Ask the Chemist Mom: What is the Best Lip Gloss or Chapstick for my Toddler?

Real Style on 04.04.11
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Don't you love it when your little one wants to be just like you? But your lip gloss might not be the best for your child. Chemists formulating products for use by adults apply a more lenient standard of safety. There are two reasons for this. First, a higher safety margin is used for children to make up for the fact that we don't fully understand how chemicals affect growing children differently than adults, and second, chemical exposures that start in childhood can stay with the body for a lifetime.

For babies and toddlers not yet pretending to be mommies, the issue is usually simply red and sore lips. Your best bet is Lansinoh ointment, which you may know better as nipple cream. This product is suitable for ingestion, but is also an excellent protection and healing aid against chapped lips. Lansinoh processes the lanolin used in their nipple cream to reduce the free lanolin alcohol level -- to only a quarter of the level typically found even in medical grade lanolin, thereby removing the naturally occuring component that has been related to sensitization, which leads to allergic reactions.

Things get trickier as soon as nothing is good enough unless it is "just like mommy." Even without suggesting a moment's meditation on what examples you want to set for your growing offspring, and putting aside the question of how soon a child should go from chapped lips to swinging hips, you should be especially suspicious of colored lip products.

Complex chemicals are behind those oh-so-lovely shades. The safety standards for lip products assume some ingestion, but children probably ingest more than adults (even if your toddler is not enjoying lip stick like a lollipop). Also, the ratio ingested to their small body weights is much higher. And there is the further danger that the lipstick manufacturer is not even adhering to accepted standards, as in the recent scandals over lead in lipsticks.

For your toddler or older child, look for a natural product that is especially developed for "sensitive skin." Sensitive skin is code word for making certain there are no allergy-producing chemicals in the product, which is a good idea while your youngster is still developing. A great place to do research for safer products is the EWG Skin Deep database. You can browse lip balm sorted by hazard score. The database is overly conservative in many cases, but you can be pretty sure a product with a "0" score is safe to use.

Although we do not endorse any products specifically, I mention a couple products that caught my eye as examples of the wealth of data to which we parents now have access, making informed decisions easier than ever. The lowest (safest) scores for lip balm at Skin Deep are dominated by Loving Naturals. Try the hemp lip balm, which has no fragrance oils, if you want to reduce your risks to a minimum. Fragrance will encourage taste-testing by toddlers, so is best left on the shelf for a few more years.

I had to click to the second page at Skin Deep to find For My Kids All Natural Vegan Lip Balm. It does not score as well, having earned some negative points for peppermint extract, which can enhance skin absorption of other chemicals. But since the other chemicals in For My Kids are pretty safe, this is not a problem with this product (more absorption of nothing bad does nothing bad). Choose the vanilla flavor for a milder product.

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