We pulled together 13 of the best rated baby lotions and put them to the test. We reviewed the textures and how well they absorb. We collaborated and talked with real parents who use these products on their children, and we organized a focus group with parents who were looking for a new lotion solution for their babies. Our reviews focused critically on ingredients and ratings from the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database to assess possible chemical hazards included in each formula. Here are our top 5 recommendations for baby lotions; scroll down to read our full reviews of 10 different options!
|Model and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Honest Co. Baby Balm|
|#2. Earth Mama Baby Lotion|
|#3. California Baby Lotion|
|#4. Aquaphor Baby Ointment|
|#5. Aveeno Baby Lotion|
After nine cozy months suspended in warm amniotic fluid, baby’s skin is sweet and perfectly soft. Once the umbilical cord and belly button heal over and you start giving your baby full baths, you might notice your baby developing more sensitive and dry skin. At this point, you may begin looking for a moisturizing lotion to keep baby’s skin hydrated. Additionally, many of our test parents agreed that including soothing lotion as an after-bath time routine creates wonderful bonding time with baby. Before you pick a baby lotion, you want to make sure it's sensitive and safe for baby's skin. We used the EWG Database to check the Hazard Score for each ingredient in the lotions; this database rates each skin product for safety on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the safest and 10 being the most potentially hazardous). Additionally, they rate each individual ingredient in the products for deeper insight.
Here are the Best Baby Lotions and Moisturizers of 2019!
Like the Aquaphor Ointment (below), this product is not a lotion, but rather a balm or salve. The texture is thick and a bit sticky, but remarkably, all of the test parents observed no greasy residue. However, unlike Aquaphor, The Honest Co. All-Purpose Balm uses no petrolatum, mineral oils, or lanolin elements, so there are no allergen or toxicity concerns. Additionally, almost all of the ingredients are USDA organic. Parents noticed the healing effects of this balm were excellent when used as a diapering ointment in place of petroleum. The All-Purpose Balm absorbed quickly rather than just sitting on top of baby’s skin. Some other parents noticed this product was highly effective at healing dry, scaly skin and eczema, and even seemed to help reduce some itching. In terms of ingredients and effectiveness, this was one of our absolute favorites. The downside, however, is that it is also the most expensive product on this list. One 3.4 ounce tube of All-Purpose Balm is just over $12, making this product almost $3.58 per ounce! Because the balm is so thick, it is not easy to squeeze out all of the product, meaning some of this expensive balm may go to waste. One pro-tip from our testers is to cut open the tube when it is “empty” and scoop the remaining product into a travel case to avoid throwing away any of this balm. Interested? You can check out the Honest Company Balm here.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Olea Europea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Calophyllum Tacamahaca (Tamanu) Oil, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Oil, Tocopherols (Non-GMO). While the Honest Company All-Purpose Balm wasn’t specifically listed in the EWG database, their product Organic Belly Balm was listed and contained the exact same ingredients as the All-Purpose Balm (plus two additional oils), leading us to believe there may have been a reformulating/ rebranding at some point. All ingredients in the All-Purpose Balm are rated 1 for minimal or no toxicity. The only concern us the potential eye-irritant from included tocopherols.
