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Will Shampoo Cause Skin Problems on Children?

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 12 May 2011 | comments*Discuss
Bath Foam Children’s Bath Products


Last night when bathing my 4-year-old son, I used a kids "3-in-1" shampoo, conditioner and soap – to create "bubbles" in the bath instead of dedicated bath foam, which we had run out of.

My wife scolded me for this unsafe approach. She claims that using "shampoo" in the bath to create bubbles can give my son a urinal infection and that shampoo apparently has lots of ingredients that are not good for the skin.

I (as a guy) believe kid's shampoo and bath foam are largely interchangeable and the above is no big deal. Who is right here? I wouldn't want to harm my son in any way.

(M.P, 5 February 2009)


Children’s bath foam is formulated to be gentle on kids’ delicate skin, so it is definitely the preferred product for making a bubble bath. That being said, a 3-in-1 product that is designated for use on children is probably safe for kids’ skin, just so your child doesn’t have any skin conditions that may require special attention.

Kids with sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, or other skin conditions that cause them discomfort should only use products designed specifically for use on young skin, preferably those that are labelled “unscented” or “fragrance free” and contain natural ingredients. A GP or dermatologist can often recommend specific products that have a low incidence of causing rashes or undue drying of children’s tender skin.

Some parents worry that bubble baths may contribute to the development of urinary tract infections in children, but there is little evidence to support this notion. Soaps, especially those that are heavily fragranced, may cause some irritation to the urethra, which can result in a burning sensation upon urination. Of course, many skin products, fabric softeners, and even chlorinated swimming pool water can have the same effect.

When the urethra becomes inflamed, the body increases urine output in an effort to cleanse and protect the area, but the discomfort associated with urinating at such times can make kids quite miserable. Some even strive to withhold urine because of the anticipated soreness, causing further distress.

In order to minimise the chances that their children will suffer needlessly, parents should choose the gentlest products available for regular bathing and discourage unusually long baths, especially for children who seem prone to experiencing any level of discomfort. Some kids can linger in the bath with no ill-effects until their fingers become pruned, while others can only handle a quick dip before their skin is dry and itchy, or they are left with uncomfortable urinary symptoms.

You are the best judge of what works well for your child. If after the bath with the 3-in-1 product your four-year-old had no discomfort, you needn’t worry about repeating the experience should you once again find yourself in short supply of bath foam. Some parents are just happy to get their children to bathe happily and not object to the entire procedure, so go ahead and do what works for you – and bring on the bubbles!

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