27 October 2016Last updated

Features | Reportage

Your child’s bubble bath could be harmful

It’s time to start paying serious attention to what you are applying on your children’s skin, says Louise Emma Clarke

Louise Emma Clarke
29 Jul 2016 | 12:00 am
  • Source:Getty Images

Parents always care about what goes into their little ones’ bodies. Low salt, minimum sugar, nutritious ingredients, at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day… The list goes on. We wouldn’t dream of feeding them something harmful, and to ensure we don’t, we spend hours scouring supermarket shelves, cooking up healthy feasts in the kitchen, ensuring they get vitamins daily, and packing fresh food for lunches.

But research shows that up to 60 per cent of what’s applied on the skin can be absorbed into our bloodstream, so are we paying as much attention to their skincare?

Shockingly, a skincare product can be labelled natural if it contains just 1 per cent of naturally derived ingredients. So we need to carefully check what constitutes the remaining 99 per cent of the product. It may surprise you to discover that a lot of skincare products aimed specifically at children contain a number of unfriendly ingredients.

The non-profit National Academy of Sciences in the US warns that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals because their skin is much thinner than adults and absorbs more of what it comes into contact with. Furthermore, kids are less able to detoxify and excrete these chemicals if they do absorb them.

So we’ve rounded up a list of ingredients to studiously avoid when shopping for skincare for our children, along with products that are good for them. Take a look.


Sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS is a known skin irritant that causes dryness, coarseness and redness. 
Yet, worryingly, it is included in products for children.

SLS is used as a foaming agent to make things lather or bubble. If you use shampoo, body wash or a bubble bath with your little ones and immediately get rewarded with plenty of bubbly foam, you should be checking the ingredients list.

So how can you get the same bubbly effect, while knowing their skin is protected? Firstly, stick to products labelled for babies and children, which usually contain very gentle ingredients (you can double-check the list of ingredients to make sure SLS hasn’t been snuck in there). Secondly, shop from respected 100 per cent organic brands for kids.


We recommend Oh-lief Natural Olive Baby Shampoo (Dh55,, which is a fully organic all-in-one wash. Plus, it feels so luxurious, you will want to steal some for your shower too!


Is parfum in the ingredients list? This synthetic that makes beauty products smell nice is made up of at least 95 per cent chemicals, which are prone to causing skin irritations and sometimes even triggering breathing problems, such as asthma. So, as much as you love the fragrance of that bottle of bubble bath on the shelf, it’s always best to avoid synthetic scents when you are buying for your little ones. Natural products are usually formulated with a blend of essential oils, but it’s important to be aware that these can be equally powerful and not every oil and blend is suitable for sensitive young skin.

For this reason, always buy skincare products from natural brands that are specifically targeted at babies or young children, as these will use safe essential oils or blends that are gentle enough for their skin. Chamomile, for example, smells delicious and is widely used in children’s skincare. Suitable for the youngest babies – even if they suffer from frequent skin irritation or eczema – the flower’s natural oil is especially gentle and soothing, and is used in bath products, moisturisers, and shampoos for soothing irritated scalps.


Australian skincare range Four Cow Farm is a brand to look out for when shopping for kids, thanks to its super natural and gentle formulations. It was born thanks to a grandma and former midwife of many years, affectionately known as Nanna, using home-made recipes when her two grandkids developed eczema. The Four Cow Farm Baby Oil (Dh62, smells divine and soothes the skin, courtesy of chamomile, and also contains rosemary, sweet almond and apricot kernel oil to nourish the skin.

Talcum powder

The smell of a freshly powdered baby after a bath was synonymous with motherhood in decades gone past, but now, the American Academy of Paediatrics advises against using talcum powder on young children. Your baby is very likely to breathe some of that finely powdered talc into their lungs, which can cause breathing problems and potentially lung damage. Even if you pour the powder straight into your hands before applying in on your baby, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting some into the air.
So what can we use instead? Talcum powder is designed to absorb water and prevent rashes, but this can be achieved by drying your baby properly before dressing them. If you want to apply something on your baby’s skin straight after their bath, using a body lotion with natural, soothing and hydrating ingredients is a much better idea.


The very gentle Weleda Calendula Body Lotion (Dh69, pharmacies nationwide), with its milky texture that absorbs quickly into the skin and promises nourishment, is a good post-bath choice.


Finally, most bright and colourful products will contain synthetic colours that can cause allergic reactions in your little one. To this end, organic products never use colourants.

If it’s not from the organic shelf, check the ingredients list for numbers that begin with the letters CI (Colour Index). Generally, colours derived from plants and mineral sources will have numbers greater than CI 7500, while those that are synthetic will have lower numbers. Either way, it’s best to avoid them entirely.


Love Boo is one brand that does not have colours, only natural, gentle ingredients to leave your little one’s skin soft. We love the Love Boo Soft & Splashy Bubbles (Dh75,, which contains Tahitian monoi oil and marshmallow plant extract that help lock in moisture, while olive oil and chamomile keeps their skin silky soft.

Home truths

How often should I bathe my children?

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, we don’t need to bathe our children daily. In fact, it could irritate sensitive skin and worsen issues like eczema. If you want them to have a bath most nights as part of a routine, just bathe them in water only on most occasions. Using soap is only needed a few times a week.

How long should the bath be?

The general rule is to keep it brief. As much as they’re having fun, it’s best to stick to five to 10 minutes for every bath to avoid drying out the skin, especially when there’s soap in the water. If your kids’ skin is sensitive, wash off the soap with water before they get out.

Should I moisturise their skin after a bath?

It depends on their skin. Dry skin should be moisturised daily to ensure it stays supple and hydrated, therefore lessening the chances of irritation, rashes and painful cracking. Use a gentle, organic formulation. But if your child’s skin is naturally hydrated, a moisturising bubble bath should be enough. Nevertheless, a moisturiser won’t do any harm and the application after a bath could also help them sleep.


These natural products will pamper your skin and help prevent stretch marks. More importantly, your baby will be safe whenever you apply them.


Baby Mama Naturals Kissy Lip Balm Dh35,


Mama Mio Pregnancy Boob Tube Bust Cream Dh220,


Four Cow Farm Mother’s All-Natural Intensive Restorative Oil Dh159,


Love Boo Mummy Soft & Creamy Body Smoother Dh142,


Poya Mom’s Stretch Mark Cream Dh115,

Louise Emma Clarke

Louise Emma Clarke