Earth Mama Non-Scents Lotion was the very first US personal care product certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Standard for Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients. There are no petroleum, mineral oil, parabens, or artificial fragrance. Due to these carefully selected, quality components, it is no surprise that this is one of the more expensive products on this list. This lotion sells for almost $15 for one 8 ounce pump bottle, making the product almost $2 per ounce. We loved the easy to use and lock pump bottle. Non-Scents is a great name for this lotion—our focus group was surprised just how unscented this product actually is. This was an important feature for some parents who are easily overwhelmed by powerful scents, and since babies also tend to have sensitive senses, we thought scent-free was a good choice for a baby lotion. This lotion is very thin, and it goes on smoothly. The minimal greasy feeling is absorbed within about five minutes, and skin is left feeling soft and clean. Babies with very dry skin or baby eczema may need something a little more moisturizing such as Aquaphor or Aveeno (below), as we noticed with one of our babies with chronic dry skin. But overall, this is a great product for maintain healthy, soft skin. Interested? You can check out this best baby lotion, Earth Mama Baby Lotion here.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Organic Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Organic Olive (Olea Europaea) Fruit Oil, Organaic Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis) Extract, Organic Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Olivoyl Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Oleate, Glyceryl Stearate, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Xanthan Gum. Earth Mama Non-Scents Lotion is primarily comprised from organic ingredients. For this reason, there is little toxicity concern. The EWG Skin Deep database rates all of the ingredients for this product as level 1 for minimal or no hazard. There is little concern for the Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, which can have adverse effects if consumed. Additionally, Glyceryl Oleate can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, or lungs, so a test patch is advisable when first using this product (if your baby has super sensitive skin). Note that there are also a few ingredients in Non-Scents lotion that are non-biodegradable and/or potentially hazardous to the environment, including ceteryl alcohol and glyceryl monostearate.
Immediately, every test-parent in our focus group noticed this lotion’s scent. The clary sage aroma is quite strong, and our reviewers had mixed reactions — it seems there is no middle ground when it comes to sage, and parents either love or hate it. One of the more expensive products on this list, California Baby costs $16.68 for a locking, 6.5 ounce pump bottle, valuing this lotion at over $2.50 per ounce. Some parents claim to have found it for less in certain large stores. The lotion is thin and absorbs quickly, leaving hands feeling smooth, not greasy at all. Overall, parents (the ones who were fond of clary sage) loved this lotion, and found it friendly for babies with very sensitive, dry skin. Interested? You can check out the California Baby Lotion here.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Water, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceryl stearate, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl caprylate, vegetable glycerin, cetyl alcohol, canola oil, safflower seed oil polyglyceryl-4 esters, aloe barbadensis leaf juice (aloe vera), yucca schidigera root extract (yucca), viola tricolor extract (pansy), calendula offiicinalis extract (calendula), carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oleosomes, allantoin, levulinic acid, Oenothera biennis (evening primrose) oil, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, xanthan gum USP, panthenol (vit. b5), p-anisic acid, pure essential oils of lavandula angustifolia (French lavender) and salvia sclarea (clary sage), phytic acid (rice origin). This baby lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 1. Many of the ingredients in California Baby Calming Lotion are certified organic. Additionally, there are numerous elements that have been sourced from coconut in this vegan-friendly lotion, including the cetyl alcohol, which otherwise draws ethical concerns when it is derived from animals. Similar to the Earth Mama Natural Non-Scents lotion (above), there is minimal cause for alarm regarding the inclusion of aloe leaf juice and potential harm from consumption. The overall EWG Skin Deep score reflects this with a low toxicity concern. Note that there are a few ingredients in California Baby lotion that are non-biodegradable and/or potentially hazardous to the environment, including ceteryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, glyceryl monostearate, and caprylic/ capric triglyceride.
While the Petrolatum contamination risk was concerning, many parents in our focus group were eased by the long-standing quality testing of Aquaphor’s familiar brand. Additionally, a 2017 ProVoice survey rated Aquaphor Healing Ointment® as the #1 dermatologist recommended brand for dry, cracked skin and minor wound care. One 14 ounce jar is sold for just over $13, making this product affordable at under $1 per ounce, and the wide mouth jar makes it easy to use every last drop. The petroleum in this product is 41%, with additional elements like oils and moisturizers, so unlike popular 100% petroleum salves, Aquaphor Healing Ointment Baby is more easily absorbed into the skin while creating a thin barrier for protection. This ointment was pediatrician-recommended to one of our test moms for her two-year-old son who had severe eczema. She had been unable to use perfumed lotions or cremes because he would break out in a terrible rash. The Aquaphor Healing Ointment Baby was the only solution to heal his skin without causing more damage. Overall, we like the low EWG hazard score and the deep moisturizing of this product. However, due to the petrolatum, this ointment does leave hands feeling greasy, so we recommend this product for bedtime use. Interested? You can check out the Aquaphor Healing Ointment here.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol. This ointment has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 2, with a low concern score for toxic ingredients. In fact, out of its very short ingredient list, most of the elements score 1 on the EWG scale. There are, however, a few outliers including: Glycerin (EWG Score 2), which can have a laxative effect if consumed in high volume, Lanolin Alcohol (EWG Score 3), which is derived from sheep oil glands and/or wool, and listed as a moderate concern for allergic reactions, and Petrolatum (EWG Score 4), which is also known as petroleum jelly, and is the only ACTIVE ingredient in this Aquaphor Ointment. It also ranks as the highest potential hazard in terms of organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) and PAHs contamination concerns. This is a common ingredient in many cosmetics and skin care products and has no known health concerns when properly and fully refined. “However, petrolatum is often not fully refined in the US, which means it can be contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).” PAHs are aligned with carcinogenic hazards.
