The supply of cosmetic products in general, and children’s products in particular, has skyrocketed in recent years, and the amount of cosmetics used daily in the care of the little ones has increased considerably, beyond hygienic purposes. Currently, there are children’s cosmetics as diverse as bath foams, shampoos, oils, talcum powder, creams, lotions, cologne, perfumes or photo protectors.
However, it must be taken into account that the child population, and especially children under 3 years of age, are more sensitive to certain toxic effects (P-SC-COS, 2012). This toxicological risk is mainly due to two factors: on the one hand, the possibility of accidental ingestion of the product (for example, sucking or licking hands, arms or feet), and on the other hand, the risk of accumulation in those cosmetics that are not rinsed and used several times a day.
In any case, the possible absorption of the product occurs because the skin of the newborn presents certain differences with that of the adult, which means that some organs and vital physiological functions may be affected in this phase of growth (Stamatas et al., 2011). Newborn skin is thinner and more fragile, more sensitive, has a neutral pH, is less protected by hair, has a weaker junction between the dermis and epidermis, and produces less sweating than adult skin. The epidermal barrier is immature and suffers more dryness, decreasing the defense against bacterial proliferation and causing greater susceptibility to trauma (blows) and toxins. For all these reasons, any cosmetic product for children under 3 years of age is not valid. Moreover, children’s dermocosmetics must be different from those used in adults, both in terms of the concentration of substances and the duration of application on the skin.
In this sense, in the monograph prepared by the Committee of Experts on Cosmetic Products (P-SC-COS, 2012) of the Council of Europe, and transferred to Spanish legislation by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), it is compile a series of recommended safety criteria in relation to cosmetic products in children under 3 years of age:
• Cosmetic products must be safe as long as they are used under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, taking into account the physiological characteristics, the area of application and the behavioral habits of children.
• The presentation of a cosmetic product for children, and especially its shape, smell, color, appearance, packaging, labeling, volume or size, must not endanger their health or safety by being confused with food.
• The outer package and the container of the product must provide adequate protection for the cosmetic product, to guarantee its physicochemical stability and avoid microbiological contamination during its storage, distribution and use. The materials used must be inert and must not give off toxic substances to the product.
• The instructions for use and the warnings must be perfectly reflected on the labeling, in order to guarantee the safe consumption of the product and avoid misuse.
• The cosmetic formulation must comply with the European legislation on cosmetics (Regulation [CE] no. 1223/2009, and SCCS/1501/12).
• Cosmetic products must not contain more ingredients than are strictly necessary. That is, they must not include substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic properties for reproduction (CMR) or with endocrine disruptive activity; they must also not include substances that meet the criteria of Annex XIV of Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 (REACH), or substances that are potent allergens. On the other hand, the substances used to replace those mentioned above must meet the same safety criteria. Some substances have to meet the requirements on the amount in which they must be used in children under 6 years of age, and some of the products that contain them must be mandatory labeled for use in adults only (for example, fluorides used in oral hygiene products).
• The accidental presence of impurities or traces from raw materials, packaging materials, the manufacturing process or chemical changes or interactions in the finished product must be evaluated.
• Due to their possible allergenic potential, preservatives and perfuming agents must be used in the minimum concentrations necessary to maintain the efficacy of the product. In the case of terpenes, for example, the maximum permitted concentration indicated in the guide should not be exceeded.
In the case of allergens listed in Annex III of Regulation No. 1223/2009, their presence is required to be indicated on the label when their concentration exceeds the limits established in said annex. The concentration of these allergens in perfumes or natural oils should be minimized in finished products for children.
Taking these considerations into account, we can establish what cosmetics for children should be like and what conditions they have to present:
• Be low irritation products.
• Contain assets adapted to the type of skin.
• Be very lightly scented and allergen-free.
• Without colorants.
• With harmless preservatives.
• They should not be aggressive to the baby’s skin.
• With slightly acidic ph.
All these conditioning factors are weighed by expert toxicologists in the safety evaluation, which is a necessary requirement to be able to market a cosmetic product.
Products that can be used
Faced with such a variety of products and options on the market, parents or consumers in general may wonder what products they should use in the daily hygiene of the baby. The answer is clear: as few as possible. Being more specific, we can establish and detail what to use at each moment of the daily care of a newborn.
According to the World Health Organization, the first batch of a newborn should be given 6 hours after delivery, in order to avoid hypothermia, and it should be of short duration (about 5 minutes) to avoid maceration of the skin. . From this moment on, it is recommended that the bath is not daily and that it has a frequency of 2 times a week, although the frequency varies between regions and countries, depending on the culture of each place. For premature newborns, a bath every 4 days with a water temperature close to body temperature (between 37 and 37.5 ºC) is recommended.
After bathing, if the newborn’s skin shows signs of dryness, a suitable emollient should be applied that, in addition to treating dry skin, protects the skin barrier.
BABY COSMETICS changing the diaper
The ideal is to wash the baby with lukewarm water and, if necessary, with a soap suitable for children and that has been tested by dermatologists and pediatricians. After cleaning it, the baby’s skin must be dry to avoid the appearance of fungi. That is why it is important to dry well between the folds of the skin, as well as the genital area.
In case of reddening of the skin, a cream with zinc oxide can be applied (in the list of ingredients it is under the name “zinc oxide”). Most barrier-type creams or water-based pastes contain it. On the other hand, it is recommended not to use those that contain petrolatum and paraffinic liquid, as these ingredients do not allow the skin to breathe. This type of paste is very thick and difficult to spread, so product remains may remain on the skin, so you have to wash that area and remove any remaining remains before adding more.
Traditional soaps can destroy the lipid surface layer of the baby’s skin and cause excessive dryness, so it is advisable to avoid them. Glycerin soaps can draw excess water out of the skin, causing further dryness and skin irritation.
Soaps without soap (syndetic) or synthetic detergents can be a good choice, since they offer a good detergent effect, have a neutral or slightly acidic pH, generate little foam and cause little irritation.
In short, the ideal cleaning agents should be liquid, mild, soap-free, fragrance-free, with a neutral or slightly acidic pH, that do not irritate the skin or the eyes and that do not alter the protective acid layer of the surface.
Regarding the shampoo, there is no standardized pediatric formula. The same aspects must be taken into account as with bathroom cleaning agents: they must be mild, slightly detergent and have a pH close to that of tears, and they must not alter the roots of the hair or be aggressive to the scalp.
Most experts do not recommend the use of cleansing wipes, due to the risk of removing the lipid layer of the skin and causing sensitivity. Wet wipes are only for when the baby is away from home, even if they are comfortable and even if their advertising proposes to use them at all times. The best ones are those that are fragrance-free and contain emollients; On the other hand, avoid those that contain possible allergens (limonene, linalool, citronellal or eugenic).