Baby Lotion

The Best Eco-Friendly Baby Lotion

The baby care product market was valued at USD $18.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by over 4% for almost the next decade. Let’s take a look at what baby lotion purchases really mean, and how to make the best choices.


Lotions will contain a mix of water, oils, emulsifiers, and fragrances. Try to ditch fragrances all together since the types of chemicals used to achieve a scent don’t need to be disclosed, and thus, can be potentially harmful. When it comes to oils, try and select an ingredient that offers multiple benefits such as coconut or argan. Ultimately, when product ingredients contain commodities with complex supply chains, it’s always advisable to lean on a third-party certification, especially if social welfare is a priority to you as a buyer. 




Oils are known in the skincare world as occlusives, meaning they create a barrier on the skin that prevents water loss and traps in moisture, which is why it’s one of the main ingredients found in lotion. There are tons of varieties you’re likely to come across. Avocado, coconut, argan, olive, and castor are among the most popular. 

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has a complex supply chain. Avocados are typically grown as a monocrop, meaning the soil can end up losing its nutrients and becoming susceptible to diseases that could increase the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Land is often cleared to make sure avocado trees can flourish, and as a result, avocado farming has been linked to deforestation which, in turn, exacerbates climate change. They have a pretty decent water footprint too, which means increased water stress in regions of cultivation.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has surged in popularity in recent years, rising to fame while its cousin - palm oil - has been getting a bad reputation for a long time. While they have similar properties, there are a few considerations that differentiate coconut oil as the better option. Coconuts grow in tropical regions where biodiversity and carbon stock are high, which means that using this land for harvesting and producing oil has a greater environmental impact than farming elsewhere does. But one benefit to coconut harvesting is that it doesn’t only produce oil, the way palm oil does. Milk, water, and activated charcoal are all coconut byproducts. Also, coconuts aren’t grown alone. They tend to be grown alongside crops like bananas, cacao, and coffee which helps keep the soil rich with nutrients.

Because of this, there aren’t a ton of severe environmental drawbacks to coconut oil. There may, however, be a risk of child labor throughout the supply chain so it’s important to make sure the harvest practices are not only sustainable, but also ethical. Our advice? Choose a product with a third-party certification for the good of the planet and the people.

Argan Oil

Inside the fruit of the argan tree, which is native to Morocco, is an argan nut. The kernels can be pressed to extract the oil that’s used in skincare products. The remaining pulp of the nut provides food for local animals and the shells are burned for fuel. The tree is so beneficial to the environment that Morocco’s argan forest was declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 1998. But as demand for argan oil rises, the forests have been threatened by deforestation. Locals understand the value of the argan tree, and to make sure protected trees remain undamaged, will only pick fruit that’s fallen to the ground.

The process of pressing the argan nut is manual and very labor intensive, making social safeguards like working hours and living wage important factors to sustainable and ethical production.

Waxes and Fats

Let’s start with shea butter. This velvety product has become super popular all over the world, but its roots - quite literally - are in Africa. Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. Since shea trees are specific to central and west Africa, production is confined to local communities - usually women -  that receive their livelihood from harvesting and refining shea butter. Shea trees regenerate well and can tolerate small amounts of irrigation, meaning they play a significant role in water conservation in arid climates.

In a life cycle assessment (LCA) of shea butter production for cosmetic products, it was found that the emission value per kilogram of shea butter was 10.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2e), which is  equivalent to the emissions of consuming 1.2 gallons of gasoline. Half of these emissions are due to burning firewood in open hearths during post-harvest processing; a piece of the shea butter supply chain in which there’s plenty of opportunity to reduce emissions through reducing the amount of wood used.  Another benefit that reduces the impact of shea butter is the fact that the by-products of harvesting shea nuts, aka the shea nut husk and kernel residue, have other useful functions. The energy that went into harvesting the nut is essentially reclaimed, instead of lost as waste, and utilized for other products.


While we’re discussing byproducts, let’s not forget about beeswax - a byproduct of honey production. The wax is secreted from honeybees who then work together to pass along and mold the wax flakes into the familiar hexagon-shaped honeycomb cells we think of when we imagine a hive. Is beeswax sustainable? Maybe.

A bee needs to consume between six and eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax, and it takes about twelve hours to produce around eight wax flakes. So while these busy bees stay hard at work, it helps put into perspective the patience that’s required to build up a wax hive. Beeswax is a renewable resource and reduces the demand for synthetic waxes. Since honeybees typically produce much more honey than the colony needs, harvesting the excess honey and wax is mutually beneficial. But it needs to be harvested in a sustainable way that ensures future livelihood of the beehive. Harvesting excess beeswax helps make space in the hive for bees to lay their eggs, but taking too much can also hinder the overall health of the hive by removing food storage. Purchasing beeswax products from small scale bee farmers leaves us with better odds that ethical practices are being applied in the harvest. This is where product certifications come in handy, but more on that later.


