In 2016, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who allege that asbestos found in the raw material of talcum powder led to ovarian cancer. Perhaps you’ve seen this story on the news or on social media- an article about a possible link between baby powder and ovarian cancer. This seems to be a very important story, but is it accurate?
Sadly yes. The risk associated with talc powder means that it’s just not safe to use on your baby. However, there are lots of natural alternatives which make a great choice to help babies with diaper rash. We delve into all the issues surrounding talc, asbestos and cancer and offer some great options.
We’ve done a whole series of natural treatments for diaper rash that offer some great alternatives to mass-produced diaper creams.
What is the Difference Between Baby Powder and Talcum Powder
Baby powder can be made from any powder, so it’s always important to check the ingredients. Natural baby powder is usually made from cornstarch because it helps keep moisture away from the baby’s bottom which reduces the risk of diaper rash.
Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral that is mined like coal or other mineral products. Talc has many uses including cosmetics and body powders including dusting on baby powder.
What Is Talcum Powder?
As you might imagine, talcum powder is made from talc. Talc is a mineral found all over the world. It’s mined and purified, then ground into a soft, silky powder. It can be used to absorb moisture and oils for personal hygiene purposes, like baby powder or adult body/face powder.
It also helps cut down on friction, making it useful as a cosmetic ingredient in many products including eye shadow, blush, and lipstick. In addition to personal care uses, talc is also used as an additive for food products such as canned corn and dry pasta.
In the past, talcum powder was also used medicinally to treat diaper rash and minor burns and skin irritations. Our parent’s generation would have thought nothing about using Johnson’s baby powder to treat baby’s diaper rash. Alongside petroleum jelly as a diaper rash cream, this was the standard treatment for treating diaper rash.
How Talcum Powder Works
Talcum powder is made from talc, a naturally occurring mineral. Talc has tiny particles that can absorb moisture and prevent the skin from sticking to surfaces such as underwear, diapers or bedding.
Baby powder with talc also contains fragrances and other additives. These make baby powder smell better but also may be an irritant to the baby’s sensitive skin like scented baby wipes and some additives in disposable diapers. This is known as irritant diaper dermatitis, where contact with irritants in the diaper area causes a baby’s diaper rash. It’s worth investigating what type of diaper rash your baby has so you can determine the best course of action to treat it.
What Is Talcum Powder Made Of?
Talcum powder is composed of two main ingredients-talc and magnesium. The most common form, which can be found in baby powders or adult body lotions for example (not all “talcum” contains asbestos), has the mineral talcyllide along with some other elements like silicon dioxide to give it its unique consistency.
For consumer use, it’s important to know that not all “talcum powder” contains asbestos. Talc is a soft, white mineral found naturally in the earth. Talcum Powder originated from this type of rock and can be contaminated with asbestos if it has been mined near areas where there’s also Asbestos fibers present. This primarily happens during their production process when they’re still deep underground.
Talc based baby powder should be avoided and not be used.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is an extremely dangerous mineral that has been linked to numerous cancers.
Asbestos is the name of a specific type of mineral that forms long, flexible fibers. It can be woven like fabric to make cloth or rope. Because asbestos is heat-resistant and very strong, it’s also used as an insulator for hot surfaces like ovens or even space shuttles (ever see an outer space photo with the bright streaks that look like ribbons? Those are heat shields made of asbestos).
However, evidence has shown that the body can’t tell the difference between asbestos fibers and talcum powder fibers. When they enter the lungs or digestive system, they both cause similar problems by irritating tissue. This is why some studies suggest that talcum powder can cause health problems such as respiratory issues or ovarian cancer.
How Can Talc Cause Ovarian Cancer?
There are two ways that this may be possible:
- 1) Talc itself contains asbestos and
- 2) Talc particles enter the body and cause irritation to tissue, which sometimes results in cancer.
