Buying soap adorned with children's favourite TV characters might encourage your kids into the bath, but they might also climb out with scratchy skin.
"Children's skin is so delicate that a harsh chemical can readily cause a rash, or even an allergic reaction," says renowned hair colourist Daniel Galvin Jnr. "I found that some of the horrible synthetic ingredients in kids' and baby shampoos are used commonly."
There is a huge list of nasties to avoid if at all possible. "Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are two most common ingredients found in baby and kids' formulas, and these are highly irritating to the skin," warns Galvin.
"They're also used as industrial cleaning agents to get the grease off factory floors, so you can imagine what it does to baby skin and scalps," he notes, adding that in the last few years, several children's products were found to contain formaldehyde (which can trigger eczema) and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are known carcinogens. But because they're not necessarily added to a product intentionally, they don't have to be listed on the label.
Other ingredients that may cause children irritation include parabens, petroleum and propylene glycol (PEG), as well as artificial colours and flavours.
When it comes to bathing your babies (no matter how big or small), plump for one of these purer potions.
Bring on the bubbles
Many organic bubble baths fail to score highly on the bubble-ometer, but thankfully, this is not one of them. Childs Farm is an award-winning and affordable range born in Britain and supports the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) by donating 10% of all profits to the charity.
Childs Farm Bubble Bath For Sweet Dreams, £4.69 (www.childsfarm.com)
Soft and silky
If your children suffer from eczema or dry skin, it's better to opt for a bath oil over bubbles. After her daughter was given an eczema prescription for products full of nasties, Lisa Johnson decided to make her own. The result is an organic body range, including a hugely successful Scratchy Balm.
LJ's Organic Natural Scratchy Bath/Body Oil, £8.95 (www.lj-natural.com)
Suitable for the whole family, Origins products are made without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients (except cruelty-free honey and beeswax).
Origins A Perfect World Creamy Body Cleanser with White Tea, £21 (www.origins.co.uk)
Bar bar black sheep
Sometimes a good old-fashioned bar of soap is all you want to get kids clean, especially when they're little. Bamford Baby is a capsule range which is Soil Association-approved and contains a beautiful blend of camomile, lavender and tea tree to calm and purify the skin, all sourced from the UK.
Bamford baby soap, £10 (www.bamfordbody.co.uk)
Though this formula does contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, the Johnson's 'no more tears' promise means it doesn't sting should it come into contact with eyes. The new bottle pumps out a foamy formula which makes for easy hair washing with a super-fast rinse.
Johnson's Baby Easy-Rinse Foam Shampoo, £2.99, Ocado (www.ocado.com)
After hair washing comes conditioning, but keep life simple with this spray-on product. Galvin & Galvin's Dubble Trubble range is bursting with botanical extracts and natural and organic ingredients, meaning all the products smell good enough to eat. A few squirts of this conditioner and kids are ready for their PJs.
Galvin & Galvin Dubble Trubble Cool Cucumber Detangling Spray, £2.50, Morrisons
To be or knot to be
Knots can cause big problems after bath time. Banish tantrums, tears and tangles by using a Michel Mercier Untangle Your Day hairbrush. The 428 bristles, positioned at 32 different heights and 16 different diameters, glide easily through wet or dry hair. And for extra comfort, hold down the root of the hair with the palm of your hand and brush downwards.
Untangle Your Day Kids' Detangling Brush, available for fine, normal or thick hair, £12.95 (www.michelmercier.co.uk)
After baths or showers, even young skins yearn for moisture. A simple lotion is all you need and Aveeno's body products contain naturally active finely-milled oatmeal, which is clinically proven to restore the skin's natural barrier, allowing it to retain moisture and keep out potential irritants more effectively.
Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion with Lavender Aroma, £7.15, (www.boots.com)
Scratch that itch
For those who suffer with eczema or severe dry patches, it's a good idea to apply an additional balm before bedtime. MooGoo is a brand new range which has just landed in the UK, having taken Australia by storm, and is full of natural edible ingredients. Apply the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, wound-healing cream to any affected areas.
MooGoo Irritable Skin Balm, RRP £12.50, independent pharmacies nationwide
Hush little baby
Once they're clean, dry and ready for bed, give them a restful night's sleep by spraying a relaxing scent in the kids' bedrooms. This safety-approved, ultra gentle version of This Works' award-winning deep sleep pillow spray contains lavender, vetivert and camomile, and is free from parabens, sulphates and phthalates. A few spritzes creates a cocoon of aromatherapy to lull little ones to sleep.
This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray, £16 (www.thisworks.com)
Tried & tested
Susan Griffin checks out the Chocolate Unwrapped package at Mercure hotels nationwide:
I'm not what you'd call a chocoholic (in fact, I'm more what you'd call a cheese fiend), but I do have one particular sweet weakness - chocolate orange. The aroma alone is enough to make me go weak at the knees, so imagine my excitement when I was told about the Chocolate Orange Back Treatment being offered as part of the Mercure Hotels' Chocolate Unwrapped package. The dual treatment began with the therapist massaging my back using brown sugar and a base oil (mine was restorative almond oil, but it will depend on a person's particular needs). The granules felt heavenly being rubbed on a part of the body so neglected. Once the dead skin had been sloughed away and the muscles warmed, the therapist brushed the pure chocolate concoction onto my back and covered it with a light plastic wrap and towel. Turns out chocolate can be good for you, as it's bursting with antioxidants and minerals, which is perfect for a deep cleanse. Think of it as a facial for your back. While the mask worked its magic, the therapist gave me a blissful Indian head massage (my boyfriend opted for a foot massage) and then the mask was removed with hot towels - an experience that's a lot more comforting and enjoyable than it sounds. We left the spa with backs silky smooth and shoulders softened (even the sceptical boyfriend looked blissed out). That wasn't the end of the decadence. As part of the package, we both enjoyed indulgent Chocolate Martinis - think gluttonous and gorgeously guilt-ridden milkshakes - followed by a delectable three course dinner, topped off with a 'Divine Chocboard'. You know, I might just be a full-blown chocolate convert...
To celebrate National Chocolate Week (October 14-20) the Chocolate Unwrapped package is available from £169 for two people for stays throughout October 2013, at selected Mercure hotels around the country. Book before October 28. A decadent chocolate facial (55 minutes) is also available for an extra £30 per person.
Buy it now
Drawing on their 40 years of expertise in fragrance, Crabtree & Evelyn have launched their Limited Edition Heritage Fragrance Collection. The seven scents are said to evoke the Mediterranean coastline and Europe's ancient cities, and are available in three Flower Waters and four Eau de Colognes. Priced at £45, they're available in stores nationwide and online at www.crabtree-evelyn.co.uk