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Baby Oil: FDA Requirements and Baby Safe Alternatives

written by: Atlanta Page•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 6/22/2011

Baby oil formulas made with mineral oil may fall within the FDA requirements for skin care products, but are these formulas really safe for your baby? Mineral oil is not only harmful if accidentally ingested, but is also not an eco-friendly choice for parents. Make essential oil formulas at home.

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    The FDA requirements for baby oil are fairly lenient in regards to over-the-counter brands containing mineral oil, such as Johnson & Johnson's. However, some parents may be surprised to learn that mineral oil is not ideal for soothing a baby's skin from an environmental perspective. The following information about mineral oil outlines the reasons why parents may want to consider green baby oil products as an alternative solution for dry skin.

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    Environmental Risks of Mineral Oil

    The FDA Code of Federal Regulations specifies that mineral oil is an acceptable active ingredient in over-the-counter skin protectants such as baby oil. The concentration of mineral oil in such products should be between 50 and 100 percent. In accordance with FDA guidelines, many commercial baby oil formulas are composed of mineral oil and added fragrance.

    Mineral oil, also known as liquid petroleum, is clear in color and is derived from distilled crude oil. A by-product of the process in which gasoline is produced mineral oil is a synthetic substance that is easily obtained, resistant to spoiling, and low in cost. For these reasons, mineral oil is a common ingredient in cosmetic and skin care preparations. When marketed as baby oil, mineral oil is designed to lessen skin irritations caused by diaper rash and chafing.

    Environmental activists and people who are committed to green practices have several concerns about the use of mineral oil-based baby oils. Because mineral oil is processed synthetically, it is non-biodegradable and contains pollutants. Mineral oil is also thought to be a carcinogen that negatively impacts health by slowing down skin cell production and promoting vitamin deficiency.

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    Dangers and Even Death to Small Children

    800px-Baby vs. Bathwater Mineral oil, also commonly known as baby oil, has a sad history of harming infants and small children. The risks are very real. Children have been known to inhale the oil and as a result many have died a slow death of asphyxiation. One child is reported to have struggled for a very long 28 days to breathe before death occurred.

    In 1991 a lawsuit ensued against Johnson & Johnson after their 15 month old child suffered permanent brain damage.

    Baby oil is only one product containing mineral oil. Many sunscreens and beauty products contain it as well. The hydrocarbons in the oil cause damage to the stomach if ingested, as well.

    With such damaging effects, parents must take extreme caution with products containing mineral oil. The risk of brain damage, stomach damage, skin damage and even death from inhalation, should be enough to incur strong warnings of the dangers of mineral oil.

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    Alternatives Using Essential Oil Blends

    Parents who wish to use baby oil without risking environmental or health-related consequences can make their own alternatives to baby oil with plant-based essential oils.

    Natural, homemade baby oil is effective in moisturizing an infant's skin and is free of commercial chemicals. The following types of essential oils can be used on their own or combined in formulas that are significantly more Eco-friendly than mineral oil:

    --Rose oil soothes and softens a baby's skin. This oil has a naturally delicate and pleasing scent.

    --Chamomile oils such as, Roman chamomile and German chamomile are calming and helpful in easing skin irritations.

    --Primrose oil is added to homemade baby oil as a protectant against skin inflammation and rashes.

    --Neroli oil helps to rejuvenate the skin and to reduce itching sensations.

    --Sweet almond oil is ideal for babies with sensitive skin.

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    Natural Sources of Mineral Oil Stand on Their Own

    --Emu Oil which comes from the fatty tissues of Australia's native bird the Emu. It contains both oleic and linoleic acid, and makes a superb moisturizer as it does get absorbed very thoroughly into the skin.

    --Camellia Oil or Tea Seed Oil is rich in vitamin A which is great for your skin, and also B vitamins. It is used in hair products, soaps, and skin products. It is very lightweight and has almost no scent.

    -- Olive oil is filled with antioxidants such as A and E. It not only moisturizes but helps repair the skin from the outside in. Aside from being hypoallergenic, this oil has the ability to stimulate the skin and repair damage. It is recommended to be applied to damp skin in order to reduce greasiness. Olive oil provided a long lasting shield on the skin. This is very helpful for small children's skin.

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    Though the FDA requirements for baby oil allow consumers to readily purchase mineral oil-based brands, families who value environmental safety can choose to buy or make organic baby oil with natural ingredients. Eco-friendly baby oil is beneficial to a basic infant care routine.

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