Baby Wipes Contain One of 7 Irritating Ingredient?
Dermatologists are reporting an increase in cases of contact dermatitis caused by a preservative commonly found in baby wipes.
Researchers from the Skin Health Institute have discovered that the preservative Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis among patients.
You can read the full research article at Methylisothiazolinone in baby wipes: a rising star among causes of contact dermatitis.
As parents, we want to use the best products for our baby’s sensitive skin. For many of us, that means going with household name brands we’ve grown up with. However, there might be problematic ingredients lurking in your baby wipes.
Keep reading to find out which baby wipe ingredients to be wary of and how easy they are to avoid.
What is Methylisothiazolinone?
Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative commonly used in cosmetic products, such as shampoos, lotions, body washes, hair dyes and sunscreens.
MI has been used to increase the shelf life of deodorants, shampoos, and cosmetics for over ten years but it is now also found in disposable baby wipes and other types of wet wipe.
MI is used in moist wipes to prevent bacterial contamination; however, it has been known to cause skin problems for some caregivers and babies.
Allergic reaction to Methylisothiazolinone
Researchers from the Skin Health Institute found that as many as 1 in 10 people are allergic to MI. It can take up to 48 hours for the reaction to occur. The condition most commonly appears as a rash on the sufferer’s hands but can appear on any part of the body that comes into contact with the preservative.
Professor Nixon, who carried out the study, believes the reaction is likely to be misdiagnosed among adults and babies. She says, ‘I’m sure we only see the tip of the iceberg in our clinic; there’s probably a bit more out there than people realize’.
You can read the full research article at Allergic contact dermatitis to methylisothiazolinone: exposure from baby wipes causing hand dermatitis.
Symptoms of Methylisothiazolinone allergy
Professor Nixon’s research study investigated the link between baby wipes and hand dermatitis. Baby wipes were linked to hand dermatitis in some caregivers; contact dermatitis from MI might also affect babies.
Allergic contact dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as diaper rash, due to their similar appearance. Therefore, many parents and healthcare professionals might assume allergic contact dermatitis caused by MI allergy is diaper rash, because of the similarities between the two conditions.
Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include skin irritation, such as:
- Itchy skin
- Red skin
- Raised, scaly skin.
If these symptoms are present around your baby’s diaper area, it could be a reaction to MI. Check the ingredients in baby wipes to see if they could be to blame for your baby’s skin irritations.
If you think you or your baby might be suffering from allergic contact dermatitis, use product elimination to try to determine the cause.
Dr Cahill, one of the study’s authors, says:
‘Interestingly, it is parents using baby wipes on their children who are presenting with hand dermatitis, although it is likely that allergic contact dermatitis involving the groin in children may not be diagnosed accurately’.
Dr Cahill adds: ‘Medical practitioners and consumers should be aware of the potential for allergic contact dermatitis to develop to MI from wipes, particularly causing persistent hand dermatitis’.
How to avoid Methylisothiazolinone in baby wipes
Professor Nixon advises parents to check the ingredients before purchasing disposable baby wipes and avoid any containing MI. Not all baby wipes contain MI, so shop around to find baby wipes you’re happy with.
An easy way to avoid your baby’s contact with MI and other harmful chemicals is to choose washable baby wipes. Using washable baby wipes is the ideal way to protect your baby’s soft skin. Use water (and add a drop of essential oil, if you like fragrances) to moisten the fabric before use.
Disposable baby wipes are not the only option for nappy changes. Another easy and gentler alternative is to make your own baby wipes.
Try our fabulous recipe for Baby Wipes – Home Made Baby Wipes Recipes, Better For Baby’s Bum!
However, if you don’t have the time (or energy) for that, you can buy baby wipes that are free from MI and gentler on your baby’s skin.
The rapid increase in cases of contact allergic dermatitis caused by exposure to MI has concerned experts. Dermatologists expect up to 2% of patients to suffer an allergic reaction to a cosmetic product.
The rate of reactions to MI is currently around 11%. Professor Nixon contacted baby wipes manufacturers directly to inform them of the study; some manufacturers are now looking at ways to replace the preservative in their products.
How common is Methylisothiazolinone in baby wipes?
Thanks to Professor Nixon and the other researchers who worked on this study, Methylisothiazolinone is now less prevalent in baby wipes. In addition, due to their research, awareness raising and scientific information, companies have been encouraged to remove this ingredient from their baby wipes.
However, not all baby wipe manufacturers have removed MI from their wet wipes. It is important to check the ingredients in your baby’s wipes.
Other skin irritants found in baby wipes
MI is not the only baby wipes irritating ingredient; there could be other nasties lurking in your baby wipes. As with all cosmetic and cleaning products, it is always worth checking the labels of your baby wipes for toxic ingredients or any harsh chemicals you might prefer to avoid.
The surface of your newborn’s skin is worth protecting and you’ll want to consider each ingredient that comes into contact with it. By avoiding the use of harmful chemicals and known irritants, you could reduce the risk of your baby suffering allergic reactions.
Other potentially problematic baby wipes ingredients used by many manufacturers (including the big brands) are:
1. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is an ingredient commonly found in baby wipes. It isn’t toxic but it is an irritant and could irritate your baby’s sensitive skin. Plenty of baby wipes don’t contain this ingredient, so shop around before you buy.
Bronopol is a formaldehyde donor that releases formaldehyde as it breaks down. It’s a known irritant and one of the ingredients in baby wipes you might prefer to avoid.
3. DMDM Hydantoin
DMDM Hydantoin is another formaldehyde donor that releases formaldehyde as it breaks down. This ingredient is a known irritant that has been linked with allergies.
You’ve probably heard of parabens and perhaps you already avoid this ingredient when choosing cosmetic products for yourself. Parabens make up a group of common preservatives, including butyl, ethyl, methyl and propyl.
Often, manufacturers are not specific when they include fragrances on the ingredients list. Rather than disclose fragrance ingredients, they will state ‘fragrances’ or ‘perfumes’, which could include any number of allergens or irritants.
Fragrances and perfumes are considered hidden ingredients, so if you want to avoid potentially harmful ingredients, only buy brands that disclose exactly what ingredients they use to scent their products. Even better, avoid fragranced products altogether.
Phenoxyethanol is commonly found in baby wipes as an alternative to parabens. Phenoxyethanol, however, is an irritant and can cause skin irritation.
7. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)
PEGs are penetration enhancers that help other ingredients penetrate your baby’s skin more deeply. PEGs should not be used on damaged skin, so they are best avoided if your baby has a diaper rash.
A problem that parents often encounter is hidden ingredients. Although companies list the ingredients on the packaging, some ingredients have numerous names, and you might not recognize the name listed. It’s also worth checking online if you aren’t aware of something listed among the ingredients; it might just be one of the nasties you’re trying to avoid.
Do other baby products contain harmful ingredients?
Sadly, yes, there are lots of baby products on the market that contain questionable ingredients. When buying personal care products for yourself and your family, it’s always worth doing your homework.
Don’t purchase the final product if an ingredient doesn’t sound like something you’d want to rub on your baby’s sensitive skin. There are plenty of natural, skin-friendly products available to choose from, so you don’t need to rely on brands that use bad ingredients.
Where your baby’s skin is involved, the simpler the ingredients, the gentler the product will be.