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Bath time for big kids goes clean

Anna Soref

April 24, 2008

5 Min Read
Bath time for big kids goes clean

Spend five minutes with a young child and you will more than likely hear the battle cry, "I can do it myself." Give that child a bath and you will hear it again and again. Children 2 to 8 years old like nothing more than to take control in the bathtub?washing their hair and lathering up dirty feet all by themselves, and with their own products.

"Kids today don't want baby products; they want products for big kids. Parents are always telling them, "You're a big kid now," but then giving them baby [personal care products]," says Cathleen Finan, owner of CoseFini, the East Aurora, N.Y.-based manufacturer of The Kids line of natural personal care products.

At any mass merchandise store, you'll find a wide variety of bath products geared toward kids; shampoo in bright bottles shaped liked princesses or striped race cars beckon young shoppers. The same can't be said for natural products stores, where shoppers have a wide choice of infant personal care but just a few items for the 2-to-8-year-old set. But change is coming as more naturals manufacturers realize that it's time for baby personal care to grow up.

A different skin
Do parents really need to be wary of conventional bath products for their children? Yes, because a young child's skin is not as sensitive as an infant's, but is still more sensitive than adult skin, says Dr. Barry Sears, a pediatrician, author of parenting books and medical adviser to Happy Baby Organic Baby Foods. "A child's soft 'virgin' skin hasn't had years to become tougher and desensitized to artificial chemicals and can easily become more irritated by these ingredients."

Artificial chemicals may cause other harmful effects as well. "It's especially important to keep chemical exposure to a minimum during the early years of brain development, since chemical exposure is one theory on why we are seeing a rise in autism and other developmental and learning problems. And today's kids are exposed to so many chemicals in everyday life, such as in foods, tap water, clothing, plastics, playground equipment and toys, to name a few," Sears says. "So every opportunity a parent can take to limit this exposure is one step further away."

Product profusion
It's precisely these chemical-laden kids' lines that are prompting naturals manufacturers to develop natural alternatives.

"We saw all those [kids' conventional personal care] products like the Pampers Kandoo line and figured that it was silly that no one in naturals was doing a kids' line. There's a lot of natural baby lines, but then what do you do when they become kids?" says Mindy Seiffert, senior brand manager for Urbana, Iowa-based personal care company Aura Cacia.

The Aura Cacia Kids line is much like the Pamper's Kandoo line in packaging and function. Each of the four products features silly, bright graphics that help pre-readers understand what the product is used for. For example, the shampoo features a picture of a hippo washing its hair. Like the Pampers' products, an orange pump creates fun foam for the hand wash, shampoo and body wash. "The idea is that kids can use the products themselves," Seiffert says.

But if the product concept mimics that of Pampers', the ingredients do not. Aura Cacia's Kids formulations use sodium myreth sulfate, a gentler version of lauryl and laureth sulfates, Seiffert says, and decyl glucoside, a nondetergent, for bubbles. "We made the bubble bath as gentle as we could and have it still produce a good amount of bubbles," Seiffert says. All of the products are scented with essential oils instead of artificial fragrances.

Kids are definitely on the radar for El Segundo, Calif.-based personal care manufacturer Little Twig. "There is certainly a big hole, definitely a category being missed," says owner Lenie Ramos. Although most of her products are geared toward babies, Little Twig's bubble bath is young-kid friendly, and the company is also working on a detangler for kids. Little Twig's body milk works for babies and kids, and is designed to absorb rapidly so that kids aren't slippery in a parent's arms, and can get into their PJs quickly.

For naturals baby-line veteran California Baby, creating a kids' line is of interest but not a priority. "Forty percent of our users are adults," says founder and President Jessica Iclisoy. She also finds that many parents who buy the products for their infants continue to use them when they become "big kids."

The Los Angeles-based company does have several products for kids, though, and is introducing more. California Baby's bubble bath with a bubble wand has been a kid pleaser for 10 years. And the spray-on moisturizer is designed to take the hassle out of applying lotion for kids. This month, the company will launch a moisturizing hand soap designed to keep kids' oft-washed hands from drying out.

If the current trend of churning out natural versions of popular mainstream products continues, and by the looks of the marketplace it will, then health and beauty aids retailers will soon need to create a kids' section. And when bath time descends upon millions of homes across the country, parents will be thanking you for giving their kids clean bubbles.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 2/p. 32

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