You’re here because there are endless baby wipes to choose from.
To name just a few kinds, there are large ones, thick ones, wet ones, organic ones, natural ones, plant-based ones, ones for faces, ones for hands, and an endless combination of all of these. This variety, along with different types of skin, is why there is no simple answer to the question, “Can I use baby wipes on the face?” It depends on the wipe!
Using a poorly designed baby wipe could irritate sensitive skin resulting in a restless, fussy baby. The need for safe baby wipes is always a concern for new parents, so read this overview on baby wipes features made to help you figure out what to look for in a wipe.
What Kinds of Baby Wipes are Available?
Baby wipes vary in material, ingredients, thickness, absorbency, packaging, and environmental impact. You’ve probably noticed material differences in a product like tissues, for example, with some tissues being dry and irritable and others being super soft and soothing. Well, baby wipes are the same way; some are rougher than others.
This is largely due to the cloth used in the wipe. In fact, wet wipes are mostly cloth and water. I break down the cloth choices later in the article, but as an introduction, there are three different cloth types you can choose from:
- Pure cotton, bamboo, or wood fibers
- Plastic fibers
- Regenerated cellulose fibers like Rayon
Rayon is sourced from wood pulp or bamboo but undergoes a chemical-heavy process that’s bad for workers and the environment. Read Patagonia’s statement on Rayon use here. If you are wary of chemical processing and ingredients, you should look for organic baby wipes.
#1 Organic Baby Wipes
Organic baby wipes are not common. What you typically find when you search for organic baby wipes are products labeled natural, or earth-friendly. But sometimes it’s hard to understand what that means.
Organic textiles are sourced from materials made without pesticides. To get an organic label, a product usually needs to contain about 95 percent organic ingredients. Wipes have two components, the wipe material, and the ingredient mixture. The ingredient mixture is upwards of 95 percent water.
What this means is that a wet wipe should be labeled organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) if the material is organic. Since 95% or more of the liquid contained in a wet wipe is water, it would also be important to determine how the water is sourced or filtered if at all possible, though this will not factor into its organic labeling.
The organic label will only apply to wipes made from pesticide-free natural materials like cotton, wood or bamboo, hence, a wipe can be natural without being organic, but it can’t be organic without being natural.
Which leads us to natural baby wipes.
#2 Natural Baby Wipes
Sometimes it’s hard to be sure what is marketing hype and what is a truly natural product, both in a product’s ingredients and materials. Companies sometimes list relevant information on their websites. Here is Pampers’s page detailing its modified cellulose and polypropylene-based wipe, and here is Huggies’s page listing a similar mix of materials.
A wholly “natural” wipe will be free of petrochemicals, chlorine, rayon, alcohol, phthalates, formaldehyde carriers, parabens, phenols, quaternary ammonium compounds, SLS or, lanolin. It should also be made of a material like cotton or bamboo, though many cottons are treated with chemicals, and sorting out which have and which haven’t can be tricky.
See if the brand lists their manufacturing agreement on their website or try to get in contact with them, and see what wipes a medical professional recommends.
#3 Scented Baby Wipes
Scented baby wipes include either a naturally-derived or synthetic fragrance. This is mainly useful for getting rid of the smell of a dirty diaper and providing a psychological reset after throwing that diaper away in the trash.
#4 Facial Baby Wipes
Face-specific baby wipes may be formulated to do things like dissolve boogers or wipe away germs. While there are some specific products that include a saline solution to help clean up the skin, wipes labeled baby face wipes feature a similar formula to standard wipes.
Common Ingredients in Baby Wipes
The most common ingredient is always water. The detergents to clean skin are carried in water, diluting their potency and making the overall mixture of ingredients milder. A mild mix of ingredients is necessary for a baby wipe considering its use on sensitive skin around the genitals and anus. The mildness is a benefit for facial use as well.
Other common but less potent ingredients include moisturizers, fragrances, humectants to keep wipes from drying out, thickeners to control product consistency, and preservatives to stop microbes from growing. In Doctor Butler’s baby wipes, I use a salt and natural herb mix to suppress microbial growth in my baby wipes formula, but many companies use chemical preservatives.
Polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene are common cloth materials in baby wipes. These are plastics. They start as pellets, melted and then forced through tiny holes to create synthetic fibers. This material is cheap and tested to be safe for many faces, but it sticks around in the environment once disposed of.
Rayon is another common cloth material. A lot of brands claiming to make plant-based wipes use Rayon, a fiber made from natural materials but processed with chemicals that can cause harm to the workers during the manufacturing process. And according to Green America, much of the wood Rayon is sourced from is grown from cleared old growth forests.
The Safest Way to Use Baby Wipes on Your Face
Your goal in searching for the safest baby wipes is to make sure you steer clear of ingredients that may trigger a sensitivity in your baby’s skin and face. Some wipes may be marked as baby face wipes, but any wipe with safe ingredients and materials will do.
Find a wipe with the fewest chemical ingredients to try and cut down on potential irritants. Many baby wipes ingredients contain a chemical preservative to keep them moist, so if you notice your baby is developing rashes after wiping, look for a wipe that’s verified to be chemical-free.
What it comes down to is the less ingredients present, the less chance of something irritating your newborn’s skin. The same could be said about your skin, so any wipe that you’d be comfortable using on a baby should be safe enough to clean yours.
Look for a wipe with pure ingredients that you know to be safe for your skin. These might be moisturizers like oats and shea butter, or botanicals like chamomile and calendula. Baby wipes are generally great for adult use because they are free of inflammatory ingredients and won’t dry you out.
In fact, baby wipes tend to be popular makeup removers, a not-so-well-kept secret of the makeup world. This is because of their durability, absorbency, relatively simple formulas, consistent wetness, and the way they clean without drying skin.
When removing makeup, you’re looking to remove debris from your skin in a gentle way so as not to irritate your face. Baby wipes as makeup remover do this well.
Should You Use Baby Wipes as Makeup Remover?
You can definitely use baby wipes as makeup remover. They are good for this because they come sufficiently moist, are durable enough to remove however many layers of makeup you have on, and they usually don’t have ingredients that are going to dry you out.
In this way, a baby face wipe is perfect for a quick wipe to clean before bed. It’s also frequently cheaper than an adult product. The only real qualification here is that you may want to find a wipe that’s fragrance-free instead of scented, but that’s really easy to do in today’s market.
What to Consider When Using Baby Wipes as Face Wipes
Some baby wipes will feature a baby-powder-like smell. That might not be ideal if you’re going to be using the wipe on your or your baby’s face. The size of a baby wipe may be overkill to use as a face wipe as well, and the durability may make it hard to tear the wipe into smaller pieces. For these practical reasons, it may not make sense to some people to use baby wipes as a dedicated face wipe.
Also, make sure to wipe your baby’s face with a fresh wipe. Other than these considerations, baby wipes generally make great face wipes.
So, let’s recap everything I’ve gone over in this article.
As new parents become more concerned about what products they buy for their babies, a whole market of wipes has opened for customers looking for safe, natural and earth-friendly ingredients, materials, and packaging. The idea is that a natural wipe will be safe enough to use on a newborn’s face, without negatively impacting the planet.
When I’m looking for a skin-safe wipe as a medical professional, I want one with the fewest harmful ingredients possible. Find a wipe that is free of petrochemicals, chlorine, rayon, alcohol, phthalates, formaldehyde carriers, parabens, phenols, quaternary ammonium compounds, SLS, or lanolin, like my Organic Baby Wipes.
I’m also someone who avoids buying plastic products as much as possible. Many wipes are made with a blend of plastics and other materials. Plastics don’t break down the way natural materials do, not to mention the unsustainable material inputs needed to make plastics. I made my Biodegradable Baby Wipes to be truly biodegradable; they are made from pure bamboo, which breaks down quickly and can be sustainably grown.
Clearly, there’s a lot to consider once you start to investigate what’s in the products you see on store shelves or online. I hope that this guide will help you understand what products are out there, how they’re made, and why when you buy a wipe like Doctor Butler’s Organic Soothing Baby Wipes you’re getting a safe, soothing, sustainable product made from natural ingredients and materials.