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Johnson and Johnson Baby Lotions have high risk profile

May 28, 2013 Reviewed by Copley 22 Comments

Here at Truth in Aging, we try to take the health risks purported by the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database with a grain of salt. Though well-meaning, the website's safety profiles for most products and ingredients teeter on paranoid. You'd have to be a mad DIY chemist locked in a hermetically sealed bubble of sanitation to concoct an all-organic potion that, maybe, just might get the green light from the EWG's stringent guidelines. Nonetheless, it is an excellent resource for scouting out very safe or very hazardous products.

You can imagine my surprise when I came across a long list of Johnson & Johnson's baby lotions that showed a safety rating of 8. Keep in mind that 0-2 represents a low hazard, 3-6 indicates a moderate hazard, and 7-10 signals a warning sign that should be slapped on the product's consumer packaging. How could a company in the baby business be selling a whole bathtub of products that are highly unsafe? And how could a trusted brand name that has been around for decades get away with it? I had to investigate...

It is well-known that companies in the cosmetics business change formulas all the time. Sometimes, they'll replace ingredients with cheaper alternatives or updated substitutes that have not been around long enough to determine long-term effects. When an ingredient with unknown side effects is included in your favorite lotion, who knows what sort of health issues may arise from a causal link years down the road. For the purposes of my investigation of Johnson & Johnson, I focused on the formula of J&J Baby Baby Lotion with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E.

Dimethicone (risk rating of 3), though not great, isn't enough to warrant a red flag. One concern with dimethicone, a silicone-derived emollient, is that its occlusive nature (meaning that it coats the skin with an impenetrable layer) can cause irritation when sweat gets trapped underneath. Not only are synthetic silicones non-biodegradable, but they also may accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes, where they may foster the growth of tumors. You've probably heard of the debilitating symptoms suffered by thousands of women who have had silicone-based breast implants.

A safety score of 8 goes to Fragrance, which appears relatively high on the lotion's list. Because phthalates are often used in fragrances, they can creep their way into products without appearing on the label. According to Greenpeace, phthalates are suspected to do damage to the liver and kidneys, to interfere with the development of the reproductive organs, and to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. There is a strong correlation between phthalate exposure and early onset of puberty in girls.

Besides fragrance, which can provoke unwarranted irritation, Johnson & Johnson's formula seems to go slightly haywire in the preservatives section. Benzyl alcohol achieves a danger score of 7, surprisingly high considering that it is a less problematic preservative than most others. Because babies have extremely sensitive skin, there should be a concentration of benzyl alcohol no higher than 1%. Nonetheless, the FDA has approved benzyl alcohol lotion at a concentration of 5% as a treatment for head lice in children.

The most blameworthy culprit would appear to be a trifecta of parabens, in particular methylparaben, which has a safety score of 8. Between allergic reactions and disruption to the endochrine system, parabens are implicated in constant scaremongering. Whether substantiated or not, these potentially toxic preservatives should not go anywhere near a cosmetic baby product.

As if the ingredients label isn't frightening enough on its own, Johnson & Johnson's baby products have recently been found to contain trace amounts of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as probable carcinogens. In a March article in the Washington Post it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo tested positive for 1,4-dioxane (which has been banned by the EU) and formaldehyde, as reported by the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. These elements are byproducts of the manufacturing process and do not appear on the ingredients label.

I'd wager that Johnson & Johnson's baby lotions are no purer than its shampoo. As reported in Cosmetics Design, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and 40 other charitable organizations have sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson urging the company to remove formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane from its products. If Johnson & Johnson has managed to eliminate potentially hazardous ingredients from its cosmetics in Japan (where formaldehyde is banned), why wouldn't a similar reformulation process be possible everywhere else?

Unless cosmetics are screened and regulated across the board, how can we as consumers know what trace chemicals are polluting the products we use everyday? If there are bits and pieces of carcinogens sprinkled in many of our products, we are unknowingly enduring repeated exposure that can lead to long-term health concerns. But babies and children, at least, should be spared this exposure to chemicals, as their still-developing bodies are particularly vulnerable. Manufacturers of contaminated cosmetics targeted at children should be held accountable for misleading parents and putting innocent lives at risk.

