Safe Bath Products for Kids

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

When I was expecting my first baby, I bought so much stuff.  Some of what I bought was all the “usual” baby care products — shampoo, baby wash, baby lotion, and so on.  All of that stuff makes babies smell so good!

Then, when my daughter was a few months old, I was putting on her baby lotion after her bath one night and I watched an angry, red rash appear immediately. Wow! We never used that lotion again. (And yes, that’s her in the picture above…when she was about 2 months old.)

I started looking into it and realized that many products on the market aimed at kids aren’t so safe…or even necessary. Now I have three (very soon to be four) kids, and the products that we use are extremely minimal.

Image by mommyknows

Safe Bath Products

Frankly, in the early months, I use almost nothing.  The baby isn’t mobile and really isn’t getting that dirty.

Only the diaper area really needs cleaning, per se (as opposed to wiping down). For that, I usually use Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, and only if it’s a blow-out situation or the baby otherwise really needs that.

Mostly, I just use plain water to wipe the baby down as needed.

Older babies and kids do tend to get messy sometimes! Babies and toddlers like to play with food, and ones who are mobile like to play in the mud and sometimes they really do get dirty. One of my kids’ favorite warm-weather activities is digging in the dirt, and it often ends up piled in their hair, smeared on their faces, and so on.  So what then?

No ‘Poo

Stephanie has talked about this before for herself, but I use it on the kids, too. I have used Burt’s Bees Baby Wash and Shampoo on the kids’ hair (which is tear-free and mostly chemical-free), but it’s expensive. With three kids and the occasional “Oh, look, let’s make extra bubbles!” it goes fast.

In an old shampoo bottle, I mix about 1/3 baking soda, 2/3 water, and a few drops of rosemary, grapefruit, or bergamot essential oil (you can use others, but I have found these most effective). This mixture is added to wet hair, gently rubbed in a bit, and rinsed out. It’s very cheap and it’s naturally tear-free. The kids don’t mind using it…even the ones who complain about having their hair washed.

Castile Soap

I keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s around — unscented or a scent that uses only essential oils (like lavender). This is a good all-purpose body wash and can also be used for hands.  It’s just saponified plant oils and really nothing else — no harsh detergents, colors, or other additives.

Avocado Oil

This is my favorite body-care oil. Coconut oil can be somewhat drying to the skin (I forget why — there is some scientific explanation about the types of fatty acids found in coconut oil and how this can dry the skin), so I don’t use that.

The avocado oil is wonderfully moisturizing and also very safe.  I either use it straight on the skin, especially with really tiny ones, or I mix it with other ingredients like shea butter to make a lotion. The kids really like it either way.

We don’t use any lotions regularly, only as-needed. We try to prevent dry skin by making sure the kids eat plenty of fat and also don’t bathe too often (which strips skin of natural oils).

Image by audi_insperation

What About Other Products?

I really don’t use anything else on a regular basis, and most babies and kids probably don’t need more. Since some readers will be new to this minimalist idea, I’ll quickly address a few other products or circumstances and how I handle them.

Bubble Bath

There are some organic, natural bubble bath products out there. The kids might be given these as gifts sometimes, but they’re not necessary and not a regular feature in our home. My True Nature makes one that we have used.

Diaper Time

I use cloth diapers and wipes. With my oldest, I’d make a “solution” in a spray bottle that consisted of water, essential oils, and some Castile soap. Once she was big enough to crawl and play with the bottle (around 9 months) that stopped.

I haven’t yet had all my kids either old or young enough to leave a spray bottle on a changing table again. I just wet a wipe in the sink with plain water for most diaper changes, and I do keep a natural brand of disposable wipes in the diaper bag for when I’m on the go.

If the diaper is really that bad (which isn’t too often), then I take them in the bathroom and use the Castile soap to wash them. This is rarely necessary, especially beyond the newborn phase.

Baby Powder

I haven’t ever found a need for this. For parents whose babies are facing a yeast rash and need something safe to dry the skin, bentonite clay is probably the safest option.

Babies and kids just don’t need a lot! It’s very easy, if we let it be. :)

What baby and kid bath products do you use in your home?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Kate Tietje

Kate is a work-at-home mom to (almost) 4 kids -- Bekah, age 4.5; Daniel, age 3; Jacob, 1; and baby #4, due mid-March 2013. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” She also recently launched Modern Alternative Kitchen, a site about traditional cooking, and is about to launch Modern Alternative Pregnancy. In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children. Follow her on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. Dr. Bronners burns the skinwith an excess of oils and Burt’s bees is not natural :( we use a product called “shea moisture”. They make a great shampoo /body wash.. and an amazing body butter sorta Thing which is completely natural. Thanks for your blog. We read it often.

  2. I barely bathed my babies when they were tiny. I used water only, and they we not stinky, and had beautiful skin. Now they are 2 and 5 years old, and I use California Baby shampoo and body wash. One bottle for everything, and it lasts a long time. It’s very safe, and smells wonderful! I also treat them with California Baby bubble bath. Again, it smells wonderful, and I figure it’s cleaning them while they play. We do baths once or twice a week, unless they’re needed more frequently.

  3. I am curious if I need to bathe my baby at all. He is 4 months old now. At first I bathed him once a week, only using a little Aveeno soap on his diaper area and hair. Since it has been winter, I’ve been bathing him every two weeks or less. (We use store-bought wipes that have some soap in them for diaper changes.) He has the most beautiful skin of any of my children, has extremely minimal cradle cap, and hasn’t had any trace of diaper rash since he was a week old. He smells plain, not stinky. Has anyone else noticed this lack of stink and beautiful skin in babies who are rarely bathed?

