Johnson's Baby Products Contain Allergens, Immunotoxins and Inflammatory Ingredients

Johnson's Baby Products Contain Allergens, Immunotoxins and Inflammatory Ingredients Despite Being Advertised as Phthalate and Paraben Free


 In this post, I address Johnson's labeling of "Phthalate and Paraben Free" as a marketing gimmick rather than a legitimate concern for human health and why more people should start investing interest into understanding individual ingredients in the products they use. The ingredient deck of Johnson's baby products are extremely questionable and their potentially damaging effects are well documented by the scientific community and users.

My Problem With Johnson's Baby Products

It's true. people are becoming more aware of ingredients they put on their body. More and more research is being conducted on the safety of questionable ingredients. Unfortunately, as the system is set up, the government is not protecting your body from potentially harmful chemicals and most companies don't hold health as a priority over profits (you will see this when evaluating the ingredient deck of Johnson's baby products). So, even though this information is surfacing, you can't expect all products to suddenly become healthier. The consumer is responsible for protecting their own health, as it should be.

For those just realizing most products are not developed with health in mind, things become a lot more complicated and companies like Johnson's don't help. When you see a company advertising phthalate and paraben free, you might think it's a healthy choice because they're excluding controversial ingredients. This is not the case, Johnson's advertises as  free of certain chemicals because the public eye is on those chemicals. Phthalates and parabens are hot topic ingredients right now due to public interest. However, when looking at the main ingredients in many of Johnson's products, they're commonly known to be irritating, inflammatory, and immunotoxic to skin.

Don't Panic

Panicking is not necessary. These ingredients are not going to kill you if used as directed. The problem is short term irritation and allergic reactions that can lead to (over time) chronic inflammatory conditions that can cause permanent skin damage. Don't call poison control after reading this because you just bathed little Timmy with Johnson's head to toe (unless he / she is having a serious allergic reaction, then please call)

Reactions and inflammatory responses are not often visible. Sometimes the non-visible reaction and inflammation can be more damaging because nothing is done to prevent it. Long term exposure to chemicals that trigger inflammation can alter dermal and epidermal function by damaging collagen, elastin, immune function and other essential mechanisms of skin health.

(check out our post on the inflammatory process in the skin for more information)


Anyways.... Here's it is...


Johnson's Baby Head to Toe Wash Ingredients

Water (eau), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Glycerin, Polyquaternium-10, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum

The above ingredient deck was taken straight from the Johnson's website. Lets take a dive into this ingredient deck with the information readily available from online databases and websites.


This one is pretty obvious and there's absolutely nothing wrong with water, but this is the main ingredient and it does not serve any nutritional purpose.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Use: Synthetic Detergent, Cleansing Agent, Foaming Agent

Scientific Findings: Contact dermatitis, allergen, erythema, edema

Concerns: Acute inflammation, chronic inflammatory conditions, toxic byproduct contaminates

Possible Contaminates: Nitrosamines is a known byproduct of Cocamidopropyl Betaine synthesis and is a recognized carcinogen by the EPA Integrated Risk Information System, International Agency for Research on Cancer and NTP Report on Carcinogens, 11th Edition (and other sources). The EPA also suggests evidence of Nitrosamines displaying organ toxicity. 

Gaia Opinion: For those complaining about some form of contact dermatitis when using this product, I would point to Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Without adequate chromatography testing, its hard to say whether nitrosamines are a real issue or not, but the scientific data and and even the reviews on Johnson's own website point strongly to Cocamidopropyl Betaine causing allergic, immunotoxic reactions, triggering the inflammatory response. For those who don't experience a visual irritating reaction, the skin is still likely experiencing some form of chemical induced inflammation that can lead to chronic degenerative issues. Many products that advertise SLS or sulfate free contain this ingredient as a replacement detergent. Those with irritating reactions to sulfates will likely experience similar effects from this product. Mild surfactants (resulting from the saponification of plant based triglycerides) should be used for cleansing instead (ie. natural, synthetic free soaps).

More Reading: CIR Final Report of Cocamidopropyl Betaine


PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate

Use: Synthetic surfactant for cleansing agent or solubilizing, emulsifier

Scientific Findings: Skin irritation, allergen, immunotoxin 

Concerns: Similar concerns to Cocamidopropyl Betaine, acute and chronic inflammation, contact dermatitis

Possible Contaminates: Ethylene Oxide, 1-4 Dioxane. 1-4 Dioxane is a known skin irritant and reported by the US EPA, the European Union and the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a possible human carcinogen when inhaled. Ethylene Dioxide is much worse as a KNOWN human carcinogen by the US EPA, the European Union and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Ethylene Oxide is also suspected by the US EPA and California EPA Proposition 65 to be a human developmental toxicant. Aside from that, it is know to be very irritating to the skin. 

