes from Wellness Mama and you can find it here.
Briefly, here’s her recipe:
- 24 drops of lavender essential oil
- 36 drops of lemon essential oil
- 30 drops of cypress essential oil
- 30 drops of fir essential oil
- Filtered water
- 1 tablespoon of vodka or rubbing alcohol
- A spray bottle (about 8 ounces, preferably glass)
- Combine all ingredients into the spray bottle and then shake, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then shake again.
- Add water until it’s half an inch from the top.
- Cap and shake again.
Just use a tiny tab on a diaper and be sure it’s on the outside of the diaper in a spot that your baby likely won’t touch or mess with such as on the backside of the bottom and you’ll have a naturally scented diaper in no time!
Importantly, just because we are using essential oils in this recipe doesn’t mean that you won’t have any issues. Just like other things found in nature, your little one could still have a sensitivity or allergic reaction to some of the oils so it’s best to proceed with caution at first!
It’s not just scented diapers that are bad for your baby
We’ve focused on the fact that scented diapers are bad for your baby, but I also mentioned that lots of other baby products will likely include fragrances and perfumes as well. Be sure to keep a close eye on the ingredients list for any products that you buy for your baby so that you can be as informed as possible. If you really want to try a product, but you’re unsure of the fragrance, check online to see if they have a full list or any other disclosure that can give you more information.