Posted by: soapchix | February 11, 2008

What’s in your (kids) bubble bath?

So, what exactly is in your (baby) bath products? What is safe? What isn’t? We’ve been getting lots of emails asking us to shed some light on the February article in ‘Pediatrics’, which cautions parents to avoid phthalates in baby bath products.

This is something Ash and I have studied for the past 3 years, but until recently the general population has had little idea just how unregulated the cosmetic market is. Literally hundreds of chemical compounds can be put into a product labelled ‘natural’ and ‘gentle’. We’ve talked about phthalates here and here and here, but you want more!

Thinking that we might be getting a little boring, I took a picture of some bubble bath I had in my cabinet. Being a soapchix, I usually veer away from commercial bath products, but this was a Disney Princess bottle, and when you walk by a Disney Princess anything with a 3 year old who thinks she is also a Disney Princess, you usually end up with it in the cart. So, I thought I would show visually what to look for and avoid in your bath products…both for baby and for yourself!

what's in your (kids) bubble bath.

The highlighted words are things to AVOID. They are BAD. EVIL. And a source of chemical exposure that just isn’t needed in cosmetics or baby products. Here are some reasons why we have these ingredients on our DO NOT BUY list:

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Products containing these substances can affect those prone to eczema and other irritants. These chemicals provide a foaming quality to the product, allowing for better distribution of the product while washing hair or skin and while brushing teeth. When rinsed off, the product will have cleaned the area but will have taken moisture from the top layers of skin. In people with sensitive skin (prone to dermatitis, acne, eczema, psoriasis and chemical sensitivity), the drying property of these type of detergents can cause flare-ups of skin conditions or may worsen existing conditions. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages manufacturers to remove this contaminant, it is not currently required by federal law.


Some studies indicate it is an allergen. Cocamidopropyl betaine is the active ingredient in Johnson’s Baby wash. CAPB has been claimed to cause allergic reactions in some users, but a controlled pilot study has found that these cases may represent irritant reactions rather than true allergic reactions.


Exposure occurs through skin contact, especially since we apply perfume and beauty products to the skin directly. Contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction in the skin, is on the rise. A 1996 Danish study on perfume and eczema, a kind of dermatitis, concluded that the number of eczema patients with perfume allergy doubled between 1979 and 1989. And, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance is the number one cause of allergic cosmetic reactions. Phthalates are added to help fragrances last longer, according the American Chemistry Council.

DMDM Hydantoin

Skin contact with this chemical or products that use this chemical may result in an allergic eczema (dermatitis). If you currently have eczema this allergen may be the cause, but it may also be unrelated. Other factors may be related to your condition. This chemical is used as a preservative and its most common skin exposure is with cosmetics and shampoos. This is a formaldehyde-releasing agent.

Red #33
Ash and I avoid dye in general, especially in our food. This aversion has spilled over into our cosmetics choice, too. Red dye, in particular, is linked to so many allergic reactions and hyperactivity (when ingested), that we are just as cautious about it being absorbed into our skin, too.

Disodium EDTA
Ash and my beef with this additive is that it is a penetrating agent, allowing other ingredients in the cosmetic to sink deeper into the skin. Theoretically, if the ingredients are natural and safe, this is a good thing. But do you really want the chemicals on this ingredient list getting deeping into you (and your child’s) skin? So, we are wary of anything with this EDTA, and make sure that the surrounding ingredients are things we want deep into our skin tissue.

The caution at the end is icing on the chemical cake:
*Caution: Excessive use or exposure to bubble bath may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract. Discontinue use if rash, redness, or itching occurs.*

Lots of people ask if we make bubble bath…as of yet, we haven’t been able to formulate one using natural ingredients…it takes a chemical formula to produce a stable liquid that foams & bubbles. We do make something to make bathtime fun for everyone, though! “You Da (Bath) Bomb!” is our answer to everyone who wants a bath full of 100% natural ingredients without phthalates, parabens, or laureth sulfates. They are balls of varying size that fizz in water and release gentle bubbles of sweet almond oil to soften tender skin. Our kids enjoy dropping them into the bath from a high altitude and watching them fizz vigorously. And anything that gets our kids willingly and happily into a bath is a good thing!

So, there you go. Keep the emails coming with questions, because the better that parents can understand the issue of unsafe skin and bath products, the quicker we can get some change going in the cosmetic industry!



  1. Soapchix,

    Thank you so much for explaining what the chemicals do, and showing us what to avoid. I, along with many others, were unaware of the dangers of baby soaps and washes. So, I’m naturally becoming more natural in my selections. I’m new to researching all of the chemicals and knowing what is good and what’s bad, so this blog comes as a GREAT help.

    Thanks again!

  2. Alarming.

    (Off to clean out the toiletries closet….)

  3. I’v just begun trying to research what products are causing problems for our 6yr old. We have identified individual products which cause the most acute reactions but not the ingredients responsible, although we’ve noticed that all the ‘problem products’ (bath foams, shampoos/conditioners) leave the bath water and skin feeling smooth/oily. Your clear info is a great help and a step in the right direction, but the more I read, the more I wonder: how do the manufacturers get away with this?

  4. This is so excellent. I will link from my blog to this post and to your other post about J&J’s baby wash.

  5. […] chemicals that are ‘Moderate’ in toxicity. Some of them you may remember from my ‘What’s in your baby shampoo’ blog. (Anyone? […]

  6. Whatever. Can you please provide me with yoru background and educational training? You’re just like the rest of the fruitcakes on the interest spreading misinformation.

  7. John, thanks for sharing your insightful rant about fruitcakes on the ‘interest’.

  8. My patent just expired, so the formula is there for the taking by soapchix or whomever. However, if you want to buy out my stock (about 100 gals. bulk) to bottle or to add your own additives, please make me an offer. It’s made of diammonium lauryl sulfosuccinate, lauramidopropyl betaine, and disodium lauryl (ethyl ether)3 sulfosuccinate. No added preservatives, but the surfactant solutions as they came were preserved with formaldehyde donors, and no water or “food” was added to require more preservative. Unfragranced.

  9. Ok…I can appreciate someone elses point of view, but man it’s getting ridiculous, all these damn tree huggers scaring everyone away from their products. The amounts of ingriedents in these products is nothing to cause harm, with normal use. Maybe if you were to sit down for breakfast and have a nice bowl of J&J baby lotion or whatever, then yeah maybe some problem would arise, but damn keep an eye on your kid so they don’t ingest the shi*! I am just over the whole ‘natural, loving’ garbage. It’s like it’s the hip thing to start recycling, people have been doing it for years..get over it.

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  11. If your were exposed to to much of some bubble bath and have a rash is there anything you can use to clear up the rash without paying hundreds of dollars?

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