Baby Shampoo & Acne

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When it comes to home remedies for acne, you may have heard that common household products like toothpaste and baby shampoo do the trick. The goal is to zap excess oil and cleanse the skin without the harsh drying and flaking effects of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

How Acne Forms

Acne forms in your skin’s tiny hair follicles. Beneath the visible surface, your skin produces a natural oil that lubricates your hair and skin called sebum, which travels upward to the surface through hair follicles. If a follicle is blocked by extra oil, dead skin or makeup, the sebum has nowhere to go. It sits in the follicle and can become infected, causing a whitehead, blackhead or pimple.

Avoiding Acne

To avoid acne, keep your face clean and lightly moisturized. According to celebrity skin guru Mario Badescu, two of the most common mistakes people make in treating acne are to over-wash and scrub their skin. If you wash too frequently with harsh chemical cleansers, you’re stripping your skin of its natural oil. Your skin then steps up its oil production to restore balance. If you scrub your skin with an exfoliator, you’re also likely to stimulate your skin’s oil production; plus, says Badescu, you risk spreading acne-causing bacteria to other parts of your face.

Baby Shampoo

Because baby shampoo is designed to cleanse without irritation, many people use it as either a face wash or spot-based acne treatment to remove oil without overdrying the skin. According to D.F. William and W.H. Schmitt in “Chemistry and Technology of the Cosmetics and Toiletries Industry,” baby shampoos often use mild low-foaming, non-ionic surfactants that do not sting the eye or produce the same foam volume as ionic surfactants. The mildness makes them an option for babies as well as those with sensitive skin.

Alternative Treatments

Baby shampoo may not get rid of your acne because it's designed to be a cleanser. Unlike traditional acne fighters such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, it does not kill bacteria or soak up your skin's excess oil. If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work, there are other gentle, natural methods. Planet Green’s beauty expert Summer Rayne looks for creams and cleansers that contain willow bark and/or tea tree oil. Both ingredients fight the bacteria that cause acne and help reduce the redness and irritation that goes along with a pesky pimple.


In early 2009, the nonprofit group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the results of a commissioned study that found trace amounts of two potentially toxic chemicals in many popular brands of baby shampoo. According to the group’s co-founder Stacy Malkan, some brands contain formaldehyde and/or 1,4 dioxane. The levels present in baby shampoo are small, admits Malkan, but repeated exposure may add up. Plus, if you’re allergic or sensitive to formaldehyde, these formulas may contain enough of the chemical to cause the red, itchy, skin rash condition known as dermatitis.