Chemical In Baby Wipes Linked To Rise In Skin Problems

Australian newspaper The Age reported yesterday that a chemical ingredient used as a preservative in baby wipes and other personal care products is being linked to an increase of dermatological conditions.

In her article, Bridie Smith quotes Rosemary Nixon, dermatologist from the Skin and Cancer Foundation, who identifies that methylisthiazolinone (MI) was linked to 11.3% of skin reactions in the 353 patients seen in 2013 at two of their clinics.

The Chemical?

I am sharing this because I think that there is more at play that the isolated preservative methylisothiazolinone. I want to draw your attention to the information contained in the material data safety sheet (MSDS) about this ingredient.

Eye contact – Contact may cause severe eye irritation or chemical burns, which may result in permanent eye injury.

Skin contact – Contact may cause severe burns with symptoms of pain, local redness, swelling, and tissue damage. Prolonged or widespread contact may result in allergic skin reactions. 

Ingestion – These products can be toxic if swallowed. Large amounts may cause serious injury, even death. 

Inhalation – Heated vapor or mist may cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) and lungs. 

Other – Similar materials have not caused cancer, birth defects, or fetal effects in animal testing.

(The Dow Chemical Company, 17 December 2010, Product Safety Assessment: DOW™ Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) Antimicrobial Products available at

Please note that prolonged skin contact can result in allergic skin reactions.

This is the sort of information that I procure when I determine the safety and/or the associated risk of ingredients and products for my clients.What upsets me, is that manufacturers KNOW about these risks of exposure while formulating their products, but choose to use these ingredients anyway.

I am going to also point out, that apart from alcohol, which is drying to the skin, and can damage the integrity of it, and this preservative that is known to cause allergic skin reaction with use over a long period of time, there are other ingredients to be mindful of in these kinds of products.

My #1 RED FLAG Ingredient is “Fragrance”

Fragrance is made up of a cocktail of chemicals that is never listed, in order to protect “trade secrecy” – that is the secret recipe to creating that scent.

Commonly, upwards of 100 chemicals are used to create a fragrance. Of the 10,000+ ingredients used to make fragrances, less than 10% have been tested for the safety for human use. As I have mentioned, due to trade secrecy, manufacturers are not required to list their ingredients for consumers – which makes it hard to avoid certain chemicals.

In an effort to create some transparency, the International Fragrance Association has listed ingredients commonly used in this industry. Scanning through the list, I was alarmed to see the number of known or suspected carcinogens, known skin and lung irritants and others that have been linked to adverse health effects. I have written more about this in a previous post “Perfumes Stink” – which you can read here.


What To Do?

One thing I want to point out is that I have had a significant proportion of my clients report thrush-like symptoms. On my recommendation, they have begun to use UNSCENTED toilet paper. Interestingly, most of these symptoms disappear.

So, for babies to adults, I would highly recommend keeping products simple – particularly in those delicate areas.

  • babies: use water and microfibre cloths
  • children and adults: use unscented toilet paper
  • bathing: unscented and un-dyed natural soaps
  • menstruation: organic cloth pads that can be washed in unscented soap (ie avoid plastic-lined, scented, bleached products)

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