Battle of the Baby Washes

Battle of the Baby WashesWhile at Target this afternoon, Tim and I started reading labels on baby washes. Which one, we wondered, was the best, the healthiest, the safest, and the sweet-smellingest? We tried to decipher the long words and lingo, weighing the costs with the bottle's promises.

After the blur of options, we reached for the nearest bottle and came home to research the most common brands, their core ingredients, and their safety ratings.

The products are listed from least expensive to most expensive for easy browsing.

Johnson's-Head-to-Toe-Baby-WashJohnson's Head-to-Toe Baby Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $0.18 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: #1 choice of hospitals, soap-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested
  • Main Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate
  • Controversial Ingredients: quaternium-15 (releases formaldehyde - a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant; causes cancer)
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 4 - moderate hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Brunswick, NJ. The company has pledged to remove quaternium-15 from all baby products by 2015.

Aveeno-Baby-Wash-&-ShampooAveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo


  • Approximate Cost: $0.33 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: Soap-free, hypoallergenic, tear-free, pediatrician-recommended
  • Main Ingredients: Not available on the website
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 4 - moderate hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Aveeno is owned by Johnson & Johnson. It seems suspicious and not forthright that the company neglects to include a full ingredient list on their website. One of Aveeno's moisturizers (not in the baby line) was listed as one of the "10 most toxic cosmetics" in 2011.

Johnson's-Natural-Head-to-Toe-Foaming-Baby-WashJohnson's Natural Head-to-Toe Foaming Baby Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $0.39 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: paraben-free, dye-free, no irritating essential oils, allergy tested, dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic
  • Main Ingredients: Water, Decyl Glucoside, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: Unavailable
  • Amazon Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • NOTES: We've tried this product and were not impressed by the fragrance. It's a little rubber-y?


Burt's-Bees-Baby-Bee-Shampoo-&-WashBurt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $0.62 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: tear-free, plant-based, hypoallergenic, pediatrician-tested, sulfate-free, phthalate-free, petrochemical-free, paraben-free
  • Main Ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, coco-betaine
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 1 - low hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Burt's Bees is a subsidiary of the Clorox Company. Headquarters is in Durham, North Carolina.


Yes-To-Baby-Carrots-Shampoo-&-Body-WashYes To Baby Carrots Shampoo & Body Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $0.80 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: 100% natural, tear-free, hypoallergenic, Petroleum, SLS, & Paraben Free
  • Main Ingredients: Water (aqua), decyl glucoside, glycerin
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 3 - moderate hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Products are made with organic fruits and vegetables. Headquarters is in San Francisco, CA. Comprehensive FAQ page.


Earth-Mama-Angel-Baby-Shampoo-&-Body-WashEarth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $0.98 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: safe, toxin-free, detergent-free, all-natural, gluten-free -  No petrochemicals, petroleum or petroleum byproducts, sodium lauryl sulfate, artificial preservatives, parabens, phenoxyethanol, Quaternium-15
  • Main Ingredients: organic potassium cocoate, organic potassium olivate, aloe barbadensis (organic aloe) leaf juice
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 0 - no/low hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Company has a commitment to supporting mamas in natural birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum comfort. This is the only brand that ranks a zero (the best score possible) in the Skin Deep Database. Made in the USA.

Episencial-Playful-WashEpisencial Playful Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $1.15 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: #1 organic wash chosen by hospitals - No Additives, Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, Harsh Preservatives, EDTA, SLS, Synthetic Fragrances, Phthalates or Gluten
  • Main Ingredients: Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: none available
  • Amazon Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: 70%+ organic ingredients. The company has an impressive FAQ page that addresses potential concerns about active ingredients. Products are manufactured in a solar-powered production plant. All plastic containers are recycled, food-grade, non-leaching, with no residues of dioxins, BpA, phthalates, or other xenoestrogens.

California-Baby-Calming-Shampoo-and-BodywashCalifornia Baby Calming Shampoo & Bodywash


  • Approximate Cost: $1.18 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: non-stripping, sulfate-free, biodegradable, allergy-tested, tear-free - also free of sodium sulfate, DEA, and numbing agents
  • Main Ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, laurel glucoside
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: 1 - low hazard
  • Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Company was founded by mother of two. Proudly made in the USA in a certified organic solar powered facility.


ABC-Arbonne-Baby-Hair-and-Body-WashABC Arbonne Baby Hair and Body Wash


  • Approximate Cost: $1.88 per ounce
  • Promises on the Bottle: ultra-mild, tear-free, botanically based, pH correct, pediatrician and dermatologist tested
  • Main Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Lauryl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • EWG's Cosmetic Database Score: none available
  • Amazon Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Notes: Arbonne International was founded in Switzerland in 1975. The products are sold by Independent Consultants. It seems suspicious and not forthright that the company neglects to include a full ingredient list on their website. *UPDATE* An Arbonne consultant has shared this product PDF with a full ingredient list.


Based on this preliminary research, I plan to avoid the Aveeno and Arbonne brands because they fail to make readily available the most basic information - the ingredient list. We will also do our best to steer clear of Johnson's original formula at least until quaternium-15 is removed.

Earth Mama Angel Baby's wash is, perhaps, the most appealing since it has a zero rating for safety, the best possible rating and the only wash that received those marks. That said, it's important to note that it is not a tear-free formula and many mothers report it stinging their baby's eyes. While it may be true that tear-free formulas have more controversial ingredients, it remains a fact that it is nearly impossible to tell a baby to close their eyes as you shampoo their downy hair. ;)

We've tried some products by Episencial with positive results, but I have to admit that it's hard to spend over a dollar per ounce on a baby soap.

What baby wash product do you use on your little ones (and why)?