For parents who were already familiar with Aveeno lotions, Aveeno Baby was notably thinner in texture and absorbed better, leaving minimal feeling on the skin. Highly affordable, one 18 ounce pump bottle ranges in price from $9 to $12, making this lotion less than $.70 per ounce. This lotion is fragrance-free, but some testers found it to have a “soapy” smell. This lotion includes colloidal oatmeal, and “Studies have shown that this form of oatmeal binds to skin and helps create a protective barrier against irritants while also providing additional nutrients to the skin.” This element also offers natural inflammation reduction. One of our testers used this on her toddler who suffered allergic eczema, and she found it was both soothing and healing for his skin. Interested? You can check out the Aveno Baby Lotion here.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Dimethicone 1.2%, water, glycerin, distearyldimonium chloride, petrolatum, isopropyl palmitate, cetyl alcohol, avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, benzyl alcohol, allantoin, sodium chloride. This lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 2. Almost half of the ingredients in Aveeno Baby lotion rank a score of 1 (low or no hazard) on the EWG database. The rest, however, range from 2 to 5 in score. These include Glycerin (EWG Score 2 for use restrictions and caution against consumption), Dimethicone (EWG Score 3, used as a skin conditioning agent in many cosmetics, this agent can result in non-reproductive organ system toxicity), Distearyldimonium Chloride (EWG Score 3, in addition to non-reproductive organ system toxicity, this element can be irritating to skin, eyes, or lungs, and there is strong evidence for potential allergic reaction in sensitive individuals), Petroleum (EWG Score 4, as seen in the Aquaphor Lotion (above) petroleum ranks for non-reproductive organ system toxicity and regulatory concerns regarding PAHs contamination), and Benzyl Alcohol (EWG Score 5 for use as a carrier / solvent, a preservative, and to make other chemicals. Contact with this chemical may irritate skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and it may be toxic if consumed). There are also a few ingredients in Aveeno Baby lotion that are non-biodegradable and/or potentially hazardous to the environment, including ceteryl alcohol, dimethicone, and distearyldimonium chloride. So while it's not the best baby lotion on our list, it's definitely worth checking out.
