Using Baby Powder for Diaper Rash?

  • By: Sandra
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

That age old staple of talcum powder has been on the diaper changing table for years. But recently its the cause of much controversy, resulting in talcum powder being banned for use in the EU.

We dive deep into this and see if any baby powder can be used for diaper rash? Whats wrong with talcum powder and what you can now use!

This is part of our series on natural home treatments for diaper rash.

What is the issue with Talcum Powder?

Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up primarily of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes. It is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body and facial powders, as well as in a number of other consumer products.

Talcum powder was an ingredient in the popular “Johnson’s Baby Powder,” which claimed to be “99.9% pure” talc in its advertising. However, medical studies in the 1970s showed that having long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which are found naturally in talc, can lead to health problems such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. In the early 1980s, Johnson & Johnson developed a process to strip its products of asbestos and continued to advertise the purity and safety of their baby powder.

however, more than 12,000 people who had used Johnson’s Baby Powder were diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the pleura, between 1983 and 2003. They blamed talc as the culprit.

What is baby powder made of?

There are two types of baby powder and it’s vital to understand the difference. Baby powder made from natural ingredients like cornstarch and baby powder made from talc.

Many different chemicals go into the making of baby powder, but the main ingredients are talc and fragrance. The active ingredient in talcum powder is a substance called “talc,” which is a naturally occurring mineral made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Asbestos is a type of mineral. It occurs naturally near talc mineral reserves. It has been linked directly to cancer.

There have been concerns about its safety since 1971 when a study found an association between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. Since then, other studies have been published that support those findings.

So make sure you check the label, to ensure the baby powder doesn’t contain any talc at all. Numerous talc-free powders are made with cornstarch, another naturally absorbent ingredient, instead of talc.

Is baby powder safe?

Talc is the main ingredient in baby powder, but it can also be used in personal care products such as deodorant, body lotions and shampoos.

The IARC classified talc-based powder use on the genitals and buttocks as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” But it also classified talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans. The European Union has banned talc in health and beauty products due to health and safety concerns.

So, don’t use any powder which contains talc but any natural baby which contains corn starch and other natural ingredients should be fine to use.  Whilst Johnson baby powder now claim to be asbestos free, its best to avoid any talc because of the risk of asbestos exposure. Cornstarch powder is much safer for diaper changes.

How can baby powder be used safely?

Inhaling baby powder can cause respiratory problems if it enters the lungs, especially in babies. However, cornstarch is much larger particles so much harder to be inhaled by babies.

Use baby powder gently and avoid getting it in your baby’s eyes. Keep it away from your face and your child’s face. Don’t shake baby powder directly onto your baby. Use baby powder on a cloth and then pat the powder gently onto your baby’s skin.

Alternatives to talc-based baby powder include:

  • cornstarch powder (read our article on cornstarch powder and diaper rash)
  • arrowroot 
  • colloidal oatmeal (amazing for delicate skin – read our guide to oatmeal baths for diaper rash)
  • Baking soda  (read our article on baking powder and diaper rash)
  • Zinc oxide (great for diaper rash on its own or in a diaper rash cream)

Using Baby Powder for Treating Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is caused by skin being in contact with wet skin for too long. Baby powder can act to reduce moisture, so it may help relieve diaper rash when used sparingly.

If you want to use baby powder to treat diaper rash then just dab a bit on cotton wool and dab sparingly when changing baby’s diaper. Baby powder works by avoiding friction and chafing and if your baby’s diaper rash is caused by this, then using a non-talc based baby powder can really help to treat diaper rash and prevent diaper rash from friction.

Can I use Baby Powder Along with Diaper Rash Cream?

Absolutely, in fact, they are best used in conjunction with each other. When changing your diapers (disposable or cloth diapers), thoroughly clean the diaper area. Apply a natural diaper cream then dab on safe baby powder (non-talc based). Always ensure you let the area thoroughly dry before putting on a fresh diaper.

Is Baby Powder Good with Irritant Diaper Dermatitis

Yes! Irritant diaper dermatitis is caused when a skin irritant is reactive with a baby’s sensitive skin. A baby powder will create a barrier and allow the skin to heal itself.

Though, the first action would be to see what is causing the irritation. This can be baby wipes or even disposable diapers. Too much detergent residue on your cloth diapers or perhaps just parfum in the baby toiletries. If your baby is suffering from irritation it may be worth switching to fragrance-free wipes (scented wipes are a major cause of diaper rash) or perhaps even changing diaper brands. Or monitor how you wash cloth diapers and see if your detergent brand needs changing.

Diaper rashes can be caused whether you use a disposable diaper or are cloth diapering. You can use baby powder with any type of powder, just make sure it’s not talc powder! Just gently pat the non-talc powder onto the infant’s skin if they have irritated skin and keep away from the baby’s face. Make sure you do a diaper change more frequently if your baby has irritated skin and allow plenty of diaper-free time.

Can Non Talc Powder Be Used with A Yeast Infection

Yes. Whilst there were suggestions that a natural baby powder like corn starch powder might ‘feed a yeast infection’, recent studies have proved this not to be the case. Peer-reviewed studies suggest that actually because it helps alleviate friction, it can heal yeast infections. Just remember to keep the powder away from your baby’s face and genital areas.

You can use a natural cornstarch based powder if you’re breastfeeding, but if you need to use a yeast infection cream on your nipples then please read our article on thrush versus yeast infection. You may find that it’s not a yeast infection at all but an allergy to your baby’s wipes that is causing the sore nipples.

The Bottom Line on Using Natural Baby Powder for Diaper Rashes

Though you can use baby powder to treat diaper rash, it’s best used in conjunction with a diaper rash cream. If your baby’s diaper rash is caused by skin irritation, then using a non-talc based baby powder can help to soothe and protect the irritated skin.

Additionally, if your baby has a yeast infection, using a natural cornstarch-based baby powder can help to heal the infection. Always make sure that you keep the powder away from your baby’s face in case of accidental inhalation which may cause breathing problems.