Gaia Opinion: I'm not a fan of 1-4 Dioxane or Ethylene Oxide above any ingredient in this deck, but again, the issue of contaminates can't be quantified without reliable chromatography data and the carcinogenic risk of topical application is relatively unknown. I would also suspect Johnson's is VERY careful about making sure their products do not contain (even trace amounts of) known carcinogens.  Aside from the possibility of carcinogenic contaminates, the main issue is acute inflammation that can lead to chronic inflammatory skin damage over extended use.

More Reading: CIR Final Report of Polysorbate 80 (PEG-80) Sorbitan Laurate


Sodium Trideceth Sulfate

Use: Synthetic Detergent, Foaming Agent

Nature: Synthetic

Scientific Findings: Nothing Substantial

Concerns: Lack of data available

Possible Contaminates: Unknown

Gaia Opinion:  Sodium Trideceth Sulfate is in the Sulfate family. I can't say Sodium Trideceth Sulfate will have the same effect without specific studies, but there's plenty of information linking Sodium Laureth Sulfate to irritating, inflammatory reactions.

PEG-150 Distearate

Use: Surfactant, Cleansing Agent

Scientific Findings: Limited data. Possible reproductive toxicity reported

Concerns: Possible toxic contaminates

Possible Contaminates: Ethylene Oxide, 1-4 Dioxane 

Gaia Opinion:  I don't like synthetics with very little data to support safety. Also, PEG-150 Disterate synthesis produces two of my least favorite chemicals as a by product. Contamination issues are possible, but again, I wouldn't jump to conclusions with out chromatography evidence in the final product. 

More Reading: Final CIR Report on PEG Diesters


Use: Humectant, moisturizing agent

Nature: Natural or Synthetic

Scientific Findings: Nothing Notable

Concerns: Nothing

Possible Contaminates: Nothing

Gaia Opinion: This is the only beneficial ingredient in the entire formula (in my opinion). Glycerin is a humectant often sourced from vegetables (I don't know where Johnson's would source their Glycerin from). Humectants draw moisture from the environment to help keep skin hydrated. While this ingredient can be beneficial, the context of Glycerine use in this product is does not provide an overall nutritional or healthy benefit.


.... I intended to evaluate the entire ingredient deck, but that would make for a VERY lengthy report. I'm hoping people are getting the gist. Ingredient research is very important and companies should not be trusted for their marketing strategies. It's hard to believe companies like Johnson's wouldn't prioritize skin health first and foremost, but it happens. The "closing thoughts and opinions" section of this post has some great resources to start your own research on ingredients of interest. We are also putting together a master list of ingredient evaluations.  

 Johnson's Baby Lotion Ingredients

Water, Isopropyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Mineral Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 20, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Fragrance, Carbomer, p-Anisic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Pentaerythrityl Tetraditbutyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Red 33

Just thought I would throw up another Johnson's product so you an see their careless ingredient choices are not an isolated incident. FYI. This lotion contains fragrance and does not make the claim of phthalate free (meaning this product is very likely to contain phthalates).


Evidence of Inflammation and Immunotoxicisity Straight From Johnson's Website

While the majority of reviews on Johnson's website are positive, you do see some reviews sprinkled in that complain of the visual and irritating immunotoxic inflammatory responses. While everyone has different experiences with different products, this evidence coupled with a suspected immunotoxic ingredient deck points strongly toward Johnson's products causing inflammation in the skin at the very least. For those who do not experience the visual and physical irritation, mild inflammation is likely to occur with the same chronic risks.

Johnsons products are bad for your skinJohnsosn products are irritation to the skinAnother bad review for johnsonsJohnsosn products cause inflammation and irritationJohnsons makes bad productsBad revew for johnsons products

 Dont use Johnsons products

 Johnsons products are immunotoxic

 You get the idea by now... There are consistencies in these reviews talking about rashes, bumps and irritation. This is the skin reacting to toxic chemicals in Johnson's formula. Manly people will argue that I cherry picked these reviews. Well, I did cherry pick them, but you don't need 95% of users to experience visual effects to know they're happening. There are plenty more negative reviews that report allergic, inflammatory responses to the body wash and lotion. This is just a piece of the puzzle.

Closing Thoughts and Opinions

While you may choose to disregard the potential damaging effects of Johnson's products, the lack of nourishment is undeniable. Johnson's products lack valuable micro-nutrients, essential fatty acids and protective antioxidants. With mineral oil, glycerine and fatty alcohols (fatty alcohols are not bad for your skin, not to be confused with simple alcohols) as the main source of skin nourishment, you're better off just using an olive oil or coconut oil on your babies skin (this would be undeniably healthier for anyone's skin).

