If we think of a baby’s scent, many of us will think of the smell of baby talcum powder. It has a gentle but distinctive scent, one which most people are unable to describe as anything but baby powder. Traditionally, baby powder was used on babies to keep their bottoms dry to prevent diaper rash. This was especially important before the development of disposable diapers, which lock the moisture away from the skin. As well as being used for babies, many women through the years have also used it to keep themselves feeling dry and fresh through the day, and to prevent chafing.
Talcum powder comes from the crushing, drying and milling of mined talc rocks. The substance is mainly comprised of magnesium, silicon and oxygen, and the particles are extremely small so therefore they can easily be inhaled. For any lungs this is a problem, but for the tiny lungs of a baby, it can be particularly irritating and can cause inflammation. As a result, the American Association of Paediatrics recommends that parents do not use talcum powder on their babies.
Perhaps an even more serious danger, the tiny particles of talcum powder have been linked with an increased risk in cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, for women that have used it for feminine hygiene. The size of the particles means that it can easily enter the body and travel through the reproductive system to the ovaries, causing them to become irritated and inflamed. In early 2016 baby powder producer Johnson & Johnson were ordered to pay $51 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, believed to have been caused by the company’s talcum powder. There are currently over one thousand similar suits outstanding against the company and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has now classified talcum powder as ‘possibly carcinogenic’.
Talc-free powders are made with products such as corn or tapioca starch, arrowroot or rice powder, baking soda, and kaolin or bentonite clay. These all have bigger particles than talcum powder, meaning that they are less likely to be inhaled or absorbed into the body. In addition, these products are all non-carcinogenic and are unlikely to cause any kind of allergic response.
There are a number of safe options available on the market. Here we’ll look at the top five:
Era Organics is a family owned and operated business in California. They use all organic ingredients, and are certified organic by the USDA, as well as cruelty free. For those concerned about trying a new product, they also offer a sixty day money back guarantee on all of their products.
The Era Organics Honeybuns Baby Powder is based from arrowroot and cornstarch with kaolin clay, mixed with essential oils. It contains just six ingredients, and is packaged in a cardboard tube. Although it contains herb extracts, it is unscented, making it suitable for everyone.
The Honest Company
The Honest Company produce a range of products, from personal care, cleaning products, to baby formula and diapers. Their business is certified organic by the USDA and they hold a Gold Award from Green America. For those who have an interest in social responsibility, the Honest Company also makes donations to families in need from every product sold.
The Honest Company Organic Baby Powder is based on cornstarch and arrowroot powder, with kaolin clay. It also contains Lactobacillus Bulgaricus Lysate Extract, which provides antimicrobial support. This helps to boost the skin’s immunity against bacteria that could irritate it and, as it is a probiotic, it provides healthy bacteria. Another ingredient is aloe vera, which is used to soothe irritated skin.
Ora’s Amazing Herbal
Ora’s Amazing Herbal is a family company that produces a range of face and body products. Ora’s Amazing Herbal Body Powder is unusual in that it is gluten free, so it is perfect for those with sensitivity to gluten, or those who are celiac. The unscented version contains just four ingredients: arrowroot, kaolin clay, baking soda and plantain leaf powder. Plantain leaf has been shown to have both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The packaging is biodegradable.
French Girl Organics
French Girl Organics range of cosmetic products are all at least 80 percent organic, with this particular product containing 95 percent certified organic or wildcrafted ingredients. This powder is based on arrowroot, rather than cornstarch, combined with kaolin white clay. It contains no synthetic fragrances or GMO products and is certified vegan safe.
As a product with a luxurious scent, the French Girl Organics Body Powder is more suitable for women than for babies, although it’s still safe to use on babies.
Burt’s Bees make a wide range of all-natural products, which are mainly cosmetics. Burt’s Bees is an extremely environmentally friendly company that produces zero waste and holds the carbon neutral award.
The Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder is made from corn starch, sodium bicarbonate, montmorillonite and bentonite, which are natural clays, and a number of leaf and flower extracts. It has been tested by paediatricians and shown to be suitable for a babies’ delicate skin.
Numerous concerns have been raised about the safety of traditional talcum baby powders, both due to cancer fears and the potential for babies to inhale the fine mineral particles. Luckily, there are a whole range of alternatives on the market that provide the same benefits without the risk.