  4. Wow,nice recommendations! I was researching safe products for kids and came across this one. I did a post on sls free toothpastes eralier http://toothpasteinreview.com/sls-free-toothpaste/ here which I believe is pretty important to know as well!

  5. I’ve been using grapeseed oil on the whole family this winter (including my newborn baby) as our lotion and its working beautifully. Its fairly inexpensive and its a light oil, so it doesn’t clog pores and it doesn’t stay oily for long. I also like Burt’s Bees. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way so I don’t have to buy it very often.

  6. I’m a big fan of using foam pumps with Dr. Bronner’s in it (1/3 castille to 2/3 water). It makes it last a LOT longer and the kids love using the foam. I use it in the shower for me (face and bodywash), in the bath for the kids (shampoo and bodywash), and as hand soap at every faucet.

    • I used this but didn’t put it in the bottle just put the castille soap in my hand and mixed with water… I used it on my 2 year old before church last night and it made his hair so oily it looks like we haven’t washed it in months. It smells good. .

  7. I’m a huge fan of California Baby products. My kids have very sensitive and super dry skin so I end up using coconut milk most of the time. I like the California Baby Calendula conditioner for my little girl’s fine hair. We only shampoo her hair once a week and the other two times she is bathed we just condition it. We use the Calendula shampoo for her hair. We use California Baby Tea Tree oil shampoo for my son and don’t usually condition his hair.

  8. Any suggestions for a toothpaste for a baby/toddler? The kind that can be swallowed.

    • Terri-Lynne says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      I’m a dental hygienist and I wanted to comment on your post about toothpaste. To be honest, I did not use a toothpaste at all on my son until he was about 2 years old. The mechanical action of a wet toothbrush should be good enough to remove food and plaque off any child’s teeth. That might not be the answer you’re looking for, but I thought I would share what I did. Good luck. :)

    • I make a little mixture of coconut oil, baking soda and stevia (or glycerin) My kids love it!

  9. Just a comment about the no ‘poo method. If you have coarse, curly or ethnic hair, that recipe will dry your hair out until it is straw and you cannot brush it out! (Ask me how I know.) The baking soda shampoo is for hair that needs oil removed, but if you’re like me and have curly hair that needs moisture, it will ruin it! I keep my hair washing to a minimum or just use hot water to rinse it out. If you run your hair under hot water, the oils at your roots will spread down through out your hair but not wash out, naturally moisturizing your hair. When you need to condition your hair, use an ounce of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. It detangles and nourishes your hair. Apple cider vinegar is the “conditioner” for the no ‘poo method. So people with oily hair just use the shampoo part, and people like me with dry hair just use the conditioner part. :) Also, I love putting any kind of oil in my hair justo nourish it, get rid of frizz and have nice curls. Good luck!

    • Thank you for sharing! I will try your suggestions. I have had a similar concern about no poohing recipes!

  10. I love this article!!! It is soooo true that babies need very little as it relates to skincare. Here are the things that I used when our toddler was a baby (and continue to use now, becasue she’s only two.)

    Baby Wash – Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap or Burt’s Bee’s (I love both of these products, but Burt’s bees is a little pricey)

    Diapers – Cloth Diapers at home and disposable while in daycare. We are working hard for me to stay home after baby#2 arrives in July. If that happens then we will strictly cloth diaper!

    Powder – never really used it

    Lotion – Burt’s Bees (only when needed, which is not very often, so it lasts a really long time for us.)

    Cloth/Homemade Wipes – I just used baby wash cloths for home use and Viva paper towels with a homemade wipe solution when we are out and about.

    Diaper Rash – Coconut Oil (It works wonders!)

    Cradle Cap – Coconut Oil (Gone in a flash!)

  11. Any suggestions for a hair conditioner? My daughters hair is extremely long, I can’t imagine brushing her hair with out any.

  12. I have just found Grandma’s Lye Soap to be extremely gentle, healing, and allergen free for my palm, coconut, dairy, soy, corn, gluten 16 others allergic daughter. We’ve been using the Morocco Method Int’l Raw Vegan shampoos for her, but I will be doing your method for her using the grapefruit oil! Love it!!! Thanks Katie!!!

  13. we are not all-natural but I agree, some of the baby and kids products have scary ingredients lists. we realised that the ‘gentle’ baby wash we bought had more chemical nasties than my own showergel (sanex 0%) so now we use that for the whole family. and we use a children’s shampoo with headlice repelling essential oils in as we get regular reports of lice at school and both boys like having longish hair and hate having it checked over (prevention is better than the hassle of any treatment, chemical or natural). we have started using coconut oil for bottom rashes and it works great along with bare skin time. we bath 1-2 times a week in winter but only wash hair once a week. in summer there is more dirt-play so more baths but they don’t get dry skin so much in summer anyway.

    • I forgot, we also used coconut oil for cradlecap – after several attempts with evoo and it coming back each time we used coconut oil and a lice comb to comb it out and it worked in one session, we did apply CO again the next week but there was nothing to comb out! hasn’t come back again since.

  14. Thanks for this great resource Kate! I’ll be bookmarking it! I’d have to disagree with you on coconut oil being drying to the skin however. In all the time that I have used it, as well as recommended it to others, I have always enjoyed its moisturizing effects and have consistently heard the same from others. I’ve never tried it for diaper rash, but I’ve heard that it does well as a healer and a balm, as well as for excema and other skin ailments. I’d recommend it as a soothing, moisturizing natural lotion and balm! =)