Talcum powder is listed as a risk factor for ovarian cancer, the deadliest malignancy of the female reproductive system, by the American Cancer Society. Johnson baby powder execuritives publically deny its powder causes cancer however court documents unsealed in 2017 show that they knew as early as the 1970’s that the asbestos was a danger.
Talc powder should not be used on a baby’s sensitive skin or indeed anywhere near the baby! If it goes into the baby’s face it may cause breathing problems not only due to the risk of asbestos exposure but also risk factors including that our lungs can treat talc powder like asbestos, even if they are asbestos-free.
Is Baby Powder Safe?
This depends on what it is made from, hence why it is vital for you to check all the ingredients. I would not consider anything which contained talc safe, as you just don’t know if it has been contaminated or the long term effects of talc on the lungs.
Also, you need to check what synthetic ingredients might also be in baby powder. Common ingredients include parabens, fragrances, and anti-bacterial chemicals and these are all known skin irritants. Your baby has very sensitive skin.
Natural organic baby powder is usually made from cornstarch. Cornstarch is a great alternative because it keeps the baby’s bottom dry which reduces diaper rash and protects against irritation. Just gently pat it on to keep babies skin dry.
What Other Ingredients Does Baby Powder Contain?
Most baby powders contain talc and fragrances to mask the smell of the talcum powder. Common allergies like dyes and perfumes can be very irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin. Mass-produced baby powder often contains these kinds of irritants.
What Are The Best Alternatives?
Organic baby powder usually contains zinc oxide, a natural mineral that acts as a skin protectant, absorbs moisture and has antibacterial properties. It is even safe to use on diaper rash and baby powder safe in the diaper area.
Another great option for personal hygiene purposes is talc-free, cornstarch baby powder. Cornstarch is a natural powder that does not contain any chemicals or toxins and it will help keep the skin dry and irritation-free.
Is it OK to use baby powder on diaper rash?
No, diaper rash is a form of dermatitis and a natural way to treat it is by letting your baby’s bottom breathe. The best thing you can do for a red bum is allowed them to go without a diaper or nappy when possible, use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones, and use natural wipes with coconut oil and natural diaper cream.
Natural Baby Powder Recipe
This recipe is free from talc, fragrance and other irritants that could harm your baby. It is made using ingredients found in most kitchens, which makes it even better
- 2 cups cornstarch (Sucanat or Rapadura is best)
- 2 tablespoons organic calendula flowers (for antibacterial properties)
- 2 tablespoons organic arrowroot powder (for anti-inflammatory properties)
Directions: Combine cornstarch with calendula petals and stir well. Add arrowroot powder, chamomile oil and lavender oil to the mixture. Store in an airtight container.
Use on baby’s bottom or even as a facial powder. It is gentle enough for babies and effective for adults too. Any irritation of the skin, whether it be diaper rash, redness after shaving or just generally irritated skin, will benefit from this recipe. With no chemicals or irritants, you can rest easy that the baby will not have a reaction to this natural baby powder.
Does baby powder make diaper rash worse?
This depends on the type of diaper rash you have.
Baby powder works wonders with a friction diaper rash. This type of rash is caused by the constant rubbing against your baby’s skin. Cornstarch powder can help reduce this irritation, which will allow healing to occur.
If your baby has a yeast infection diaper rash then applying anything containing talc or fragrance can aggravate it further. The barrier on their skin is already disrupted so adding another layer of potentially irritating ingredients will not help the situation at all.
Does Baby Powder Help With Diaper Rash?
The answer to this question is a little complicated. It depends on the type of diaper rash that you have.
If you have a friction diaper rash, then baby powder can be helpful in reducing irritation and allow healing to occur.
If you have a yeast diaper rash, then using anything containing talc or fragrance can aggravate it further.
Can You Use Baby Powder with Cloth Diapers?
Yes using a natural organic baby powder that does not include talc is safe to use with cloth diapers and on an infant’s skin. No matter whether you are using a disposable diaper or a cloth diaper, at diaper change time to prevent diaper rash have diaper changes frequently, keep baby clean and dry and always give them plenty of diaper-free time.