What Every Parent Needs to Know About Formaldehyde in Baby Products



Recently I have been watching some well-meaning mums talking online about the chemicals in the cosmetic products that we use with our babies. Shampoos, washes, lotions … the list goes on and it seems to be such a polarising topic. I wish that I could say that the discussions are always factual and polite, but they aren’t. I think that is mostly because when things are really important to us and our families, we tend to take them seriously and can be quite definite about our opinions. I wish we could be more constructive sometimes but that is another discussion 🙂

It got me thinking because I like to feel informed and even more, I want to care for my kids, so I have spent quite a bit of time researching a lot of products and stories trying to get to the bottom of some issues.

Which brings me to formaldehyde … naturally haha. It is an interesting example.


This chemical is a naturally occurring compound. All organic life forms–bacteria, plants, fish, animals and humans–make formaldehyde at various levels. Formaldehyde doesn’t accumulate over time in the environment or within plants, animals or people, because metabolic processes quickly break it down. (https://www.formaldehydefacts.org)

It’s in many things in your home including you, but most people don’t realise it. Many fruits and vegetables contain a good amount of formaldehyde. Here are some examples:

  • Banana – 16 mg/kg
  • Cauliflower – 26 mg/kg
  • Pear – 36-60 mg/kg
  • Apple – 6-20 mg/kg



So why do I bring this up?

This isn’t science class so don’t panic! Some studies suggested that individuals who are potentially exposed to formaldehyde in their work may have increased the risk of certain cancers compare to the general population. Many people started checking ingredient labels and then shaming any products that contained the chemical. They may even have started buying products labelled as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ hoping to avoid formaldehyde which is in fact a natural organic chemical. It’s pretty funny if you think about it.

There is a good chance that your child’s fruit and vegetable filled lunchbox has more formaldehyde in it than several bottles of shampoo! In the U.S. they estimated that you would have to take 40 million baby baths in one day to exceed the safe limit … I don’t think I’ve ever had that many baths in a day 🙂

Let’s face it though, once a good rumour is out there, it’s hard to squash even with facts.  

Large companies like Johnson’s started reformulating products back in 2013 and they no longer add formaldehyde releasing preservatives BUT not because it was proven to be bad for anyone’s health … rather because of the concerns raised by consumers . One university professor has even given this a term … chemophobia or a fear of chemicals.

Bad rumours


What Does It Mean?

It is important to know what ingredients are in the products that we use, but it can also be very difficult to research everything yourself. Johnson’s has made an effort to help parents by publishing a list of ingredients used in their products online. They included information about them and link to Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) to make it easier for us all to research and have confidence in the ingredients (click here to visit the page). They always list ingredients on the bottles using the proper chemical names which can be confusing to look at, but is actually awesome. It means that it’s simpler to get information for each individual chemical.

If you would like to know more about particular products or read about all of the ingredients, head over to The Simple Truth.

For the record, Johnson’s Baby products don’t contain any formaldehyde releasing preservative any more for the reasons that I have already mentioned.

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School Mum

Being a mum to 3 kids (one of them full time at home with me) and trying to juggle everything became pretty crazy.

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