Baby wipes can trigger skin problems

24 May 2002

A leading dermatologist has advised against using baby wipes because they can trigger episodes of nappy rash, irritant contact dermatitis or eczema.

University of Melbourne senior lecturer in dermatology, Dr Peter Foley from St Vincent's Hospital, said warm water and cotton balls or a soft face washer were the best things to clean a baby's bottom.

Using sorbolene cream on cotton wool to wipe the area clean then washing with warm water was another good option.

His comments follow warnings by UK dermatologists whose paper this month in Dermatology in Practice says baby wipes can 'contain crude surfactants and perfumes' which can 'decrease the integrity' of the skin, leading to eczema.

'To say they cause eczema is going a bit overboard but they can aggravate or may trigger an episode of eczema or irritant contact dermatitis,' Dr Foley said.

'But using wipes in the nappy area contributes to eczema in that area because it [contains] a surfactant, so it breaks down barriers and is an irritant — especially if the skin is a bit inflamed.

'I would suggest to any parent not to use baby wipes, particularly in babies, or use them in minimal amounts such as for practical measures on a day out or when travelling.'

Dr Foley said nappy wipes contain perfume — a common cause of irritant contact dermatitis — and they remove oil. He said one in 3 Victorian children have eczema (Archives of Dermatology 2001; 137: 293-300).


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