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The Drugstore Baby Product That All Adults Should Buy

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When my daughter was just a few days old, we took her to the pediatrician to be checked out. “See how beautiful her skin is?” the doctor said, and we nodded our heads — it did seem fairly perfect. “What have you been using on it?” Vaseline, I told her. “That’s fine,” she said, “but …” and she proceeded to give me the best advice I’ve ever heard about the care of healthy skin.

She told me to get rid of all the diaper creams and lotions, and to replace them with just two products: Aquaphor Healing Ointment and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. Both products are great, but the first — the Aquaphor Ointment, which I had never used — was a revelation. It would be fair to call it a “cure-all.” At around $12 or $13 for a 14-ounce tub, it’s a steal. And it’s just as good for adults as it is for babies.

In fact, Aquaphor Baby’s Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment is, as far as I can tell, identical to the adult version, Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment. The ingredients of both are as follows, in order: petrolatum (41 percent); mineral oil; ceresin; lanolin; alcohol; panthenol; glycerin; bisabolol. Nowhere, in this list, of course, is water. This means that Aquaphor is not actually a moisturizer, but a product that will lock in skin’s own moisture.

Petrolatum — a.k.a. petroleum jelly — is the main ingredient in Vaseline, as well as in Aquaphor. You may have health and environmental concerns about, you know, putting oil on yourself or your baby, but it is perfectly healthy. That said, it’s also pretty rational to not want to put “chemicals” all over your baby, to prefer organic products. I sympathize, I agree! But in this case, I haven’t found anything that comes close to doing the job. The other ingredients are mineral oil (also a derivative of petroleum), which is most commonly found in baby oil; ceresin, a type of paraffin wax; lanolin, a grease that comes from wool; alcohol, which is … alcohol; panthenol, which is a form of vitamin B5; glycerin, a (usually) synthetic smoother and lubricant; and bisabolol, part of the essential oil from chamomile, known for hundreds of years as a skin-healer. Essentially, then, Aquaphor is Vaseline, plus a bunch of other stuff, mostly chemical-based, known to protect skin.

For my daughter, who suffers only little patches of occasional dryness in winter, this means that once a night, after her bath, I cover her from neck to foot in a thin (but not too thin) layer of Aquaphor. She likes to help, dipping her hand in the giant tub and rubbing it all over her belly while she squeals, “Creeeeeen.” The consistency of this stuff is incredibly sticky, and it makes putting clothes on afterward a bit of a challenge. But, by morning, her skin is smooth and soft and blemish-free. It works for diaper rash just as quickly, and for rough patches; I even used it to get over the dreadful scabby sores of hand, foot, and mouth disease. My friend who has a baby with severe eczema uses it every night, too.

When I converted, I converted hard for this product, and the only time I use the Cetaphil instead is when I want something slightly thinner, say, to use during the day on her arms or legs for a little extra moisture. But most of the time, daily Aquaphoring does the trick.

It didn’t take me long to start rubbing it on my feet at night before putting on socks for bed; to rub a little on my lips when they were particularly chapped. For a while I thought I was the only one, but in the two years I’ve been using it, it’s come up all the time. Everyone — especially parents — knows how amazing this product is. I’ve heard it’s wonderful for healing tattoos. People put a little between their nose and lip to heal the delicate skin ravaged by nose-blowing during cold season. Runners use it to stop chafing on their legs. It keeps skin dry — that’s why it’s so good for diaper rash — and your skin’s natural moisture gets trapped under it, so it heals very rapidly.

The next time you’re in the drugstore — especially if you don’t have kids — take a stroll through the baby aisle. Honestly, there are many treasures for childless adults to be found there, but among the very best, and certainly the most multipurpose, is Aquaphor.

The Drugstore Baby Product All Adults Should Buy