When stored at room temperature, California Baby wash and shampoo products are stable for three years after they’re manufactured at our FDA Registered facility. Even though our body wash is super concentrated and a little goes a long way, more often than not it’s not just the baby of the family who loves to use it—but mom, dad, big sisters and big brothers, too.
Why does baby wash expire?
Any environment with a lot of water creates the perfect conditions for bacteria and other micro-organisms to thrive. Baby wash is made with water and must be preserved in some way to prevent bacteria from manifesting in the formula. It’s like your perishable groceries that need to be refrigerated to keep from going bad quickly. When a product’s preservative system starts to break down or too much bacteria is introduced from exposure in our showers or from our fingers, it becomes less stable. Just like questionable groceries you’ve had in the fridge since you can’t remember when, the sniff test is your best clue that something is amiss. If a baby wash smells musty, it’s time to toss it.
Of course, the goal is for every bottled and ready-to-ship baby wash to start its journey without any bacteria present in the formula. But the reality is a lot of skincare products out there leave the warehouse already contaminated—a likely culprit behind a lot of skin reactions. To avoid this, California Baby puts our baby products through a lot of extra steps, precautions and testing that most companies don’t bother with because they cost too much or take too long.
For starters, we both purify and pasteurize our water, manufacture all our products in-house and put every raw ingredient and finished batch through extensive testing (more on that in a minute) to make sure not just bacteria but pesticides, petrochemicals and other irritants aren’t present before our baby wash is cleared to leave the warehouse.
Common preservatives in baby wash to avoid
Ironically, common preservatives in baby wash—like parabens, triclosan and formaldehyde—are also a major source of irritation for sensitive skin, including kids and newborns. Reliance on harsh chemical preservatives can lead to lower standards of purity elsewhere in the formulation process, like water purification. California Baby takes the opposite approach: we don’t (and won’t) use petroleum-derived synthetic preservatives and we do far more than just filter our water to remove the most obvious microbes.
Our natural approach to safe, stable and long-lasting baby wash
We start with ultra-purified water. We test every single raw ingredient. We take our time making every batch. And we use a 100% plant-based preservative system to preserve our products. In short, we create an environment where bacteria can’t easily grow. This level of vigilance requires more diligence and time than dumping harsh bactericides in the water and adding in high concentrations of harsh preservatives.
In our baby wash and shampoo, we use active isolates from basil and star anise that have potent anti-bacterial properties and are compatible with the rest of the formula. Typically, people introduce bacteria when we open and use a product. So it’s critical that a formula is self-preserving. By using powerful actives derived from plants, we can achieve that high level of stability and self-preservation without introducing synthetic parabens into the formula that are known to cause reactivity and irritation.
Moreover, because we use a multistep water purification process, our formulas are purer to start with. Not only do we filter our water with reverse osmosis filtration to remove the big stuff and sterilize it with a UV light bath to kill smaller microbes, but we also pasteurize our water—a time-intensive step most manufacturers don’t bother with. Pasteurization requires slowly heating and cooling the water to destroy any remaining pathogens.
In-house and independent lab testing
Before any of our formulas are approved, they go through a series of tests to make sure they meet our standards of purity, safety, quality and efficacy. To name a few, we test:
- Allergy testing - Repeat insult patch testing (RIPT) is where a formula is tested on a patch of skin over and over again to see if it triggers a response
- Bacteria count and mold by micro-testing not only each formula but every raw ingredient
- pH levels to make sure the formula is in line with human skin’s preferred pH balance
- Essential Oil Purity - we test every batch of essential oils to make sure they are pure, undiluted, and pesticide-free
- Stability to ensure the formula does not easily or quickly break down
But what really sets California Baby apart is our preservative challenge testing. Strictly speaking, only over-the-counter (OTC) products are required to undergo a preservative challenge test. This test bombards the product with millions of bacteria commonly found in homes that it will likely be exposed to once opened. Not only do we put every product through preservative challenge testing, but we put every product through two preservative challenge tests to meet criteria in both the United States and Europe. The European standards for preservative efficacy are higher than the United States, and while we are not required to test to European standards, we do so because we want to be sure we are selling the safest product possible.
The pharmaceutical-grade scrutiny California Baby puts every product formula through, including baby wash and shampoo, is not required and is very rare in the industry at large. Most skincare companies would rather spend their budgets on marketing, not testing. Again, California Baby is the opposite: we spend an outsized portion of our budget on testing, research, and development—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars on a single test—and a small portion on marketing. For example, to develop our 100% plant-based preservative, it took us 7 years of Research and Development and investment and over 6 million dollars.
When can you stop using baby wash?
We recommend using a gentle, biobased baby wash for at least the first 4-5 years while your little one’s skin is adjusting to its new role. Baby skin is extremely delicate and much more sensitive than the skin of older children or adults. Babies don't develop a full skin barrier until they're around 2 years old, so their skin isn't able to maintain moisture levels and is less resistant to irritants.
However, given the rise in allergies among kids and the high rate of skin sensitivity among adults, sticking with a gentle body wash and baby shampoo that you know won’t irritate their skin would be the best move for babies and the whole family. Remember, you don’t need to wash your baby every day–three times a week is plenty. Too much hot water can dry out baby skin.
That said, we totally get that at a certain age (five or six in our experience), some kids just won’t use “baby wash” because they “aren’t babies anymore.” In fact, we heard so many reports from the frontlines of parenthood on this that we created a body wash and shampoo with a kid-specific label—but still without all the harsh chemicals, irritants and allergens you don’t want in their skincare.
A few of our favorite baby wash scents for older kids and adults
Our entire family of Shampoo & Bodywashes are safe, effective and enjoyable for the whole family. But the scents below are our top recommendations for older kids asserting their independence from babyhood and even one dads love. No matter the scent, all California Baby wash and shampoos are made with, 100-percent biobased ingredients and formulated to be gentle and safe for sensitive skin.
Our #chillax Shampoo & Bodywash was specially designed for little ones who aren’t so little anymore and don’t want to be called a baby. Although it has new, age-appropriate packaging, it’s still the same California Baby calming shampoo formula parents know, love and trust. Scented with French lavender essential oil blend, its calming properties are a win for kids and parents—especially before bedtime.
Tea Tree & Lavender
For post-play dates that leave kids covered in dirt, we turn to the Tea Tree & Lavender Shampoo & Bodywash. Not only is it our most vibrant scent thanks to its brisk blend of tea tree and lavender essential oils, but it's also excellent at cutting through oils—making it ideal for oily skin types or very dirty kids.
Overtired & Cranky
Overtired & Cranky is our go-to baby shampoo and body wash for kids (and adults) who need a healthy and positive attitude adjustment. Rather than calming lavender, it’s scented with a delicious and uplifting blend of Roman chamomile and sweet Orange. Especially on school mornings, this is the perfect option for morning bathers who need a get-up-and-go start to their day.
Eucalyptus Ease Shampoo & Bodywash has quickly become a favorite with dads. Its vibrant blend of eucalyptus (grown and harvested on our farm) and Douglas fir essential oils are refreshing and help open up the senses without being too flowery or medicinal.
Go big: the benefits of buying bulk sizes
Most of our baby washes are available in half-gallon sizes. These are not only the most economical option (you save 15% per ounce compared the 8.5 oz. size) but also the more environmentally friendly option that helps cut down on plastic. Remember, California Baby Shampoo & Bodywash is stable for three years thanks to its highly purified water, biobased ingredients and 100% plant-based preservative system. You have plenty of time to get through that half-gallon before it expires—making bulk a smart choice for families and the planet.