Avoiding Artificial Dyes and Preservatives in Personal Care Products

Beyond Food

On Monday we started discussing how to determine if synthetic food coloring is effecting a child’s hyperactive behavior in Laura Stevens article The Role of Food Coloring in Improving Symptoms of Hyperactive Kids from the December/January 2008 issue of ADDitude Magazine.

Yesterday she described how to substitute food high in artificial dyes and preservatives. Today, she explains that dyes and preservatives found in personal care products can be swallowed by young children as well.

Dyes and preservatives can also be found in personal care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwashes, some of which may be swallowed by young children.

Again, read the labels carefully before buying them. Crest toothpaste, for instance, contains blue dye; Colgate’s Original is free of it. Clear, natural mouthwashes are a good substitute for those brightly colored varieties.

Most pediatric medicines are also artificially colored and flavored. Ask the child’s pediatrician if there is an additive-free substitute that would work just as well.

For over-the-counter medicines, choose Motrin or Tylenol, which come in dye-free white tablets. Be sure to adjust the dosage for the child’s age. The liquid form of the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl is artificially colored with red dye, but the medication also comes in clear liquid capsules.

Avoiding foods and products with artificial colors and preservatives have a big benefit: It will raise the nutritional value of the entire family’s diet, since the “junkiest” foods on supermarket shelves tend to be — you guessed it — most heavily colored and flavored.

Be sure to check out Laura Steven’s book Twelve Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child: Drug-Free Alternatives for Attention-Deficit Disorders.

Are any of the children you care for sensitive to artificial dyes, colorings, or preservatives?


  1. Great resource. My charge has eczema and sensitive skin. We only use fragrance free and dye free products and even some of those products irritate the child's skin because is there really anything without fragrance?

  2. Skin is poreous (? spelling) and soaks up chemicals. That's why patches work for birth control and to quit smoking because the medicine goes through pores into the body's system.We should also use plastic or rubber gloves every time we clean. The cleaning chemicals and germs get into the skin and can even tear and damage the skin. I have to wear gloves to even fold laundry that has been washed with fabric softener or dryer sheets.Might as well buy and use natural products whenever possible.Susie G., Philly

  3. Don't forget dyes in clothing! I am allergic to colors and ramie in clothing.

  4. I think the boy I am a nanny for is allergic to his wool rug. Sounds crazy, I know, but he sneezes and gets a stuffed nose in his room and improves if out of the house. But I agree with other nannies that said it's hard to tell parents "By the way he's allergic to his rug so you have to buy a new one."

  5. It's a good book

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