Is it safe to use cosmetics and toiletries on children?
Yes. While it is true that children's skin can be more sensitive in its early years, it is safe to use products specially designed for children. That's because these products are formulated for children. For example, they may use milder cleansers, low levels of fragrance and carefully control the pH to ensure compatibility with younger skin.
Should only natural and organic products be used on children's skin?
No, that is not necessary. It is a common misconception that 'natural' and 'organic' products are safer or less irritating than other products, but this is not the case. All ingredients, whether 'natural', 'organic' or 'man-made', must be safe as they are used in cosmetic products. Often it's just a case of finding products that suit each individual and there are lots of ranges designed for all types of skin, including sensitive skin.
The following image from Sense About Science gives us some perspective on ingredients – while they may sound scary many actually occur naturally in everyday foods like pears and apples.
Source: Sense About Science - Making Sense of Chemical Stories
Should I only use personal care products specifically designed for children?
If your child is up to three years old, we would advise that you only use products specifically created for babies and children under three. Such products will be clearly labelled for this age range and will be specially formulated, for example they use milder cleansers, low levels of fragrance and carefully control the pH to ensure compatibility with babies' skin.
Manufacturers will have ranges of products to suit various ages, skin types, lifestyles and budgets. It is good to use products that match the age of your child(ren). However once a child is over three then it is also fine to use family products. Of course with any cosmetic product, irrespective of the target age, it is always important to follow the instructions for use and to keep them out of the reach of children.
What should I do if I have my child has a reaction?
The majority of people use cosmetic products without any problems. However a small number of people may have a reaction to certain ingredients. Not every reaction is an allergic reaction but all are upsetting to the person concerned.
If your child has had a reaction:
See your GP for further information. They may refer you to an allergy specialist such as a dermatologist to determine the cause.
Contact the manufacturer to let them know your child has had a problem with their product. They will be able to advise you further.
Once the ingredient your child is allergic to has been identified, you will be able to avoid it by checking the ingredient list on product packaging. Ingredients are listed with the same names across Europe and most of the world, so you should be able to identify your allergen even when travelling.
Read more in our factsheet.
How do I know if my child is having an allergic reaction?
There are some tell-tale signs that a child might be having an allergic reaction. The diagram below from Allergy UK explains what to look out for when spotting allergic reactions:
Source: Allergy UK - Spotting symptoms in a child
Such reactions may be allergic or not, but if the signs are more than minor or do not go away quickly, it is best to seek medical attention or see a pharmacist for advice.