Top Products to Never Use on Kids of Color
Since melanin-rich skin is prone to dryness, it’s not unusual for parents to seek out products for their child’s skin that increase hydration, but sometimes new parents spend so much time searching for the ingredients they want to see that they forget to check for ingredients to avoid.
Unlike mainstream-brand products that aren’t formulated specifically for melanin-rich skin, Melabebe products consist of natural ingredients that won’t harm your child’s skin. Many personal care products contain ingredients that aren’t healthy for anyone but are especially harmful to children with melanin-rich skin.
A skincare product can be labeled as “natural,” with only 1% of its ingredients consisting of natural ingredients. We recommend you avoid the following skincare products on kids to protect their sensitive skin.
1. Synthetic Fragrances
Manufacturers often add fragrances to their products for children to make them more appealing. They also entice tired parents who hear phrases like “relaxing scent” and think the products may help their baby sleep at night.
However, those fragrances are often synthetic, meaning they do not naturally occur. The chemicals used to create these synthetic fragrances often dry out the skin and irritate sensitive melanin-rich skin and have also been shown to cause hormone disruption with prolonged use.
But it’s not just the fragrances themselves that cause problems. Diethyl phthalate, a known endocrine disrupter (a chemical that interferes with a body’s natural endocrine system), is a chemical often added to synthetic fragrances to help it last longer.
Instead, opt for light fragrances from essential oils and other natural ingredients like chamomile.
2. Mineral Oils
If you search any beauty magazine, you’ll see a bitter debate between enthusiastic proponents of mineral oils and their passionate detractors. It is often referred to as a useful moisturizer for dehydrated skin, but there is evidence that it does more harm than good in the long term.
Mineral oils are often not absorbed into the skin, leaving it sitting on the surface and clogging pores. Mineral oils often irritate melanin-rich skin, causing it to produce more melanin (leading to dark spots) and sebum, a naturally occurring protective layer of your skin, creating oily skin that’s prone to acne. Since acne scars cause dark spots in melanin-rich skin, it’s best to avoid mineral oil altogether.
Coconut oil is a powerful moisturizer alternative and can help with eczema; a condition melanin-rich skin is prone to. It can also be used as part of your child’s hair-care routine to keep their hair healthy without weighing it down.
3. Titanium Dioxid
A natural mineral, titanium dioxide, usually shows up in sunscreens because it is a natural UV filter. It’s also often in loose powders, lotions, toothpaste, and diaper creams. It is safe in sunscreens and lotions, but it is considered a carcinogen when inhaled in powder form.
Until further research has been done into titanium dioxide, avoid using loose powders on your child’s skin, but since it is safer than traditional sunscreen ingredients because of its natural occurrence, don’t be afraid to use sunscreen containing it.
4. Harmful Chemicals like DEA, MEA, and TEA
Diethanolamine, monoethanolamine, and triethanolamine are chemicals with many uses found in various skincare products. They often used to:
- Help cosmetics reach a certain consistency
- Serve as pH balancers
- Create suds in soap or shampoos
At their best, these chemicals irritate the skin or eyes, but they also cause certain types of cancers. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to spot DEA, MEA, or TEA in the ingredients lists since they are often ingredients within other ingredients. The FDA does not officially deem them a threat to consumers but urges you to avoid the following derivatives if you are concerned:
- Cocamide DEA
- Cocamide MEA
- DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
- DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
- Lauramide DEA
- Linoleamide MEA
- Myristamide DEA
- Oleamide DEA
- Stearamide MEA
- TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
5. Microplastic Beads
When your child reaches puberty, it’s not unusual for them to experience some acne. Today’s trendy acne products often rely on exfoliating, microplastic beads identified in the ingredients list as polyethylene or acrylates copolymer. These beads are harsh exfoliators and dry your child’s skin, are often considered carcinogens, and do not break down in water, so they are polluting our water supply.
Instead, choose products that include natural exfoliants like baking soda, and encourage your child to use them sparingly.
Often an ingredient in high-powered moisturizers, silicones do more to mask dryness than treat the source of the problem. They work by forming a breathable coating on the skin that looks and feels soft, but they don’t actually fix skin’s dryness, and as soon as you wash your skin, the problem is evident again.