Whether they’re dried and ground into a powder or pressed and extracted for natural oils, herbs are a common ingredient in lotion. Harvesting herbs and other aromatics is an important economic activity in communities where these plants grow in abundance. While no herb in particular is notorious for its harmful impacts to the environment, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing which ingredient is best for us.


Calendula is a plant commonly used topically for skin health and helping to heal wounds due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It can thrive in almost any soil and processing it has a relatively low impact. The largest impact in using calendula comes from the agricultural stage from seedling production to field cultivation which is sometimes the result of using fertilizers, fungicides, and/or using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) beds for growing. 


There’s a reason people associate chamomile with a calming effect. There are phytochemicals that can offer therapeutic benefits as well as help to improve cardiovascular conditions and stimulate the immune system. Chamomile is quite happy in poor soil quality which essentially eliminates the need for fertilizers and keeps pests away, meaning more abundant yields.


Lavender is another plant that does not need to rely on pesticides and fertilizers. Once lavender is established in soil, it’s considered a drought-resistant plant. Too much water can actually harm the plant, which means drainage in the soil is key. Harvesting lavender in a way that avoids soil degradation keeps the soil viable for future growth. 


Under normal circumstances, oil and water cannot be mixed without an additional substance that blends the two together. Enter: emulsifiers. Emulsifiers can be made from plants, animals, or synthetic sources. Some emulsifiers, like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are known skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritants and can be toxic to aquatic organisms. Others, like glyceryl stearate, can be derived from non-synthetic and renewable vegetable oil. It’s not energy intensive to produce and is biodegradable, which we love.

Unless you’re a chemist, understanding the ins and outs of emulsifiers can be super tricky. Since safety comes first, opt for plant-based (aka non synthetic) emulsifiers. Cetearyl alcohol and cetearyl glucoside are good examples.


Since fragrances are protected from disclosure, seeing “fragrance” on a label most likely means dozens, or even hundreds of chemical compounds. In fact, one study found that the number of individual chemicals identified in personal care products ranged from 46 to 229 unique compounds per product. The issue with fragrance really comes down to the phthalates that are added as solvents. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors in both humans and aquatic life and can even lower the production of testosterone. Studies have found that prenatal exposure to phthalates can decrease mental and motor development in children. The most common phthalate in fragrance is diethyl phthalate (DEP). Rest assured that the Food and Drug Administration lists no safety concerns when it comes to DEP exposure, but if navigating the murky waters of fragrance doesn’t sit well with you, our advice is to look for lotions that are fragrance-free and phthalate-free. 


When we’re in a bind or overwhelmed by greenwashy-messaging, certifications can help us make choices that keep the environment and social good in mind. Here are some certifications and standards to look out for in baby lotion.


Just as important as a certification that verifies the quality of a product, is a certification that verifies the quality of operations within a business. B-Corp certification is a measure of a company’s environmental and social impact as a whole. Achieving certification means that company practices have met and/or exceeded the high-quality baseline standards across governance, environment, community, and workers.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit and its label ensures products are free from chemicals of concern to human health that are outlined in their unacceptable list. The EWG verifies products using data on ingredients and chemicals banned by governments, as well as known carcinogens and developmental toxins. Because companies have to pay for the verification, there is inherent bias… but they do source their ingredients data from reputable sources. In Finch’s scoring system, we look at their ingredients data rather than companies certified by the EWG.

Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny is an internationally recognized symbol that guarantees no new animal tests were conducted on any of the ingredients in a product. It’s the most stringent animal rights standard, so prioritize this one if you want to alleviate your animal welfare concerns.

PETA Cruelty-Free Certified

PETA’s Cruelty-Free offers a searchable database of companies and denotes whether they conduct, commission, or test their products on animals. 


Pay special attention to the type of oils used in lotion, as many come with complex environmental and social trade-offs. When it comes to weighing your options, it’s best to choose a product that has a verified third-party certification that ensures sustainable and ethical practices went into its production. Steer clear of fragrances if possible. Babies just don’t need it, and we can never be sure of the type and quantity of synthetic chemicals that may be lurking under the “fragrance” umbrella term.


What is the most sustainable baby lotion?

Considering all that goes into harvesting and processing the ingredients for lotion, we can’t totally claim that any are truly sustainable. But - we’ve done the heavy lifting for you to be able to identify the best options out there.  Check out our Top Products page to see how products stack up.