See also:

Johnson and Johnson's Reformulated Formula


Ingredients in Johnson & Johnson Baby Baby Lotion:
Water, Propylene Glycol, Myristyl Myristate, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Oleic Acid, Polysorbate 61, Dimethicone, Isopropyl Palmitate, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Synthetic Bees Wax, Carbomer, Benzyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Aloe Vera Extract, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E Acetate)

  • May 11, 2017

    by Beth Bishop

    In Europe, you won’t find talc in many baby powders, the skin-lightening ingredient hydroquinone in skin creams, lead acetate in hair dye, or many other toxic substances because they are banned from personal care products. Here, you can find those substances in personal care products, with no health warnings.

  • June 29, 2016

    by Deborah

    I have used Johnsons baby lotion since my late teens. I am almost 61 and look
    Years younger. I am a success story, and many people ask
    me my secret. It is baby lotion and I would not
    be without it.

  • April 7, 2015

    by Alison Malaysia

    OMG if I wasnt spoilt for choice of lotion in the local pharmacy and started looking through their ingredients, it is a shocker to know I've been slabbing these sh*ts onto my baby! Thank goodness my baby have not come out with any allergies!

    In my country this brand is like a family brand, thanks to their strong marketing easy availability and affordable(organics are VERY expensive here), most family have it for their babies or themselves to use >.<!!

    Need to spread awareness to all my friends >.<

  • July 28, 2014

    by India

    Cetly Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcojol, Benzyl Alcohol, Stearic Asic, and Oleic Acid....all ingredients found in Johnsons Baby lotion and other Baby products by Johnsons. They say it is safe on newborns, LIES! I used this on my newborn when I ran out of DOVE for sensitive skin, one night and boy I should of never used that little Johnsons Baby Body Wash in her bath, she broke out all over her body. Her doctor said it was more than likely because of the switch in using JOHNSONS. Which are not equip for newborn skin, or any baby skin for that matter. Once back using DOVE soap and AVEENO unscented lotion for Babies her skin cleared up quick. I am sticking with DOVE and AVENNO products from now on! JOHNSONS BABY PRODUCTS are not for babys skin! YOU ARE ONLY BUYING THE NAME NOT THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT. Don't be fooled by the hype!

  • May 28, 2014

    by esta

    It bugs me so much that crap ingredients can be poured into a bottle and sold on the market...with people thinking that just because it's marked as 'baby' it's 'safer' to use and a 'healthier' option. Ummmm, no...even an adult night lotion that is completely natural is much safer! Unfortunately, Australian food standard labels don't have to declare absolutely all ingredients. So alongside all the existing ingredients on the list, can you imagine what is not listed? No wonder I've been frequenting natural foods stores lately.

  • June 17, 2013

    by Monique

    Would never use this product, buy it for a friend or recommend to anyone. Even if paraben free, they are still full of yuk that does not need to go anywhere near a baby or adult. It is still on sale as J&J are a huge company who simply do what they want and do not care about the impact they may have on our health. They are after our money. A product only has to contain a few % of natural products to be labelled natural!!! I only use Arbonne and would not use any product with chemicals that are harmful in them. That includes what I use to clean my house. :)

  • February 1, 2013

    by margaret

    is Johnson's baby lotion in the pink bottle with the label clearly stating that "paraben free" - formulated to minimise the risk of allergies,safe

  • November 22, 2012

    by AshIeigh

    Actually, I use Johnson's baby lotion in the pink bottle on myself every day and the label clearly states paraben free - formulated to minimise the risk of allergies

  • October 15, 2012

    by Dan

    A good suggestion for baby lotions and baby products would be AVEENO brand moisturizers, which have no fragrances, or unnecessary chemicals for a baby to be rubbed, also organic baby products are very good as well, from a trader joes or whole foods!!

  • April 14, 2012

    by flora

    then, why is it still on the sale? i mean, isnt it supposed to be banned or something? geez, not many knows te side effect of the products.

  • January 11, 2012

    by zeba

    Thank you for so much for the info. I hv a 15months old baby, and I've till now never touched my baby's skin with j&j's products, and after reading this article am really happy i did that.

