In the beginning of the year, there was a ‘scare’ – news circulated that baby wipes is the cause of terrible rash on the face of babies. This is in response to a study published from observations of 6 children, with ‘disfiguring patches to crusting, swelling, blistering and tiny cracks in the mouth, cheek, hands and/or buttocks’. Even though it’s half a year since that news, many parents are still very wary about baby wipes. Now, let’s admit it – baby wipes do come in very handy, so let’s take it as we still need baby wipes. So what do we know about these rash-causing baby wipes in order to choose the ones that are safe?
Putting it into Perspective
The rashes can be various types of dermatitis –
Atopic dermatitis where the child is allergic to ingredient, and rashes develop very quickly even for small amount of contact.
Contact dermatitis where sensitization occurs overtime, i.e. the irritant has been in contact with the skin for some time. This is more common.
In both types of dermatitis, the ingredient to look out for (and avoid) is methylchloroisothiazolinone or methylisothiazolinone. The treatment is similar – avoidance + prescription to reduce skin inflammation. The potency of the cream will depend on each patient and also where the rashes are. Avoid wiping the baby’s face (more sensitive, thinner skin) with wet wipes, especially when you are not clear about its ingredients.
I looked through the research on methylisothiazolinone published in 2013 and 2014, the more common conclusions are:
1. Increasing reports of sensitization to methylisothiazolinone (MI), with many studies citing it as an ‘epidemic’. MI is also named 2013 “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
2. MI is an ingredient contained in baby wipes, and it is a preservative used in cosmetics, household, and industrial products to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination.
4. A patch test can be requested to check if there is hypersensitivity to methylisothiazolinone and in this regard, improvements to patch test for this have been suggested to modify the test solution concentration and also to increase the length of observation to 7 days.
5. The age group most susceptible to this is female above 40 years (6% sensitization), on the face due to cosmetics. Certain occupations are painters and beauticians. Parents are also affected due to the use of baby wipes, so not just the kids! Studies here and here.
So my take is if your child or yourself doesn’t react to baby wipes, you can continue using but take care to use less often, not on the face, and find those brands without MI if possible. What’s your favorite brand?