In our testing, we found the Eucerin Baby Lotion to be the wateriest lotion on this list. It comes in a lockable 13.5 ounce bottle, making this product very affordable at $0.66 per ounce. The spout must be fully compressed to activate the lock. We preferred the simpler twist-lock bottles such as Earth Mama and Aveeno as these made it easier to avoid wasting product. Additionally, test parents noted that one full pump produced a lot of product — so, while this lotion might be good for a full-body baby massage, a full pump would be too much for just hands or feet. Eucerin Baby is fragrance free and did not have the “soapy” smell some testers noticed with Aveeno. Many parents observed strong healing qualities with this lotion. A couple of testers with very dry skin (not eczema) noted a warm tingling, which we attributed to the citric acid. Your baby might not find that sensation very comforting.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Water, Cetyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Mineral Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Polybutene, Sorbitan Stearate, Tapioca Starch, Panthenol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Dimethicone, Phenoxethanol, Carbomer, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid. This lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 2. The majority of ingredients in Eucerin Baby lotion rank 1 on the EWG database for little toxicity concern. Of the 18 ingredients listed, only five rank a score of two or above. Cetyl alcohol, while low in hazard score, can carry health and ethical issues depending on whether it is sourced from animals. Eucerin Baby does not specify the source of cetyl alcohol in its product. There are 5 ingredients that range in score from 2 to 4. These include Citric Acid (EWG Score 2, which can be irritating and used as a skin-peeling agent), Glycerin (EWG Score 2, which has use restrictions to avoid consumption and has a possible laxative effect), Dimethicone (EWG Score 3, moderate hazard or potential non-reproductive organ system toxicity), Phenoxethanol (EWG Score 4, due to possible organ system toxicity, and should not be used around the mouth or lips due to toxicity and potential harm), and Sodium Hydroxide (EWG Score 4 due to highly caustic and reactive nature, moderate concern due to non-reproductive organ toxicity and possible irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs). There are also a few ingredients in Eucerin Baby that are non-biodegradable and/ or potentially hazardous to the environment, including sorbitan stearate, cetyl alcohol, and dimethicone.
This was one of the more viscous lotions we tested (as opposed to the balms or salves). Babyganics comes in a generous 17 ounce, twist-lock pump bottle for $7.50, making this the least expensive options. A single pump releases just enough to coat baby arms legs with quickly-absorbing moisture. This rich, creamy lotion feels surprisingly light on the skin, and leaves no greasy residue. Babyganics is fragrance free, but like the Aveeno, we found it has a slight “soapy” scent, not unpleasant, but noticeable. As we always say with this brand - it's a bit of a misleading company name (Babyganics) because most of their products are far from being organic. In fact, this one has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 3 due to some questionable ingredients.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Water, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, cetyl alcohol, squalene, decyl oleate, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, propanediol, glycerin, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, canola oil, tocopheryl acetate, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, solanum lycopersicum (tomato) seed oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil, nigella sativa (black cumin) seed oil, rubus idaeus (raspberry) seed oil, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth-20, stearic acid, beeswax, carbomer, sodium hydroxide, caprylyl glycol, trisodium ethylenediamine disuccunate, sorbic acid, polynoxyethanol. This product has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 3. A large majority of this lotion’s numerous ingredients are ranked 1 for minimal toxicity concern by the EWG database. Additionally, many of the ingredients are certified organic. Some of these low hazard additives may cause irritation for skin, eyes, and lungs, including tocopherol and propanediol. Cetyl alcohol, while low in hazard score, can carry health and ethical issues depending on whether it is sourced from animals. Babyganics does not specify the source of cetyl alcohol in its product. The most concerning ingredients are similar to those contained in most of the other lotions: Glycerin (EWG Score 2), Ceteareth-20 (EWG Score 3), Sorbic Acid (EWG Score 3), Phenoxethanol (EWG Score 4), and Sodium Hydroxide (EWG Score 4). There are also a few ingredients in Babyganics that are non-biodegradable and/ or potentially hazardous to the environment, including stearic acid, cetearyl alcohol, and cetyl alcohol.
While we were concerned with the number of moderately hazardous scoring agents in this lotion, we were also impressed by the lack of fragrance, parabens, and sulfates. Additionally, the formula includes vitamins and ceramides backed by dermatologists and has earned The National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance for safe use on eczema and sensitive skin. CeraVe baby comes in a click-lock, 8 ounce bottle for $9, making this product just over $1 per ounce. Like Babyganics (above), this lotion is more viscous than many others on this list. It goes on smoothly with minimal greasy feeling. It seems to work completely fine, but the ingredients list raises some safety concerns for babies.
