Designer perfume and fashion brand Dior has dropped a new line of baby fragrances and skincare products, bringing controversy along with it. Starting at $149 and ending at an eye-watering $361, these products may be labelled “high quality”, but the risks are anything but. From wreaking havoc on hormones to damaging the skin barrier, here’s why doctors are sounding alarms.
The fragrance, titled Bonne Étoile “scented water,” is intended to be sprayed directly onto the baby’s skin or in the air, with the luxury brand encouraging parents to combine the scent with the Baby Dior skincare routine to “create precious shared memories with calming scents and formulas,” claiming their products are an “essential part of a baby’s skincare routine that respects and preserves delicate skin.”
But this is at odds with the warnings from Liverpool Hospital’s Professor Deshan Sebaratnam, who tells news.com.au that skincare for babies should be kept to the bare minimum and free from harsh chemicals.
“You want to avoid unnecessary fragrances, preservatives or food products on babies’ skin,” Professor Sebaratnam says. “These can infrequently lead to sensitisation and the development of allergies.
“Skincare for babies should be cheap and simple. A bland greasy moisturiser – free of preservatives, fragrances, and food products – can be helpful in babies with dry skin or eczema. A bland soap-free cleanser can be used for bath time. A barrier cream can be helpful for nappy rash. That’s really all that’s needed.”
While the fragrance industry has ventured into creating perfumes specifically for children, a closer look reveals a potential Pandora's box of dangers, particularly in the realm of hormone disruption. The ingredients may seem harmless, but even minimal preservatives and so-called natural ingredients can pose a risk for the vulnerable skin of babies – but it’s not just about their skin. The chemicals in perfumes and fragrances can also wreak havoc on their gut microbiome and hormone health, leading to long-term problems down the road.
It’s time to shed some light on the need for cautious consideration when it comes to choosing scents for the younger members of our families.
Fragrance and Hormone Disruption: Fragrances are often a cocktail of chemicals, and when applied to the delicate skin of children, they may lead to hormone disruption. Many perfumes contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can interfere with the body's hormonal balance, potentially impacting growth and development. Take a look at some of the ingredients known to cause problems:
- Fragrance Allergens: Many perfumes contain fragrance blends composed of various chemicals. Some of these may be allergens that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Common allergens include limonene, linalool, citronellol, and geraniol.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are a group of chemicals often used in fragrances to enhance the scent and increase longevity. Some studies suggest that certain phthalates may have potential health effects, and exposure to them has been linked to endocrine disruption.
- Alcohol: Perfumes often contain alcohol as a solvent to help distribute and evaporate the fragrance. While alcohol itself is not necessarily harmful, it can be drying to the skin, which may be of concern for individuals with sensitive or dry skin, including babies. Though Dior states their product is free from alcohol, it’s always worth checking alcohol content in any products you’re using on your baby.
- Preservatives: Perfumes may contain preservatives to extend their shelf life. Some preservatives, such as parabens, have been a topic of discussion due to their potential endocrine-disrupting properties.
- Artificial Colourants: Some perfumes may include artificial colourants for aesthetic purposes, which may cause skin irritation in some individuals.
- Essential Oils: While natural, essential oils can also cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. Common essential oils used in perfumes include lavender, citrus oils, and floral extracts.
Allergic Reactions and Skin Sensitivities: Children, especially those with sensitive skin, are more prone to allergic reactions triggered by the chemicals present in perfumes. Skin irritations, redness, and itching are common side effects, highlighting the need for caution when introducing fragrance to a child's routine.
Asthma and Respiratory Issues: The inhalation of fragrance compounds can exacerbate respiratory issues, particularly in children with asthma. Perfumes emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contribute to indoor air pollution, affecting respiratory health and potentially triggering asthma attacks.
Unregulated Ingredients in Children's Perfumes: The fragrance industry is notorious for its lack of transparency regarding ingredient disclosure. Children's perfumes may contain a myriad of unregulated and undisclosed substances, making it challenging for parents to make informed choices about the products they expose their children to.
Long-Term Health Impacts: The long-term consequences of consistent exposure to fragrance chemicals in childhood are not fully understood. However, studies suggest that certain chemicals found in perfumes may be linked to health issues later in life, including reproductive disorders and certain cancers – and that’s not just pertaining to babies, older children and adults are also at risk of the adverse effects of these chemicals. As emerging research unveils more alarming findings around the dangers of putting these ingredients on our skin – and in our lungs – it’s all the more reason to take caution when it comes to your little ones.
Navigating the Fragrant Landscape Responsibly
If you’re looking to let your children try perfume, it’s vital to follow a few basic rules to protect their health. When using natural perfumes or essential oils on children, it's essential to be cautious and considerate of their age, as children's skin is more sensitive than adults'. Here are some general guidelines:
- Infants (0-6 months): It's advisable to avoid using any kind of fragrance, including essential oils, on infants under six months old. Their skin is extremely delicate, and there's a risk of irritation or adverse reactions.
- Babies and Toddlers (6 months - 2 years): If you choose to use a natural perfume on babies or toddlers, it's crucial to dilute it significantly and perform a patch test on a small area of skin to ensure there are no adverse reactions. Opt for very mild scents and use minimal amounts.
- Preschoolers (2 - 5 years): As children enter the preschool age, it’s reasonably safe to start introducing mild and safe natural perfumes in very small amounts. Always perform a patch test first, and closely observe for any signs of irritation.
- School-Aged Children (6 years and older): At this stage, children's skin is a bit less sensitive. However, it's still important to use caution. Natural perfumes with mild scents and properly diluted essential oils can be introduced, but always in moderation.
Note that, where possible, it’s always preferable to reduce your child’s contact with unnecessary fragrances.
- Patch Test: Before applying any fragrance to a larger area, perform a patch test on a small area of your child's skin to check for allergies or sensitivities.
- Dilution: Always dilute essential oils properly in a carrier oil to minimize the risk of skin irritation. A safe dilution for children is typically around 1-2 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil.
- Minimal Application: Use only a very small amount of the perfume. A little goes a long way, and it's better to start with less and add more if needed.
- Supervision: Always supervise young children when using any kind of fragrance to ensure they don't ingest it or get it in their eyes.
- Preference and Comfort: Pay attention to your child's preferences and comfort level. If they express dislike or discomfort with any scent, discontinue use.
- Opt for Natural Fragrances: Consider perfumes made from natural, plant-based ingredients. These alternatives often contain fewer synthetic chemicals and may be gentler on a child's sensitive skin.
- Read Labels: Scrutinise product labels for transparency. Choose brands that disclose all ingredients, allowing you to make informed decisions about the products you introduce to your child's routine.
- Limit Frequency of Use: Even with seemingly safer options, moderation is key. Limit the frequency of perfume use, and opt for special occasions rather than incorporating it into daily routines.
- Educate and Empower: Teach your children about the potential risks associated with certain fragrances. Encourage them to make conscious choices as they grow older.
In a market saturated with scents, the need for caution and informed decision-making becomes paramount, especially when it comes to our children. While the allure of a pleasant fragrance is undeniable, the potential risks associated with perfumes for kids underscore the importance of a discerning and cautious approach. As parents, guardians, and caregivers, our responsibility lies in navigating the fragrant landscape with the health and wellbeing of our children at the forefront – whether the fragrance comes from Target, your local health store or a designer brand like Dior, equal measures of caution apply.
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