Dominik is nearly two years old, and we rarely use soap on him. We didn’t use soap at all until he was nearly a year and have never used shampoo on his hair. Does he stink? Nope. Is he clean? As clean as a toddler can be. Does he have greasy, gross hair? Nope.
I recently wrote about why newborns shouldn’t be bathed right away. But once baths start happening, many of us feel that we have to use baby soap. Heck, it’s one of the top baby shower gifts. Babies typically do not get very dirty. Their hands and face get messy throughout the day, but it’s usually wiped off or washed off right after it happens. Small children, babies especially, have very delicate and sensitive skin. They simply do not produce the amount of oil and sweat that adults do. So, when they are washed with soap, it strips away the natural oils. This dries out the skin, which is why many people lather babies up in lotion after a bath.
Soap is a substance that basically loosens germs and dirt away from the skin so that it can easily wash down the drain. It also helps to break up oils and wash those away as well. What actually gets germs and dirt off the skin is the water. Unless you use a soap with antimicrobial properties, it doesn’t kill germs. When we bathe, we typically don’t use antibacterial soap because the goal is to wash away dirt, oil, and sweat. Doing so would not only irritate the skin, but kill the good bacteria as well. Baby soap just helps to loosen germs and dirt to wash them away.
Most baby soaps and lotions are packed with chemicals. Johnson and Johnson recently dealt with backlash after it was widespread that it contained formaldehyde, and although it has since been removed, there are plenty of other carcinogenic chemicals in most baby soaps. “No Tears” solutions have even more chemicals to create a numbing effect on the eyes. Then there’s the fragrance. I was always so surprised at how smelly baby soaps are. I mean, babies don’t smell to begin with, but why would I want to cover up that delicious and intoxicating baby smell?! And because soaps just sit in the bath water, a great deal of those chemicals stick to baby’s skin afterwards.
So what to do? For a routine bath, plain water is a great sensory treat for children and it does a better job than you think to wash stuff away. When washing a particularly dirty baby, using a washcloth can help the water to wash away dirt, sweat, and grime. It basically acts as a soap replacer, performing a similar task. But without the oil stripping qualities of soap, babies skin keeps some of it’s natural oils. Using natural oils, like coconut oil, after a bath can help moisturize a skin better than conventional lotions.