Ingredients and EWG Hazard Rating: Dimethicone, Purified Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetostearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Emulsifying Wax, Niacinamide, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Allantoin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lauric Acid, Zinc Citrate, Polygylceryl-3 Diisotearate, Behentrimonium methosulfate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Arginine PCA, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, EDTA, Sodium PCA, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Ethylhexylglycerin. This lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 4. The vast majority of CeraVe Baby Lotion’s ingredients are rated 1 for minimal toxicity concern. Typically, safe sodium PCA is flagged for potential contamination in processing, and Cetyl alcohol, while low in hazard score, can carry health and ethical issues depending on whether it is sourced from animals. CeraVe does not specify the source of cetyl alcohol in its product. The most concerning ingredients in this are: EDTA, EWG Score 2: Used for enhanced skin absorption, this agent can cause non-reproductive organ toxicity as well as skin, eye, or lung irritation. Zinc Citrate, EWG Score 3: This salt agent from citric acid can cause non-reproductive organ toxicity, and its use in cosmetics is guarded by use restrictions differentiating concentration between leave-on and rinse-off products. Dimethicone, EWG Score 3: This ingredient is considered a moderate hazard or potential non-reproductive organ system toxicity. Tocopheryl Acetate, EWG Score 3: A skin conditioning chemical with strong evidence of skin toxicity and / or allergy in high doses. Behentrimonium methosulfate, EWG Score 4: Considered safe in restricted cosmetic use, this agent is known to cause toxic and/or allergic reactions for sensitive individuals. Emulsifying Wax, EWG Score 4: “Emulsifying wax is a mixture derived from plant- or petroleum-based wax converted into an emulsion with the aid of added [undefined] detergents.” This ingredient scores a moderate concern mostly for its lack of required labeling. There are also several ingredients in CeraVe that are non-biodegradable and/ or potentially hazardous to the environment, including cholesterol, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, caprylic/capric triglyceride, zinc citrate, dimethicone, and tocopheryl acetate.
This lotion’s “natural fragrance” was pleasantly mild and both fruity and floral. The lotion was light, and left only a mild residue, which evaporated quickly, leaving skin soft and without irritation. One press-and-twist-lock bottle sells for $8.50, making this product more affordable at just over $0.70 per ounce. Many of focus group parents were pleased with this 99% natural, nourishing lotion, and while we were concerned with the “fragrance” element, we were put at ease by Burt’s Bees promise that the formula excluded parabens, phthalates, SLS, and petrolatum.
Ingredients & EWG Hazard Rating: Aqua (water, eau), glycerin, decyl cocoate, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, cera alba (beeswax, cire d'abeille), butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, polyglyceryl-3 stearate, glyceryl stearate citrate, cetyl alcohol, butyris lac (buttermilk powder, babeurre en poudre), cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, chamomila recutita (matricaria) flower extract, calendula officinalis flower extract, centaurea cyanus flower extract, tilia cordata flower extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, anthemis nobilis flower extract, hypericum perforatum extract, parfum (natural fragrance), tocopherol, sucrose stearate, xanthan gum, glycine soja (soybean) oil, canola oil (huile de colza), lactic acid, citric acid, glucose, sodium chloride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium benzoate, magnesium aluminum silicate, phenoxyethanol, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase, limonene. This Burt's Bees Nourishing Lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 5, the highest score on this list. The majority of ingredients in this lotion are natural and thus score 1 for low or no toxic hazard. Just six ingredients score 2 or above. However, some of the mild scoring ingredients cause some alarm, including the use of tocopherol and magnesium aluminum silicate. Additionally, the use of an underdefined “fragrance” ingredient (which has an EWG Score of 8) raises a red flag, though Burt’s Bees clarifies that fragrances used are “natural.” There are two additional ingredients that concerned us: Phenoxethanol with its EWG Score of 4, and Lactic Acid with its EWG Score of 4. There are also a few ingredients in this Burt's Bees lotion that are non-biodegradable and/or potentially hazardous to the environment, including cetyl alcohol, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and fragrance.
