Skip The Soap – Nourishing Your Child’s Skin With Water Instead

Skip The Soap: Nourishing Your Child's Skin With Water Instead | Growing Up Herbal | Did you know that using soap on your child's skin can be doing more harm than good? How about skipping it? Learn more here.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about little ones and bathing. I’ve addressed whether children need baths every day and what kind of soap is best for them.

Well, today I want to talk about baths again except this time, I’m talking about skipping the suds all together and opting for water only.

No Soap! How Do They Get Clean?

For the most part, little ones don’t get that dirty on a regular basis with exception to their face, hands, and bottoms… all of which are cleaned many times throughout the day.

So when it comes to a nightly bath, if you opt for daily baths, why not let it be a fun time of just playing in the water with some toys. Just sitting and moving around in water will get them clean. If you’d like, you can even take a washcloth and rub over their bodies, paying particular attention to those areas that may be dirtier than others at the end of their bath.

Try Some Natural Additives

Another option you have is making bath time a little more fun and indulge your kids with some nourishing bath additives.

Things like bath oils, bath bombs, and oatmeal milk baths are great ways to moisturize and clean your child’s skin without having to use soap all the time. I make these things for my kids, and they LOVE them. They request the bath bombs most often!

One Word Of Caution

The only negative thing I’ve found has to do with having hard water. It’s thought that hard water will dry the skin out more, and there have been reports of higher rates of eczema with hard water. Interestingly enough… most of the search results were from sites in the UK. I’m sure it’s the same here in the US though.

To me, this has nothing to do with whether or not you chose to use soap or skip it. The problem lies in the water.

This is just something to be aware of if your child suffers from dry skin or eczema. Your water could be partly to blame and may be the solution to mending your little’s troubled skin.

Save Soap For When They Really Need A Good Clean

Babies have delicate, sensitive skin. Be sure not to use soaps on them that are harsh and can dry their skin out. When your kid needs a “real” bath… use a mild cleanser in order to get rid of grease, excess oils and dirt without overdoing it… hence the mild part. Most kids are too greasy and don’t get this dirty on a regular basis.

My boys stay pretty clean, especially during the winter. They love taking baths and playing in the tub so we usually end up with 2-3 baths a week, but only one of those baths requires soap. During the summer, they play outside a lot. They’re boys, and they get dirty which means they get more baths with soap during the summer.

If you follow me on Facebook you may remember one of my recent status updates where my 4-year-old ran in the house and excitedly asked me if he and his brother could go worm hunting in the garden. They love digging for worms, and I love letting them play and be fascinated with nature and what’s around them. Of course, I said yes, but it’s things like this that wind up getting them a bath later… or maybe a trip to the creek when Daddy gets home from work!

Do do you bath your little one? Mostly soap, mostly water, a good mixture of both? I’d love to hear your tips and thoughts on this in the comments below.
  1. Imbibed in May - They Call Me Oystergirl says:

    […] Skip The Soap – Use Water Instead When Bathing Baby […]

  2. Martha Denise Guarderas says:

    This is good to know. I sometimes fear that my baby will smell bad if i dont use soap but really she’s not messy. My mother loves using baby perfume on my baby which contain a lot of chemicals. We’ve gotten into fights about it, but babies naturally smell good!

    • Meagan says:

      Yeah I don’t think a lot of people realize what’s in those perfumed baby products. If you looked up the common chemicals and what they do, I’m sure she’d change her mind once she saw what issues they could contribute to. Plus, natural baby oils are great options and they can be scented with any baby safe essential oils so your little one doesn’t smell bad as well. Maybe that would be a good alternative for you mom too. Hope that helps! Thanks for your comment!!

  3. Danika says:

    We use coconut soap. It’s very mild and the only time I wash my 10 month old’s whole body is if we’ve been outside playing or if she’s been eating messy, like spaghetti. Other than that, it’s just her face, feet, hands and diaper area. And we use coconut oil after every bath. She loves it.

  4. Gurpreet says:

    Am 38 yrs old nd past sometime am not using soap for bath as i believe dat thru soap i was applying chemicals on my body but now i am using juss water..

    I just want to know what else can i use other than soap??!! Which won’t contain chemicals nd also a cheap option and as well be nutritious..?????!!!!!
    Can u help me by your suggestions please??

    Thanks & Regards,
    Gurpreet Singh.