We'd love to hear your thoughts about the safety, efficacy, and/or scent of these and other baby washes.

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20 comments on “Battle of the Baby Washes”

  1. One thing not mentioned is that Arbonne ABC products are Vegan certified and free of Parabens, mineral oil and formaldehyde forming ingredients.

  2. I actually use only Arbonne on my 15 month old. He has extremely sensitive skin, and it's the only product that doesn't cause him to break out. I've used it since he was about 6 months old (that's when I found it), and looking at the FULL ingredients list that the Arbonne rep posted, it's clear that the ingredients used in this product are immensely safe. They seem pretty wide open and honest about their policies as well. Not only do they give you a full ingredient list, but they actually tell you what each and everything is and where it comes from. Another thing people seem to skip over is the dermatologist and pediatrician RECOMMENDED vs. TESTED. There is a HUGE difference there!! I'm not sure about a lot of these other products, as they all seem to be either massive companies (which, generally speaking, are not exactly trustworthy) or small little mom and pop productions (not a bad thing at all, just not sure how much they really know about creating hygiene products for infants), but I know exactly what my company puts into my babies products, and I know that they put what they take out of the environment back in three-fold, and lastly, I know it works. You pay for what you get.

    Oh and Arbonne products are extremely concentrated, because they're all product - not filler! So they last an extremely long time, And the amount of preservative in the product is less than 2%

  3. We've been using this one since birth:

    Anyone else use it? I'd love to read a review of its ingredients. We've liked it a lot, but it's running out, so I'm not sure what to use next. Our babe definitely has sensitive skin, so I want to avoid irritants. We have bottles and bottles of J&J stuff, but I'm hesitant to use it.

  4. I have been visiting a small local health food store more and more for personal products. I find good quality products with natural things in them. I say local because a whole foods or a trader joes will carry all of the majory "natural" brands that are not really safe. I do truly say you have to read labels because the ads on the front of the product do not tell the real truth.

  5. I've tried a ton of baby body products with varying results /preferences... not all are as toxin free as I would like.
    We mostly use EMAB, Episencial, and also Dolphin Organics (have you tried them?). I know it's a lot of $ per ounce but... considering baby skin is so tender and absorbs so much more toxins by comparison to our larger, adult bodies, I think it's so important to keep the chemicals away during the developmental years especially!
    And, since their bodies are so little, they are using so much less soap than an adult, so really the bottle lasts a long time. Another justification I make for the expense is that we don't really buy our babies much else by way of treats/toys, etc. so why not some special (and good for them!) pampering products? :)

    1. Adding Dolphin Organics to my list. The bottle looks familiar, but I'm not sure we've actually tried it.

      You make good points about spending more in order to protect our children from toxic ingredients. We feel the same way, but I also want to be wise about that investment. If I only need to pay 60cents per ounce as opposed to a dollar, for example, I'd rather spend the money elsewhere.

      P.S. I wish I had a degree in Chemistry so I could decipher all of the ingredients, don't you?

      1. Luckily, my husband DOES have a degree in Chemistry! He's a chemistry teacher, and I am always asking him about how certain chemicals react with each other and how they might affect the body. It's so helpful and educational (I didn't take Chemistry in high school - opted for Physics instead).

      1. I usually use handmade goat's milk soap or glycerin soap from Etsy shops or farmer's markets. I get them a lot as gifts from people who know I like natural / organic products, and also pick up new ones to try whenever I can... I haven't really found a favorite to stick with permanently, but A Slice of Delight on Etsy makes GORGEOUS soaps and I do like hers a lot!

  6. We love Honest Co. products for our son and us! They are very open (honest) about their ingredients and I love home delivery!

  7. We use goat's milk stuff and their goat milk soap for washing our girls (and ourselves). For shampoo, since I have 3 curly girls, I use Devacurl. But I'm not positive how "natural" it is and I may just switch to baking soda and apple cider vinegar for washing their hair!

  8. My poor baby has sensitive skin and had issues with both types of Johnsons and aveeno! So now I use yes to cartots or burts bees. I like yes to carrots because it comes without smells which seem to bother dd's skin but burts bees does seem to work I get that in the summertime when she doesnt seem to have as many issues. I did use dr bonners castile soap for awhile but I had serious issues with getting her to keep her eyes closed and that is definately not tear free not even the baby formula! Yes to carrots seems to last quite awhile because it has a foaming dispenser (even though my 3yo has super long hair!) My daughter also likes the baby carrot on the front of the bottle. :)

  9. I use Earth Mama soap on my 3 littlest ones and don't have too much trouble keeping it out of their eyes. I do find it doesn't work so well on my oldest's really thick hair. That or it takes a ton to actually lather it up. So he uses Burt's Bees.
    A couple of side notes... Burt's Bees has a newer formula and I don't like the smell nearly as much as the old one, but it's "cleaner" in the ingredients. A
    Also, the price for the Earth Mama is probably a bit misleading since it comes in a foaming dispenser. I find the small bottles last forever and then I have a big bottle to refill from. :) (I haven't had a lot of luck with some of their other products for Mama's, they are natural, but they don't work quite as well as say lanolin. And I'm not opposed to lanolin since it's still natural, just an animal product.)
    I'm really big into soaps that are low on the toxicity scale. I seriously believe we are poisoning ourselves with the food we eat and the chemicals we put in/on our bodies. ;)

  10. We love both Burt's Bee's and products. They smell good and I feel are safe enough for my standards. Sure, they are a tad more expensive than Johnson & Johnson, but we only go through a bottle about once every 3 months...maybe we don't bathe our kid enough? ;)

    1. Thanks for the Honest product recommendation! I'll add that brand to my research list. Where do you typically purchase it? I don't think I saw it in the Target baby aisle...

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