Though perfumed, this lotion is mildly scented — unlike the strong natural sage aroma in the California Baby lotion (above). One 10.1 ounce, screw-pump bottle costs $5.22, making this lotion very affordable at just over $0.50 per ounce. In our focus group, we noticed there was no greasy residue, but this lotion did seem to soften our hands with almost a waxy feel. Most of our testers didn’t mind this, and some even liked it. We were apprehensive with lotions containing an undefined “fragrance” ingredient, but we liked that this lotion had so many natural elements and built its brand on a “No Yucky Stuff” promise.
Ingredients & EWG Hazard Rating: Water, Glycerin, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Isopropyl Palmitate, Fragrance, Caprylic/ Capric Triglycerides, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Hydrolyzed Oats, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate. Made with many natural ingredients and essential oils, most of the ingredients in Just Hatched lotion score a 1 for minimal toxicity concern. That said, this is one of the two lotions on this top ten list that includes “fragrance,” and unlike Burt’s Bees (above), Just Hatched does not specify natural fragrance. There is also minimal concern for aloe leaf juice and potential harm from consumption. Additionally, cetyl alcohol, while low in hazard score, can carry health and ethical issues depending on whether it is sourced from animals. Just Hatched does not specify the source of cetyl alcohol in its product. This Just Hatched Baby Lotion has an EWG Skin Deep Score of 4, with only one ingredient exceeding a score of 3: Fragrance (EWG Score 8), which is associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential effects on the reproductive system.” This ingredient scores a high concern mostly for its lack of required labeling. Other ingredients above a 1 or 2 score are Sodium Benzoate (EWG Score 3), Distearyldimonium Chloride (EWG Score 3; don't use it around the eyes!), and Potassium Sorbate (EWG Score 3).
Babies have much thinner skin than adults, and thus, baby skin is much more sensitive and more prone to irritation. When you start looking for a baby lotion, odds are you want to protect your child’s skin from irritants and drying out—unfortunately, there are some lotions that will cause those reactions, so you need to know what you are looking for and what you should try to avoid. Many new parents will worry about proper skin care for baby, and during the first one to two weeks (until the umbilical stump falls off), your baby will only need warm sponge baths to maintain clean, healthy skin. For this reason, newborn babies typically do not need lotion to soften or moisturize their skin, since they are not being submerged during bath time. Check with your pediatrician if you notice your newborn has very dry patches on his skin; they may recommend localized application of olive oil or A‑D ointment. Once the belly button heals over, you can begin bathing baby in a tub or sink insert. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, “Three times a week during her first year may be enough. Bathing her more frequently may dry out her skin, particularly if soaps are used or moisture is allowed to evaporate from the skin.”
As demonstrated through our focus group testing, there are varying levels of viscosity. While we will broadly refer to all of these products as lotions, they can more appropriately be broken down into salves, creams, and lotions (with some overlap between the three). Salves (such as The Honest Company Balm and Aquaphor) are likely to be the best hydrators so long as they do not create an impenetrable barrier on the skin (as possible with 100% petroleum products). These products typically have higher oil percentages, so they absorb slowly and enrich skin layers—which is what you are looking for in terms of lasting skin protection. The disadvantage, though, is the higher likelihood of petroleum in these products, which runs contamination risk with potentially carcinogenic PAHs chemicals. Additionally, salves are more likely to leave a greasy residue that many find uncomfortable. In our testing, The Honest Company Balm was both petroleum-free and left no greasy feeling.
Creams are thicker than lotions but thinner than salves, Babyganics and CeraVe were great examples of creams. These products are rich and smooth, but not as heavy as the salves. However, in order to maintain the more effective hydration, creams (like salves) are likely to include petroleum or some other hydrating base. In CeraVe, we observed the under-defined emulsifying wax, which could pose a toxic or allergic response. Babyganics, however, used beeswax in its creamy formula.
Lotions are the wateriest products, as a matter of fact, they are likely to contain water as a main ingredient as observed in California Baby and Burt’s Bees Baby. While water is an innocuous ingredient, and while it might make us think of hydration, it is actually not the best ingredient for skin hydration because it evaporates so quickly. So, if you choose a water-based lotion, keep in mind you may need to apply it more frequently than a cream or a salve. Due to the evaporating water content in lotions, any greasy residue will probably fade soon after application.
