compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying Products Meant for Babies

Good for babies and adults. Photo: Sante Forlano/Condé Nast via Getty Images

My first beauty purchase upon moving to Los Angeles in the early ’90s was a bottle of Petit Guerlain, a perfume meant for babies. I smelled it on an infant belonging to a big-name actress, and when she told me it was French (and only available at Barneys), I was instantly sold. It was a light, alcohol-free formulation that smelled like expensive lemons and fresh lavender, and I wore it for a good ten years until they finally discontinued it sometime in 2014. (Petit Guerlain recently relaunched with a new formulation, and it’s lovely, but doesn’t smell close enough to the original to scratch my sense-memory nostalgia.)

That perfume turned out to be the gateway to a lifetime of using beauty products meant for babies. Not only are they more stringently tested for sensitive skin, but they smell better and make me feel wholesome, like I’m as unjaded as the infants they’re meant for. Here’s a peek at what items technically meant for infants are currently residing in my medicine cabinet — and if there are others to try, please let me know.

The best baby products are always at City Pharma in Paris, home to stern, lab coat–wearing salesladies who know more about skin care than even the most devoted SkincareAddiction redditor. And out of all the products City Pharma sells, the most heavenly are from French bebé skin-care brand Mustela, loved by infants and adults alike. Their Soin Croûtes de Lait is an awesome overnight treatment for mild seborrheic dermatitis, but their star product is easily this SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen Stick. The wide, flat “deodorant stick” design fits neatly in your pocket or purse and is easy to apply on your arms, neck, chest, or décolletage. It never irritates sensitive skin or causes breakouts, and isn’t ever greasy or wet after application.

Weleda makes one of my all-time favorite products, the much-ballyhooed Skin Food, but what I really love is their White Mallow Baby Derma Face Cream. While it’s obviously meant for babies, this cream also works to calm sensitive skin and provide eczema relief. I like it as a moisturizer because it goes on velvety smooth, sinks in instantly, never clogs my pores, and leaves my skin properly moisturized without making it overly dewy or greasy. (I feel like everyone is kind of way too dewy these days.) You don’t have to wait to apply makeup afterward, and the moisturizing yet dry formula happens to act as the perfect skin primer.

Photo: ©2008 David S. Mutter

Baby oil is the best shaving-cream alternative there is, and it’s also aces at removing stubborn makeup like waterproof mascara. I am a forever fan of Burt’s Bees lovely Baby Bee Oil, a blend of apricot and grape-seed oils that is emollient without being outrageously greasy. I suffer from armpits that sting and burn after shaving with soap or old-fashioned shaving cream, but using a few drops of this baby oil keeps the burn at bay.

This unscented baby shampoo and bodywash from iconic soap-maker Emanuel Theodore Heilbronner is meant for washing infants, but I use it to hand-wash my most delicate clothing instead. The lack of sulfates and other harsh ingredients means it won’t ever harm or strip garments of their color — even brightly patterned silks. Dr. Bronner’s famous soaps are meant to be diluted, and I find that adding a capful to about one inch of water in the tub is the perfect amount to wash a sequined dress, handily removing dirt and smells without harming or melting off any embellishments.

I grew up getting the tangles out of my hair with good old-fashioned No More Tangles by Johnson & Johnson, but this Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Extra-Moisturizing Detangler is a cruelty-free, shea butter–based, turbocharged version of the old standby. I dilute it with a small amount of water and work it through my wet hair before blow-drying. It’s conditioning properties save my brittle ends from certain tangling when I blast it with my beloved Dyson Supersonic dryer.

New moms know all the good stuff (that’s how I found out about these nipple pads that double as the world’s best makeup removers), so it’s no shock to me that this lanolin-based nipple cream does double duty as the best lip balm money can buy. Meant to bring relief to sore, breastfeeding nipples, it also manages to soothe dry, chapped, cracked lips as well. Made with lanolin (fat taken from the fleece of sheep), it has excellent waterproofing properties (which is what allows it to lock in moisture and heal aching lips). A little bit goes a long way, and it doesn’t come off easily — I put some on before bed and it’s still on my lips come morning. (But if you’re allergic to wool, beware: Products made with lanolin can trigger an allergic reaction.) I like to buy it in this set of three mini-tubes, so I can keep one in my car, by my bedside, and in my desk. It’s just too good to ever be very far away from.

The best way to tamp down flyaways or errant baby hairs is to coax them into place with a tiny baby hairbrush lightly coated with hairspray, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t feature hard, cheap, plastic bristles. This baby brush features angel-soft, ultraflexible nylon bristles that smooth even the tiniest of flyaways, but it’s also the perfect tool for styling light, fluffy, floaty bangs that tend to get smashed down by a regular full-size hairbrush meant for grown-ups. It glosses over the top layer of your bangs, gently pulling every hair into place without separating them or making them stringy.

Italian brand Santa Maria Novella has been in business for 400 years, operating out of the same building on Via Reginaldo Giuliani in Florence the entire time. Built as a monastery by Dominican friars in 1221, an apothecary sprung up on the grounds when the friars began to study the properties of the herbs grown in their garden. Santa Maria Novella is mostly known for their luxurious soaps, but I am loyal to their Crema Di Profumo Bimba, which translates roughly to “cream for girls.” It’s a light, emollient, paraben-free lotion that smells like a delicious mix of strawberries, peaches, and gardenia. It’s basically an ultrasophisticated take on your favorite high school–era Bath & Body Works scent, only without the fake chemical undertones.

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I Can’t Stop Buying Products Meant for Babies