Johnson's was singled out in this post, but they're not the only company guilty of selling their customers cheap, questionable products. I singled out out Johnson's because they're a trusted brand that markets themselves as borderline noble. I don't like being deceived and I dislike the apathy towards health in their entire company (while advertising health as a high priority). It should also be noted that I had prior qualms with Johnson and Johnson while researching the impact of ethanol and simple alcohols on the barrier function of the epidermis. I will write about this experience in a later post called "muddy waters".

The intention of this post is not to steer people away from Johnson's product, but to use Johnson's products as an example of the misplaced priorities in the industry. Learn to read ingredients and do some basic research. I aggregated most of my information from The Environmental Working Group's Deep Skin Database. When researching products in the future, you can type ingredients straight into this website and get some pretty quick data, or ask us to do the research for you. For public access to the Scientific papers check out the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Database. Or check out the Journal of Investigate Dermatology for access to the scientific studies and literature.

Addressing the Conflict of Interest

Of course people will be skeptical of the information I provide. I own Gaia Body Works™. However, it would be very close minded to not look further into this (even if you don't want to believe me). I actually encourage my readers to investigate further into my posts. Don't take my word for it, but do the right research. Understand the waters are muddy with bad information and skewed data. Whatever you do, don't believe the marketing tactics of any company. Read labels and do some google searches with an analytical mindset on specific ingredients.

As I mentioned many times before, we're a small company who could never and would never want to satisfy more than a fraction of a percent of the demand in the skin care industry. If we became a Johnson's or a P&G, we could never maintain our level of integrity and quality. We will however, expose the liars, the deceivers and the greedy in hopes of sharing the market with other companies who do value skin and overall human health.


Immunotoxicity (take straight from the FDA website)

As used in this document, immunotoxicity refers to any adverse effect on the structure or function of the immune system, or on other systems as a result of immune system dysfunction. An effect is considered adverse or immunotoxic if it impairs humoral or cellular immunity needed by the host to defend itself against infectious or neoplastic disease (immunosuppression) or it causes unnecessary tissue damage (autoimmunity, hypersensitivity, or chronic inflammation). This definition incorporates the concept that the immune system is in a complex balance that includes interactions with other systems (e.g. nervous and endocrine) that may utilize or be affected by the same biological mediators (e.g. neuropeptide and steroid hormones).


Raz O. [Allergic contact dermatitis to cocamidopropyl betaine among Israeli patients with cosmetic allergy]. July 2006.

CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review). 2006. CIR Compendium, containing abstracts, discussions, and conclusions of CIR cosmetic ingredient safety assessments. Washington DC.

Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR). 2010. Draft Final Amended Report on Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Related Amidopropyl Betaines. Pink Book 4, August 30-31, 2010

 Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR). 2010. Tentative Report: Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Related Amidopropyl Betains as used in Cosmetics. Pink Book 4, August 30-31, 2010.

Foti C, Bonamonte D, Mascolo G, Corcelli A, Lobasso S, Rigano L, et al. 2003. The role of 3-dimethylaminopropylamine and amidoamine in contact allergy to cocamidopropylbetaine. Contact Dermatitis 48(4): 194-8.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. Jan 2000. 1,4-Dioxane (1,4-Diethyleneoxide).

 Harvell, J., M. Bason and H. Maibach. Contact Urticaria and its Mechanisms. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 32(2): 103-112. 1994. (Table 2: Substances identified as capable of causing contact urticaria).

US Food and Drug Administration. Cosmetics Safety Q&A: FDA's Authority.

NLM (National Library of Medicine). 2012. PubMed online scientific bibliography data.

US Food and Drug Administration. Immunotoxicity Testing Guidance. (accessed Jan 2016)

Veraldi A. Immunotoxic effects of chemicals: A matrix for occupational and environmental epidemiological studies. Dec 2006.

Johnson's Head to Toe Baby Wash Product Page. (accessed Jan 2016)

Johnson's Baby Lotion Product Page. (accessed Jan 2016)

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1987 & 2005. Office of Pesticide Programs. Inert (other) Pesticide Ingredients in Pesticide Products - Categorized List of Inert (other) Pesticide Ingredients.

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2008. Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Evidence for human carcinogenicity based on 1986-2005 guidelines.

Enviornmental Working Group's Deep Skin. Ethylele Oxide. (accessed Jan 2016)

Enviornmental Working Group's Deep Skin. 1-4 Dioxane. (accessed Jan 2016)

Environmental Working Group's Deep Skin. Cocamidopropyl Betaine. (accessed Jan 2016)

Environmental Working Group's Deep Skin. PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate. (Accessed Jan 2016)

Harvell, J., M. Bason and H. Maibach. Contact Urticaria and its Mechanisms. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 32(2): 103-112. 1994. (Table 2: Substances identified as capable of causing contact urticaria).

January 07, 2016 — Jordan Park
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