In lotion selection, in addition to searching for products that have features you want, you should also be on the lookout for ingredients to avoid. Some of the major ingredient hazards include: parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance or perfume. You may wonder how these ingredients are allowed in cosmetic products if they are potentially toxic. But under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, do not need FDA approval before they go on the market. So, while products and chemical ingredients are under constant review, it takes time and legal process to remove hazards from the general market.
- Parabens: Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics including lotions. Water based lotions are more likely to require preservatives or other formula stabilizers. The concern with parabens is the potential for endocrine system impact. According to Nneka Leiba, a research analyst at EWG, “There’s more concern about the longer-chain parabens — butylparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben and propylparaben — which can mimic estrogen and disrupt normal hormone function. Methylparaben and ethylparaben are shorter-chain chemicals that appear to have fewer associated hazards.” So, while paraben-free is preferable, there are some lower-risk choices.
- Phthalates: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Phthalates are man-made chemicals found in personal care and other products. Recent studies suggest that some phthalates can alter human male reproductive development.” As the study of phthalate toxicity has continued, many baby lotions have prioritized the removal of these chemicals.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: This detergent / surfactant can actually work against moisturizing and healing by further aggravating dry skin and eczema.
- Fragrance / Perfume: As noted above, listing fragrance or perfume on a lotion bottle does not provide enough information for safety. Many fragrance formulas include phthalates and other harmful detergents, but they are not required to list them all. So, even if a lotion does not list phthalates in its ingredients, they may still be included in the “fragrance.” Further, “if a company uses an ingredient that is both a preservative and a fragrance, it can still claim the product to be “fragrance-free” if preservation is the ingredient’s primary purpose.” If you are not sure about an ingredient’s purpose, this is where the EWG Database comes in handy for research.
In addition to chemical additives, however, you should maintain awareness for natural elements that may cause harmful impact to your baby’s skin. The unfortunate truth is that people have allergic reactions to natural elements every day, and “While most skincare and hair care is filled with potential allergy triggers, it turns out that organic versions are, to green parents’ dismay, among the worst offenders.” Dr. Maryann Mikhail, an attending dermatologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York explains that consuming natural allergens like peanut and tree nut oils can cause a life-threatening, anaphylaxis reaction. Contact-allergy, on the other hand, while not necessarily life-threatening, can cause serious allergic impact including “horrible eczema.”
The prospect of finding a safe, naturally-focused baby lotion can be, at times, another dizzying challenge for parents. Overall, focusing on avoiding specific, known toxicity hazards, and keeping allergic response in mind, parents can narrow down some safe choices. Further, testing a new lotion is an important step to keeping your child’s skin healthy. One tip from our focus group is to test a small patch on your own inner arm before putting the lotion on your child. This area of skin tends to be more sensitive, and if you notice any unpleasant sensation or reaction, you might want to reconsider using the product on your baby—whose skin is much more delicate and susceptible than yours. If all goes well, proceed with a small test patch on your child (not on the face) before fully working the lotion into your baby’s skin care routine. And of course, you should always talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have any medical concerns.
Here are additional lotions we tested but didn't make it onto this list:
Baby Dove Rich Moisture Lotion included moderate- to high-level hazard ingredients such as petrolatum, dimethicone, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, and “fragrance.” The lotion was watery, and had a pleasant but moderately powerful scent, but the toxicity-score was too high.
Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Lotion was a toss-up for us, because while we love the company’s history and continued formulations to make products safer, we couldn’t get past the ill-defined “fragrance” ingredient, especially because one of our focus group moms had a previous experience with this lotion reacting badly on her eczema-suffering toddler.
Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion ranks level 5 on the EWG for moderate hazard, including specific ingredient concerns like “fragrance” sodium hydroxide, propylene glycol, and other low hazards. However, one specific ingredient that stood out to us was prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil. Due to the potential for severe allergic reaction to nut oils (as discussed above), this product didn’t make the cut.