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for your comment Gurpreet. I mention in the post that using things like bath oils, bath bombs/fizzies, and oatmeal milk baths are great ways to moisturize and clean your child’s skin without having to use soap all the time. You can also use bath salts, herb baths, and sugar scrubs if you’d like. Hope that helps!

  5. LadyK says:

    Great post. I currently “bathe” my 19 month old 3 to 4 days a week. Sunday’s I use a mixture of Castile soap that I mix with coconut oil, jojoba oil and avocado oil. The other days is usually just water. In the winter I make a soaking bath with ground oatmeal and baking soda. Even my 6 year old only gets a bath every other day at the most. Great to see there are others who do the same.

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for sharing. I love the mixture of soap and oil… I bet that cuts down on how the soap drys the skin since you’re adding the oil in with it! I’m gonna have to try that! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tarra says:

    Thank u, my 2 month old has moderate to severe eczema & even the special cleansers seem to irritate his skin so I was curious if I had to use it at all. I will be trying the oatmeal baths to naturally clean & moisturize & stick with just water. It seems less is better sometimes. One question tho, I use baby oil due to his cradle cap so how do u suggest I wash his hair? Will the oatmeal bath do the trick?

    • Meagan says:

      I think you actually have to wash the oil out of his hair with soap. Try to find a natural castile soap as they tend to be less irritating, and perhaps it would be a good idea to only use the oil for his cradle cap occasionally. Hope that helps.

  7. Ariel Cole says:

    I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I just slather my 8 month old in coconut oil, bathe her (which lasts about 2 minutes.. She doesn’t like baths), then rub additional oil where needed. She just has crazy dry skin so I have found this method very helpful at adding moisture without nasty chemicals. I bathe her once a week or as needed. My 3 yr old son gets just water baths followed by a slather of coconut oil. (Can you tell I love that stuff??)

    • Meagan says:

      Interesting Ariel. I know a lot of people who love coconut oil for dry skin. I’m glad your method is working out well for you!

  8. Brynna says:

    Our girls are 4.5 and almost 2 and with the exception of a couple of baths at a friend’s house we’ve only ever bathed them with water – no soap or shampoo. They both have beautiful silky hair and lovely soft skin. They use soap to wash their hands and have a bath about once a week or so.

  9. Cheyenne says:

    These are some great readings. I’m actually a big fan of the natural remedy method’s and I’ve stopped using soap and lotion on most days. For me, I use honey and oils. For my kids, I have started using the oil cleansing method on their bodies, but I still use soap to wash their hair. If you have any alternatives to shampoo I’d love to hear about them.

  10. NaNa says:

    I am no scientist but I am fairly certain that water alone does not kill bacteria and viruses. It’s currently cold season and sick children are always spreading germs at daycare and my grandson has been sick for 4 months with colds/flu/pink eye/ear and sinus infections. My daughter only bathes him with water and only uses a mild soap in the diaper area. I am concerned that the lack of use of any sort of germ killing cleanser could contribute to this constant state of illness. My daughter says it is normal for him to be sick all winter while in daycare. Thoughts?

    • Meagan says:

      Well, you are right that bacteria and viruses are not KILLED by water. The process of bathing helps to decrease bacteria that is on the skin by washing them off, but it doesn’t kill them. Even soap (unless it contains an antibiotic) doesn’t “kill” bacteria. There are many downsides to using antibacterial soaps, especially on little ones, as they can actually cause problems by altering the pH of the skin and drying it out (among other things). You want the skin to be healthy because it actually protects your body from pathogens that are on it. If it’s too dry or the pH isn’t where it should be, it can’t protect you like it should. With babies, it’s always a good idea to wash the diaper area with a mild soap and water, but the remainder of baby’s skin doesn’t really require both soap and water… water alone is sufficient. If you do want soap, though, squirting a small amount into the bath water and washing baby in it is fine, but you’ll want to be sure to rinse him very well afterwards so the soap doesn’t remain on his skin.

