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I hate my skin. It itches all summer from sun sensitivity, it itches all winter from dryness and wool sensitivity, it’s prone to sprouting little red bumps on the backs of my legs and arms, and I’m now wrapping up my third decade fighting acne. Everything bothers my skin, even things like “hypoallergenic”  or mineral-based makeup. Don’t even get me started on sunscreen.

So I suppose I should not have been surprised to discover that Simon may be going down a similar path. His first days home from the hospital—now 2 ½ years behind us—he had a red tushie much of the time. Then we put him in his Fuzzi Bunz, and the redness magically disappeared. Once we graduated out of newborn-sized diapers, I discovered unbleached Seventh Generation diapers, and he has been able to tolerate those for travel, pre-school, and the occasional times when I get caught short between loads of laundry.

The Fuzzi Bunz kept us all very happy, and Simon was well over a year old the first time he had real diaper rash. Then, last September and October, he had sinus and ear infections that necessitated antibiotics, which in turn irritated his stomach and produced toxic, skin-eating poop. We went another two rounds with diaper rash as a result.

Now it’s happened again. Sunday morning he awoke with a beautiful bottom, but three bad poops later he went to bed with what looked like a baboon’s rear end. It was beet red all over, had two raised welts on it, and at least two spots where the skin was broken. When we went to clean him up the last time, he sobbed and cried out “Mommy! Mommy!” in a way that broke my heart. It may have been the first time a diaper change brought me to tears.

I had my silver sulfadiazine cream, AKA the magic bullet, to treat him with. And I knew to use warm washcloths to clean him at diaper changes. But frankly, cleaning up a dirty bottom with warm washcloths is neither terribly effective nor overly pleasant. There had to be a better way. But baby wipes-with their irritating chemicals, detergents, and sometimes alcohol—were not an option.

So I made my own! I read about do-it-yourself baby wipes ages ago, but never got around to trying it out. It sounds a bit crazy, no? In theory you cut a roll of paper towels in half, remove the inner cardboard core, insert into a plastic container, pour a homemade solution over the top, and voila: you have a roll of wipes you pull out from the center.

In practice, things were a bit more complicated. My grocery store didn’t have the right sized container, so I bought a tub of cheapie wipes and threw them all out. Cutting the roll of paper towels in half also proved to be challenging: In the end, I resorted to a hacksaw and made a terrible mess. My kitchen looked like a paper mill by the time I cut all the way through the roll.

For a solution, I used two cups of boiled water as my base, ¼ cup of aloe to soothe,  2 TBS of Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap to gently clean, 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil to moisturize, a couple of drops of tea tree oil to help heal, and some vitamin E for added benefit. I then poured the mix over the paper towels in the container, waited 10 minutes, flipped the container upside down for 10 more minutes, turned it right side up, and nervously pulled out my first wipe.

The verdict? A little goopy (I’ll cut back on the aloe next time), but quite nice. I wiped my hands with one, and for the first time in ages my winter chapped hands felt better after cleaning than before. I’m really sorry that it took open sores for me to try this out, because now I’m thinking about how much money I could have saved and how much kinder I could have been to Simon’s skin from the beginning.

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