However, they often stick to your skin, clogging pores and causing breakouts. Silicones are also bioaccumulative, which means they do not break down in water, contributing to pollution in your local water supply. If you can, only use silicone-free natural skincare for children.
7. Bar Soaps
No matter how many natural ingredients it may have, bar soap can be damaging to melanin-rich skin. A high pH level holds the bar soap together, and when applied to the skin, it disrupts the natural pH balance of your child’s skin, which can cause dryness and cracking. Once the natural pH level is modified, it can take some time to repair.
Balanced pH levels are important for your skin to help it naturally fight off microbes and free radicals, but irritation, acne, and other skin issues can result when it is too high.
Cruelty-free liquid soaps with natural ingredients are the best options for melanin-rich skin nourishment and cleansing.
Exfoliation is important to avoid ashy dry skin, but it’s possible to over-exfoliate. While they remove your dead skin cells on the surface layer of the skin, loofahs also harbor bacteria in their folds. When you exfoliate, you’re removing the dead cells and introducing potentially harmful bacteria to the fresh skin cells. This leads to irritated and dry skin, which increases the need for exfoliation, creating a vicious cycle.
Avoid breaking out the loofah to remove dry skin, and instead concentrate on powerful moisturizers like shea butter to prevent dry skin in the first place.
9. Alcohol-based Products
Most makeup products and other skincare creams and ointments are alcohol-based, even when they claim to be moisturizing. However, alcohol strips the skin’s natural moisture, making it more likely you will need to continue using the product in the future while also irritating sensitive skin.
Stick to water-based products rather than alcohol-based options for skincare for melanin-rich skin.
Phthalates, nicknamed “the everywhere chemical,” are man-made compounds common in plastics, cosmetics, nail polishes, deodorants, and fragrances. They have been linked with some cancers through prolonged exposure. It can even be absorbed into a product from a plastic container it is packaged in, so in addition to reading the ingredients list, you’ll want to check the makeup of the packaging.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to avoid phthalates despite their many names: simply check the packaging for the number three within the recycling icon. If you see the number three, the product contains phthalates.
Parabens are a chemical product added to many beauty supplies like soaps and moisturizers to prolong their shelf life. Parabens have been linked with breast cancer and reproductive issues because they are absorbed into the skin, where they can live potentially forever and often show up in breast cancer tissue. They also show up in marine animals, likely because they have entered our water systems and are not degraded.
While many companies advertise their products as paraben-free, be aware they may have switched to utilizing other harmful ingredients to preserve their products.
12. Surfactants Like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are often used in hair care products like shampoos and hair color as a foaming agent. While the chemicals themselves are safe, they can cause skin irritation in people with sensitive skin, especially if the product is left on the skin for an extended period.
Since melanin-rich skin is prone to sensitivity, you may want to avoid products that list sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate as an ingredient.
Formaldehyde is an irritant and a carcinogen, so it should be at the top of your “avoid” list. Unfortunately, this preservative ingredient is tricky to spot because the formaldehyde itself is not an ingredient in the skincare product.
Instead, it is a byproduct released by certain chemical combinations or an ingredient within an ingredient, so it doesn't need to be listed. Try to avoid products containing the following:
- 2-bromo-2 nitropropane-1,3-diol
- Diazolidinyl urea
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
Melabebe is an Easy, All-Natural Alternative
Melabebe products are free from all the ingredients on this list, and more because we know skincare for melanin-rich children is complicated enough without needing a chemistry degree to understand the ingredients in the products you purchase.
Upset by the inclusion of harmful ingredients in skincare products for babies and children, our founder made her own but found it too difficult to do while working full time. Quickly realizing that other Black mothers had the same difficulties while caring for their melanin-rich children, she set out to create Melabebe, producing skincare products that are inclusive and natural.
As a result, Melabebe’s products are all-natural, including quality ingredients like shea butter, aloe, honey, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, vitamin E, safflower oil, coconut oil, glycerin, beeswax, water, and xanthan gum. No parabens, sulfates, or phthalates here, so you can rest easy knowing you are providing the best skincare for your melanin-rich child.