      Your grandson getting sick is most likely a result of an immature immune system (which is normal for little children) and maybe people at his daycare not cleaning toys or washing their hands enough. Cold and flu season always results in more illness. Colds, flu, and pink eye are all very contagious, and ear and sinus infections can result from common colds. His bathing rituals would have nothing to do with getting these kinds of infections as they are airborne and enter through the nose or mouth (except pink eye which is bacterial and is spread through contact). Your best bet at keeping him healthy is to feed him healthy foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, minimize toxins in his environment (including chemicals in skin care products), wash your hands and his toys often with plain soap and water, and give him healthy supplements like elderberry syrup (with maple syrup, not honey) to help support his body as it fights the viruses that he’s exposed to. Hope this helps you some. I totally understand being concerned about your grandson being sick so often, but it’s part of building his immune system so it’s strong as well as part of the daycare environment.

      • Nana says:

        If there are studies to back up the no soap trend, I would like to see it. I raised 3 children who were regularly bathed with mild soap and had their hair shampooed several times a week. They too were in daycare and yet none of them had a persistent cold, never had an ear infection or pink eye. Just lucky? There is so much concern about additives in baby products but there are additives in everything these days and perhaps by not gradually introducing our children to everyday chemicals we put them at greater risk that their immune systems will not be able to cope with them when older. Again, I would like to know what the science behind the no soap theory is before I feel confident water alone is sufficient. Thanks again for your time though.

        • Nana says:

          Just adding that I would like the parents who bathe their children with water only to do so themselves for months (including no shampoo). Then I’d like to ask them if they feel clean.

          • Meagan says:

            Again, I understand your concern. However, I do believe there is a difference between using soap daily on babies and adults.

            First, I’m all for using soap to clean baby’s diaper area as that gets dirtier that the rest of the skin. As a child gets older, I believe they need to use soap to wash their hands as well as their body if they’ve been playing outside and are sweaty or dirty. And yes, adults too need to use soap to cleanse certain parts of their body. The point is that soap, when used daily, on the skin can dry it out and effect the pH balance, and for the majority of the time, isn’t needed for little children. Obviously, hair needs to be washed from time to time to rid it of build up oil and dead skin cells, but this too varies depending upon the age of the person. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of looking at this. If you choose to not use soap on your baby daily… fine. If you choose too… fine. You can always adjust things as your go if your child’s skin shows signs of dryness.

            As for your comment on chemicals goes, chemicals weaken the immune system… they do not build it. I do believe you have a point with chemical exposure and how it affects you, though. It does seem that the more your body is exposed to chemicals the less it reacts to them and that when the body isn’t as used to chemicals, it can react more strongly when exposed. However, I don’t believe this is a good argument for intentionally exposing ourselves to chemicals, and I don’t believe it has anything to do with immunity. I think it has everything to do with a weakened body. Chemicals are toxic to the body, and the body works hard to rid itself of them. The more you’re exposed to them, the more the detox organs have to work to filter the blood, and the more they can become bogged down, resulting in a less active response. Again, this is just my view on the process. I’m sure there’s a more scientific explanation.

            Lastly, as far as your kids being washed regularly and not getting sick goes… I think that there’s a lot more to kids getting sick more often these days than using/not using soap. When you were raising kids, there were less vaccines, GMOs weren’t in every food, kids played outside more, they ate more homecooked meals, less skin care products we’re used, there were less chronic diseases affecting their health, etc.. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. We live in a much different world, and I think it all impacts our children’s health. Bacteria is more rampant because of the overuse of antibiotics and anti-bacterial cleaning sprays. More kids are in daycare so parents can work, increasing the spread of illness. Nutrition in foods is less due to eating out more often and the use of convenient pre-packaged food. Many children suffer from gut imbalances which negatively effect their health. Again, I think chronic sickness is a result of many things, and this is one of many reasons why I make an effort to live more naturally. If it’s not a fit for you, that’s totally fine, but your daughter has the right to chose what’s best for her family.

        • Rosie says:

          I too have a question about not using a soap product to help wash bacteria away better than plain water. Isn’t there a concern about e Coli? Especially when siblings often share the tub?
          And of course there is the smell from those approaching puberty from arm pits in addition to the private body parts. To me, that BO bad smell means bacteria is present.

          • Meagan Visser says:

            I’m all for using soap on dirty areas of children’s bodies when they need extra cleaning. I’m not sure about the E. coli part, though. If your kids are drinking their bathwater, perhaps it’s best to wash them quickly with fresh running water so they don’t have time to drink it. And puberty is a completely different phase of life from little children. It makes more sense for adolescents to shower and use soap more frequently.

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