The problem with synthetic baby products:
As we are fond of saying, just because it smells mild, has the words “gentle or soothing” on it and promises not to cause tears, does not mean it is actually mild or even remotely good for your child.
A Missouri based jury passed a verdict last year asking Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of 72 million dollars to the family of Jacqueline Fox, whose death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use (of over 30 years) of Johnsons baby powder and Shower to shower talcum powder.
A study by the campaign for Safe Cosmetics examined baby and children’s products for the presence of 2 probable human carcinogens – 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. Both of these are not put in intentionally by manufacturers, but are toxic by products that are formed because of the presence of other chemicals in these products. The research study showed that over 61% of the baby products surveyed (across leading brands), contained these 2 chemicals in more than trace quantities.
1,4 dioxane is a common contaminant by product when sulphates like SLeS (Sodium Laureth sulphate), polyethylene, polyethylene glycol , ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG are present in products. A quick read of the back of label of many baby products would find many of these chemicals listed in your baby’s “gentle shampoo” or “mild bodywash”.
What the 5000 year old science of Ayurveda has to say on looking after babies and their skin:
Ayurveda is considered a divine science in India, handed down directly from the Gods to Man. Ayurveda has 8 branches of which “Kaumara bhrityam” or Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child care forms an important branch.
The texts have an extremely advanced understanding of infant health care and have written down the risks of disease that can be transmitted from nursing mother to infant and the reverse as well. In fact, to maintain the health of the infant, the hygiene and cleanliness to be followed to maintain the health of the breasts is also outlined. This is because there is a very clear knowledge of infection transmission through the breast milk route.
Ayurveda recognises that what is applied at an external level on the skin also has the twin capacity of treating the blood underneath – in fact an important aspect of treating blood based disorders is the external application of herb on the skin. This not only reaches the blood but is also said to influence the lymph secretions and the “rasa dhatu”.
This deep understanding of the connection between the skin and the body leads us to a very important conclusion: it is unsafe and potentially harmful to apply synthetic substances on a child’s skin. Many of the herb and oil applications advised by Ayurveda on a child’s skin are not just safe and nourishing for the skin, but are also advised to increase a child’s immunity, prevent infections and aid healthy bone and joint development.
The tenets of Ayurvedic baby care:
Ayurveda recommends 5 tenets to care for your baby.
- Taila Abhyanga – massage using an appropriate medicated oil
- Udvartana and Snana – Cleansing of skin using an appropriate herb and lentil mixture followed by a bath using warm water or warm medicated water
- Purification of the nursery and surroundings using prayer, meditation and chanting
- Washing the baby’s linen and clothing using a prescribed mixture of herbs
- Fumigation of the nursery and baby’s clothing and linen using a prescribed mixture of herbs.
In today’s Formulation Tuesday, we will look at how we formulate the products meant for baby’s Udvartana and Snana (bath) (the 2nd tenet in Ayurvedic baby care) as per Ayurvedic principles.
The Ayurvedic principles behind skin cleansing for Snana (bath):
Snana in Ayurveda is usually supposed to be done after Taila Abhyanga. This is especially important for babies. Abhyanga Snana is advised to be done daily for a baby starting from the first week of birth. In fact the first bath given to a baby soon after birth is itself an Abhyanga Snana preferably with Bala tailam.
When Snana follows Taila Abhyanga, the baby’s skin requires no external post bath moisturiser.
To cleanse baby’s skin, Ayurveda recommends using a specific set of grains and certain herbs. The choice of materials does not vary too much, and usually sees only a seasonal variation to accommodate high heat or high cold weather conditions.
The base set of cleansing grains are edible lentils and cereals, with Mugda (Mung / Green gram) forming the largest part of the cleansing base. Just like Mugda is a preferred lentil internally because of its dosha balancing and internal cooling and easy to digest properties, externally, it cleanses skin gently without irritating in any way.
Compare the use of edible Green gram to cleanse baby’s skin to the highly toxic , dangerous and skin irritating SLS / SLeS which is a major part of any cosmetic baby cleansing product – where is there any comparison between these 2 completely different mindsets ??!!
After the cleansing base, Ayurveda recommends adding specific skin improving herbs. As baby’s skin is still in the growth and formation phase, these herbs help improve the skin’s resistance to harmful micro-organisms, cleanse the subtle channels in skin (srotas) well, and maintain the skin’s acid mantle and barrier function.
In addition, Ayurveda recommends adding vata reducing and warmth improving herbs to baby’s Snana bath powder. Young infants are especially prone to mucous accumulation and kapha based illnesses like colds. Also, because of their rapid growth, they may also have unexpressed aches and pains as they learn to crawl or walk. Adding warmth giving and vata reducing herbs, helps control excess kapha atleast to some extent, and also soothes the baby and reduces minor aches and pains.
Besides these, depending upon gender, Ayurveda also recommends adding body hair growth reducing and complexion enhancing herbs to the Snana powder.
These are the general principles. We will now see how we formulate Krya’s baby ubtans for baby boys and girls based on the above.
The Krya baby ubtans: for baby girls and boys
If there is one universal favourite among all our products across production, customer fulfilment, and marketing and R&D, it would have to be the Krya baby ubtans. The Krya range of baby ubtans is also a very strong consumer favourite.
It is often gifted by regular Krya consumers to their family or friends as soon as a new baby makes her (or his) way into the world.
The Krya baby cleansing products have 3 types: the ubtan for baby girl and boy which have a slightly different set of herbs used as per gender. We also have a unisex baby bodywash – this is for folks with twins that span both genders, or for people who want something slightly non traditional.
