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Parents make a beeline for natural kids' PC

Upset tummies and high fevers aren't the only baby complaints that can send a worried parent to your health and beauty.

Anna Soref

April 23, 2008

6 Min Read
Parents make a beeline for natural kids' PC

Upset tummies and high fevers aren't the only baby complaints that can send a worried parent to your health and beauty aisles two minutes before closing time. An angry diaper rash or the need for the right shampoo will have mom and dad wandering the aisles, too—and in record numbers.

According to SPINS, a San Francisco-based market research and consulting firm for the natural products industry, consumers spent more than $25 million on natural baby care in natural products stores during the past year, up 25 percent from the previous year.

To sell these products, make sure your staff members know about the special needs children have.

Baby's skin

Anyone who has ever touched a baby's super-soft skin knows that it is more delicate than an adult's. "Infant skin is thinner than adults' and more sensitive to the irritants of everyday life," says Dr. Bob Sears, a Capistrano Beach, Calif.-based pediatrician and author of more than 30 child-care books. "In the womb, the baby's skin is surrounded by the amniotic fluid, so it's protected. Once baby is born, everything it comes in contact with—from clothing to bed sheets, and yes, personal care products —can be potential irritants."

Naturals manufacturers are introducing a slew of kids' products, each designed with young, sensitive skin in mind. The natural fragrances might be banana or strawberry, and sodium laurel sulfates and parabens are replaced with less-toxic ingredients.

Diaper rash treatments

Diaper rash is the most common skin complaint from parents, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. "The best treatment for diaper rash is prevention," says Diana Kaye, president of Terressentials organic body care company in Middletown, Md. Parents should make sure the baby is not left too long in a soiled diaper and that its bottom is well-cleaned during a diaper change. If a rash persists, it could be food allergies or a reaction to chemicals in disposable diapers, Kaye says.

Just about all babies suffer from at least a few episodes of this potentially painful rash, so make sure you stock a few treatment options in your baby section.

Most diaper-rash preparations function as barrier creams. Conventional products usually contain a high concentration of zinc oxide, petroleum byproducts, parabens and other preservatives. Naturals manufacturers rely primarily on botanical-based ingredients for their creams and ointments, and low percentages of zinc oxide.

Organic olive oil forms the base for Earth Mama Angel Baby's Bottom Balm. "It used to be beeswax, but we had so many requests for vegan products that we changed it," says Melinda Olson, "mama in charge" of the Clackamas, Ore.-based company. The oil serves as a barrier and as a vehicle for healing herbs, including St. John's wort, a skin-cell regenerator; plantain, a wound healer; and chickweed to help reduce itch, she says. Antifungal essential oils (lavender, tea tree and myrrh) are also added.

Los Angeles-based Wildflowers credits apple cider and apple pectin for the effectiveness of its diaper cream. "They help take care of the redness by taking care of the causes [of diaper rash] by balancing the skin's pH," says Emily Wildhirt, owner and president.

Lotion and oils

Babies and toddlers shouldn't need daily moisturizers unless they suffer from dry skin, Sears says. But when extra moisture is necessary, many experts like oils because they are the purest moisturizers.

Many manufacturers add medicinal herbs to their baby oils. Weleda's baby oil contains calendula and chamomile mixed in a sweet almond carrier oil. "Our calendula is biodynamically grown on our farm in Germany," says Jennifer Barckley, spokeswoman for the Palisades, N.Y.-based company. "The calendula is very soothing and envelops the baby's skin in healing warmth."

Calendula and chamomile infusions are wonderful for a baby's skin, says aromatherapist Cristina Carvalho of Horizon Mind, Body & Spiritual Wellness in Ossining, N.Y. "Calendula is very healing, and chamomile is very soothing," she says. Some babies can have a reaction to chamomile if they are allergic to ragweed, she cautions.

When formulating her company's baby oil, Earth Mama Angel Baby's Olson opted for a nut-free carrier oil to avoid allergy concerns. She also makes the product fragrance-free. "Babies' little noses should be smelling the people taking care of them, not perfume," she says.

Baby oils can also work double-duty as a remedy for cradle cap. Sears suggests applying oils directly to the scalp to help loosen the crusts, and then gently comb out the crusts after baths.

Lotion functions more as a barrier and is ideal for older children who are out and about, says Terressentials' Kaye. Her company's lotion is certified organic and—in case a child decides to sample it—edible, she says.

Shampoo and body wash

A baby really doesn't need to be washed every day; once a week or every few days is fine, Sears says. If the parents and child enjoy the ritual, a daily bath is OK, but soap should only be used every few days because it can be drying, he says.

Before Melinda Bonk created her kids' line of cleansers, she studied the market. "There wasn't much for older kids, and not many of the products were fun," she says.

Her new line, Zoochy, has a 3-in-1 shampoo, body wash and conditioner. The formula is gentle enough to be tearless and has scents like banana that appeal to toddlers. It's marketed in bottles adorned with animal graphics and children's poetry. Because the formula contains moisturizers, it works well on cradle cap, Bonk says.

There is also a Zoochy strawberry detangler with marshmallow, calendula, olive oil, wheat amino acid and real strawberry essence, making it an alternative to mass detanglers packed with chemicals.

Bubble bath

With their SLS, synthetic fragrances and artificial colors, conventional bubble baths can seem like the last thing to expose a child's skin to. But naturals manufacturers are rolling out gentle bubble and foaming baths that are fun and relaxing, and contain aromatherapy essential-oil blends.

Aura Cacia made its foaming baths for kids in three different aromatherapeutic blends, including lavender for calming and eucalyptus for decongesting. The bubbles are produced with a proprietary formula that works by combining sodium bicarbonate with citric acid. "It works sort of like effervescent bath balls and is a safe alternative to SLS," says Tom Havran, an aromatherapy specialist for the Norway, Iowa-based company.

California Baby in Los Angeles supplies a wand with its children's bubble baths. The bubbles contain sugar-derived decyl polyglucose—a nonirritating cleansing and bubbling agent—instead of SLS. In 2005, the company replaced parabens with a blend of coconut-derived phospholipids and polyaminopropyl biguanide, a water-soluble preservative, which is too large to penetrate the skin, says owner Jessica Iclisoy.

Aromatherapy big with children's lines

Check out kids' natural personal care lines, and you'll see a lot of lavender and chamomile that can soothe and calm overactive or upset children, says aromatherapist and herbalist Cristina Carvalho with Horizon Mind, Body & Spiritual Wellness in Ossining, N.Y. Los Angeles-based California Baby makes aromatherapy spritzers and essential oils for its children's line.

Some experts, though, are wary of using aromatherapy on children's skin, especially babies'. "Essential oils can be a bit harsh on the skin, and babies are so sensitive," Carvalho says. For very small babies, she suggests aromatherapy spritzes and room diffusers. "These can be wonderful to help a baby relax," she says. But make sure the spray does not go on the baby's clothes or linens. For relaxation, Valarho likes rose geranium, lavender and chamomile.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 10/p. 50, 52

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