You Asked For It: Our Thoughts on Method Baby Products

By Kristie Turck •  Published 03/02/09 •  5 min read

Last updated on February 19th, 2010 at 08:39 pm

methodbabyWe’ve been getting a lot of emails regarding Method Baby products, since they were released last year.   At least 3-4 a week.  At first, we wanted to do a little more research on them, and then, as we discovered more about them, kept putting it off.    But we can’t really hide behind the curtain anymore about Method.

After looking through the ingredients, I, personally would choose a different brand.    I haven’t heard anything back regarding whether or not they use phthalates after repeated attempts to get a confirmation.  I could just be asking the wrong person, but the scents, when I’ve smelled the products, to me, aren’t associated with anything natural.  Green apple is an artificial scent.   They also use benzyl alcohol, which gets a 6 in the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.    And while there are a few natural ingredients in there, there are some ingredients that are rated as zero, but it’s because there’s no research to the ingredient itself to show otherwise.   Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride.  Does that sound like something that you find in a grassy field of poppies?

Is it a better, “safer” choice?  We don’t have a concrete answer, given the lack of data to the ingredients listed.   I realize that this is something that might be disappointing to a lot of you.   Method is easily available and generally inexpensive.   However, the more we learn about Method’s products, the more we starting to see that they’re not exactly as clean as they make themselves appear.

I’m a firm believer in getting what you pay for.   If a company promoting natural “green” products is going to go the route of putting cheap chemicals in their products,  then in my opinion it’s not worth it.   There are tons of great brands out there that truly want to make a product that’s safe and effective.   I also realize, that in these tough economic times, we’re all on a tight budget.   You can find alternatives (or inexpensively make your own) out there that won’t break the bank.  This is also another instance of why we tell our readers to learn to read labels.   Learning to decipher them takes time, that’s true.  But if at first glance, you can’t pronounce half of the ingredients on the label, ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Update: From an environmental chemist at the Method Home company:

“Regarding your point about phthalates – we specifically require that no phthalates are used in all method products – both in packaging and in formulation. This is even more important in the baby products given the developmental risks of phthalates. In fact the first line of our fragrance design guide is that they must be free of phthalates. For fragrances we rely on blends, such as the one used for the green apple scent, to be designed to be safe for babies. The question is less whether the ingredients come from nature or not, but whether they cause allergies or other adverse reactions in use. By carefully selecting approved ingredients, we can be sure that the fragrances and formulations will be safe for people and the environment.”
SafeMama Response: “We are happy to hear that Method doesn’t use phthalates in their baby products!”
“Benzyl alcohol is a component of a very gentle preservative system, that works well and can be used at below 1% of the formula. The cosmetics database, although a good general resource, does not contain any information about specific uses of the ingredients they review, nor the level at which they are used. To make sure we best understand any ingredient we use, we work some of the best material scientists in the world – Dr Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough and their teams at EPEA and MBDC. The assessments we get from them inform our health and environmental understanding of every ingredient and are more detailed resource than the cosmetics database. We’d be happy to share the assessments for the baby ingredients with you if you’re interested – they do get very technical, from skin irritation potential to processing concerns to biodegradation and allow us to be very confident of ingredient safety.”

SafeMama Response: “This is what we know about the ingredient: [From Chemical of the Day] Benzyl Alcohol can act as a skin sensitizer, and, according to a 1998 study can ‘can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin.’  It is also a known neurotoxin. It rates a 7 now in the Skin Deep database. ”

‘As for the Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride – you are right, this is a detailed name. The ingredient indeed does not come from poppy fields – it comes from natural guar beans. This ingredient is made by converting the starch from the guar beans to make it effective as a thickener and as a conditioner, even when used in low percentages. This is a safe, non-toxic ingredient that is naturally derived and effective.”

SafeMama Response: “What we are curious about is how these guar bean is “converted”… I can only assume it is converted by the use of a chemical interaction, correct? We have all been told “It comes from a plant, don’t worry about it”  when in reality, it started as a plant and then was pulverized beyond recognition through the use of chemicals and could now be contaminated by that processing.  Nitrosamines, formaldehyde and 1,4 Dioxane come to mind…”

We are waiting to hear back on these points…