Our baby ubtan formulations differ quite significantly from our ubtans meant for older children and adults. The differences lie in the number of ingredients that go into each product and the granularity of the product.
Our ubtans for adults sometimes contain upto 30 – 35 different herbs, grains and lentils. However, for infants, we restrict the number of ingredients that go into each formulation. We pick herbs and grains that are specifically mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts for the use of small infants. Atleast 90% of the ingredients we use continue through every single batch – so the seasonal fluctuation in our baby formulations are much lesser compared to our adult formulations.
The granularity of our baby ubtan formulations is also extremely fine – finer than even our face wash products. This ensures that the paste you apply on baby’s skin is very soft and soothing and does not irritate skin in any way.
Grains and herbs which go into the Krya baby ubtans:
As is recommended in Ayurveda, Mugda (green gram) forms the main cleansing base in the Krya baby ubtans. The Mugda we use is organically grown from desi (native) seeds. To this, we added a small amount of our medicated Mugda (Mugda processed in a special herb decoction meant to improve skin complexion, blood circulation and lustre). We also add a small amount of organically grown, indigenous red rice – this is an extremely good skin cleanser and polisher and helps maintain the delicate skin barrier of a baby’s skin.
Herbs which improve skin’s barrier function and immune response:
Krya’s baby ubtans use herbs specially recommended in Ayurveda and traditional medicine to improve skin’s barrier function, and actively keep away harmful micro-organisms form baby’s skin. Some of these herbs include Ram Tulasi, Krishna Tulasi, Neem, Bael, Amla and Tree Turmeric. These herbs also help prevent skin rashes, prickly heat and other pitta based conditions on skin. They are also excellent Srota cleansers – and help remove toxins and hidden dirt from baby’s skin, gently yet effectively.
We choose these herbs in the right balanced proportion – to ensure the doshas are balanced and maintained post cleansing without loss of heat.
Herbs which improves skin’s lustre and circulation:
As we have mentioned, Ayurvedic skin care for baby is also designed to give baby’s skin the right foundation to develop properly. Therefore herbs which help improve blood circulation within the skin, help eliminate toxins properly and improves skin’s natural complexion are also used in the Krya baby ubtans.
Manjishta and Mulethi (Indian liquorice) are 2 such important herbs we use. Both are excellent skin rasayana herbs in Ayurveda and help maintain the rakta dhatu properly and ensure that skin tone is even and lustrous. Tree turmeric which we mentioned in the previous section is also a similarly important herb.
Zeodary (sati) is an important wild herb that is used in the Krya baby ubtans. It is a very strong skin lustre improving herb and also adds a subtle camphoraceous and warming fragrance to the Krya baby ubtans. Similarly Amla (Indian gooseberry), a very valued Ayurvedic herb, goes into the Krya baby ubtans. Amla is an important source of Vitamin C, and is a very important skin polisher and booster of natural lustre and radiance.
Warming and vata dosha reducing herbs:
As we have mentioned above, warming and vata reducing herbs are a key part of any Baby Snana ubtan formulation. These herbs are added to ensure the baby does not catch a cold after oil application and Snana, and also to improve baby’s overall immunity towards mucous formation.
These herbs are also effective at reducing muscle soreness and aches and pains that baby may develop due to the use of their limbs.
The Krya baby ubtans use warming and vata balancing herbs like Vacha (Acorus calamus), Indian borage (Karpooravalli / Ajwain ki patta). Both are effective in reducing excess water retention in the body, and help with balancing Vata dosha which is cold and cramping.
Vacha is very soothing when applied all over the stomach and is often sued externally to soothe cramps and colic pains.
Everyone wants a sweet smelling baby at the end of a bath to play with. What better than naturally sweet smelling Ayurvedic herbs that are also great for the skin for your baby’s bath? Krya’s ubtans use organically grown or wild cultivated flowers like Rose, Chamomile and Lotus petals – these flowers come packed with beautifully aromatic natural oils and skin softening and conditioning nutrients, which are not just great to smell but truly good for skin.
Our careful manufacturing process ensures the delicate floral aroma is retained through our process by ensuring slow drying and low speed grinding to retain the natural oils in the petals.
Special herbs for baby girls:
Finally, to complement all these herbs, the Krya ubtan for baby girls additionally uses 2-3 varieties of turmeric: we use Aromatic turmeric, South Indian turmeric and Himalayan Turmeric. These 3 varieties of turmeric add a beautiful golden glow to the Krya baby girl ubtan and add a warm, camphoraceous fragrance as well. Ayurveda recommends using this to even out complexion and slow and thin down the growth of body hair for baby girls. Together, these 3 varieties of turmeric also boost skin’s functioning and improve skin’s immune response.
To sum up:
On Formulation Tuesdays, we generally focus a lot on how we make the formulations we discuss for that day, and our philosophy behind the herbs, oils and manufacturing process followed.
I hope this background was useful to you and you were able to understand, appreciate and resonate with the differences between how Ayurveda cares for your baby’s skin (vs. synthetic cosmetic products which simply claim to be gentle or soothing). Our ongoing Formulation Tuesday series is designed to improve transparency and give you a greater understanding into how we think about, design and manufacture our products. We believe that greater transparency promotes better choices and helps you make better decisions on what you apply on yourself, your child or use in your home.
If you have any questions on our products, the philosophy behind our products, or a specific question on skin and hair, please do get in touch with us.