Talcum Powder for Babies: What You Should Know

Talcum powder for babies is often used in hygiene routines. However, is it safe to use with little ones? Here's what you need to know.
Talcum Powder for Babies: What You Should Know

Last update: 07 February, 2022

Baby powder has always been part of the diaper changing routine. However, it’s not the best option to keep a baby’s delicate skin healthy.

There are multiple alternatives to replace its use and prevent the complications associated with this type of product. In the following article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.

What is talcum powder for babies?

Baby powder is a type of cosmetic or hygienic powder made from a clay mineral, cornstarch, and arrowroot. It’s generally used to treat or prevent diaper rash that develops on the buttocks and genitals of young babies.

In addition to the above-mentioned components, talcum powder also contains oxygen, silicon, and magnesium, a combination that serves to very effectively absorb moisture in this area. Thus, it’s possible to keep the skin in the diaper area dry and contribute to the prevention of rashes.

Adults can also use talcum powder to relieve friction or skin lesions and reduce certain odors.

Various uses of talcum powder for babies

Talc is also used to make various cosmetic products, such as face powders, eye shadows, blushes, or compact foundations. This compound appears in the list of product ingredients under the name of talcum, magnesium silicate, or cosmetic talc. In general, its function is to absorb moisture and give the skin a silky feel.

In addition, talc can be part of the processing of supplements, foods (such as polished rice and chewing gums), and some pharmaceuticals. Previously, it could also be found in condoms and surgical gloves to prevent friction, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that it no longer be used.

Reasons to discourage the use of baby powder

In general, baby powder is safe to use on infants. However, whenever applying a product to newborn skin, it’s important to be vigilant and careful. Despite being hypoallergenic, this or any hygiene product can trigger an adverse reaction.

In pediatrics, another risk of using talcum powder in the genital area of girls is the predisposition to the development of vulvovaginitis.

There are several legal claims made by some adult women who linked the use of baby powder in the genital area and the development of ovarian cancer. However, the evidence supporting this association is insufficient and this is shown by some studies published in 2018 in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (ECP).

The more talcum powder for babies is used, the greater the link to ovarian cancer, but this isn’t the only cause of the disease. Other known risk factors for this tumor are as follows:

  • Advanced age
  • Prolonged use of hormonal therapy
  • Family history of gynecologic cancer
  • Hereditary genetic mutations (BRCA 1 and BRCA2)

Lung involvement and mesotheliomas

The contamination caused by the asbestos contained in these products is one of the great concerns of recent times. It’s one of the causative factors of mesotheliomas, a very aggressive form of cancer.

In 2018, the company Johnson & Johnson was accused of selling baby powder talcum powder contaminated with this carcinogen. However, the company has been responsible for demonstrating in repeated tests that its cosmetics don’t contain asbestos.

The use of talcum powder in babies

The inhalation of talcum powder for babies can cause respiratory problems if its particles enter the lungs.

Although there’s no precise medical guideline about its use, we bring you some useful recommendations:

  • Avoid getting talcum powder in the baby’s eyes.
  • Keep the product out of reach of children.
  • Don’t put talcum powder directly on the genitals, but rather around them and on the legs.
  • Make sure that the powder doesn’t come into contact with the baby’s face.
  • Don’t shake the talcum powder on the baby or shake your hands near their face.

You should know that if the baby accidentally inhales the dust, this does not mean that they’ll develop cancer in the future, but they could develop some respiratory conditions. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of this product at home to prevent talcum powder pneumoconiosis.

Alternatives to the use of talcum powder for babies

Pediatricians recommend changing diapers regularly to avoid rashes or dermatitis. In addition, instead of powder, they suggest using moisturizing creams or ointments.

There are several products that can perform the same function without causing a health risk:

  • Zinc-based creams
  • Oatmeal
  • Cornstarch powder
  • Corn starch
  • Starch

In turn, protective creams with zinc oxide insulate the skin from contact with feces and moisture in the diaper, which helps prevent irritation and injury to this tissue.

Final considerations on the use of talcum powder for infants

While talc is used to prevent moisture in the diaper area, it’s not a recommended product for use on infants. On the one hand, it tends to over-dry the skin, and on the other hand, it can be accidentally inhaled and cause lung problems.

Therefore, it’s preferable to opt for some alternative to replace talcum powder in your child’s hygiene routine. In fact, there are many products that are hypoallergenic and safe to preserve the baby’s delicate skin.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.