    I apply only mothercare products on his skin. Can u give me info on that? Thanks

  • October 6, 2011

    by Erin

    It's amazing how many chemicals and toxins we expose ourselves to everyday. I find these articles very eye opening. Thank you for sharing. Some people have said they have not had any reaction to them but sometimes the physical signs do show up until later in life in the form of cancer or other disease. I also carry a line of safe baby products that I use on my own baby, as well as a line of safe products I use on my older children, and myself. For more info you can contact me at www.fitandfabulousW@myarbonne.com

  • July 28, 2011

    by Marlene

    There is a whole line that I know many mothers to use that is pure and safe. Many baby and children's products contain emolients, parabens, risky chimicals, etc. email me at mjsbotanicalbeauty@gmail.com for more information. I don't put unsafe products on my body and would not want to expose children to anything that could pose a risk!

  • May 20, 2011

    by Deanna

    I don't know if I necessarily agree with this article. My mother used Johnson and Johnson's on me when I was a baby, and I still to this day have no health issues that could be caused by the their product. I use Johnson and Johnson on my son and daughter as well. I think that there are too many people so concerned with "safety" that they are taking it to the extreme. Could is possibly be that someone had this amazing business idea to say that all other products are bad and that the only good one is their's?? Seems suspiscious since all the "safe" alternatives are so much more expensive...hmmm....

  • January 7, 2011

    by Ashley

    I've been using the johnson and johnson fragrance free baby lotion (yellow bottle) and decided to try the original one. i love the sent so before i went to bed, i slathered it all over my body. i woke the next morning with severe hives all over. I ended up nee'ing attention from an allergy doctor. I don't recommend any of the baby products.

  • October 1, 2009

    by Michelle

    Awesome post -- very informational indeed. I'm one mom that constantly reads labels in my quest to avoid these toxins. There are quite a few safer alternatives on the market. Make sure you can pronounce every ingredient before making that next purchase. Here's a trusted Mother & Baby range by Miessence Organics.
    http://greengirlorganics.mionegroup.com/en/category/9;jsessionid=B2D0AC760C2A0EB3BB66D873BE818C44

  • August 9, 2009

    by Natalie

    My baby ended up with severe hives after I applied Johnsons and Johnsons Baby Lotion with Aloe and Vitamin E to her.
    This is so disturbing to know that such a trusted brand name baby product would contain so many harmful ingredients.

  • June 10, 2009

    by Mike Arsenault

    Hi Copley--
    Thanks so much for the mention of our Emily Skin Soothers products. We have 5 products and each of them have been rated a zero (on a scale of 0-10 from low to high risk) by the Cosmetic Safety Database. Our newest Organic Liquid Soap was rated safer than 96% of the other soaps rated.
    I agree with you that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics may seem somewhat extreme in their views. But, if a product is so full of chemicals that the manufacturing process creates harmful byproducts, I want to know.
    All of our products are made with just a handful of natural ingredients and are extremely minimalist. As our first customer was our daughter, everything we have created was made with her sensitive, baby-skin in mind. Hope we are able to help some of your readers. Sincerely,

    Mike Arsenault
    Emily Skin Soothers

  • June 10, 2009

    by concerned

    Excuse me, someone who read this article has recommended the coosmeticsdatabase.com as a reference. That site recommends Johnson's Baby Shampoo as one of their top 10 choices !!! This is kind of tiring, we end up not knowing which sources to trust and we risk picking up one just because we haven't been able so far to find anything wrong with it, but that doesn't proove much.
    Can someone actually suggest any source that at least is less compromised and doesn't go so bluntly into providing wrong information about brands?

  • May 30, 2009

    by ha ly

    Great article! I know this is an anti-aging website, but baby products such as this is used by many older people too. Please post more on related products!

  • May 29, 2009

    by copley

    Take a look at this page of the Cosmetics Safety Database (as I said, it's a great resource for finding extremely safe products, as well as the converse):
    <a href="http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/browse.php?category=baby%20lotion" rel="nofollow">http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/browse.php?category=baby%20lotion</a>
    It appears that Poofy Organics, Nurture My Body, and Emily Skin Soothers are some of the safest brands for children.

  • May 28, 2009

    by Jolie

    Wow, I've been slathering this on my son since his birth. Now I am truly in a bind as to what to moisturize him with. After reading this, I decided to switch to Eucerin Calming lotion and the new Body Shop baby lotion. Is there any recommendation for a body lotion for children? Thanks.

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