Baby powder has been used by parents for generations, all around the world. But latest reports and studies force us to ask: Is Baby Powder Safe for Babies?
When you think of babies, one of the first things that comes to mind is that lovely, sweet and fresh ‘baby smell’. This is the immediately recognizable smell of baby powder, something parents all over the world have been using for generations, and something you and I are quite likely to have grown up with. But do we really know what baby powder is made of?
What’s in Baby Powder?
The main ingredient in baby powder is talc, which is why it’s also called talcum powder. Talc is basically a mineral that contains silicon, magnesium and oxygen. Besides talc, some baby powders are also made from cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Some baby powders may contain a mix of all these, along with other fragrance-inducing chemicals.
Why do parents use baby powder?
Talc, which is the main component of baby powder, has the property of absorbing moisture from the surface of the skin. For this reason, baby powder is mainly used to keep the baby fresh and dry, especially in skin folds. Many parents also believe it prevents diaper rash by applying over the baby’s bottom. In India, some parents also apply talcum powder on the face in an attempt to lighten the baby’s complexion.
However, even with these reasons, parents are having second thoughts about using baby powder, thanks to all the news reports and studies coming out. So let’s find out the truth – is baby powder safe for babies?
Is Baby Powder Safe for Babies?
Going by all the scientific studies and ongoing research, there’s only one answer to this question – No. Baby powder is not safe for babies – or anyone else. Here are some of the reasons baby powder can be dangerous.
1. It can cause lung damage in babies
The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly states that using baby powder increases the risk of respiratory trouble. The particles of the talc are very fine and tend to spread through air quickly, getting inhaled by babies and irritating their delicate lungs. While even a small amount of powder can be irritating, constant use can cause serious lung damage in babies.
All babies are at risk of lung damage due to baby powder, but premature babies, babies with CHD or babies with other respiratory conditions are at a much higher risk. Even parents who apply the powder on babies are prone to respiratory trouble due to baby powder. Older children with conditions like asthma are also at risk.
2. It can cause Talc pneumoconiosis
Talc pneumoconiosis is another condition that the AAP warns us about. This happens when a large amount of powder gets inhaled, like when a can of powder tips into a baby’s face by accident. The problem with this is that while babies may not show any respiratory distress immediately after the incident, their condition worsens quickly and can be fatal. Talc pneumoconiosis has resulted in several infant deaths worldwide.
3. It can hurt baby’s eyes
Being so fine, there’s no telling where talcum powder can settle in, and this includes baby’s eyes. Parents tend to apply powder around the neck folds, and this puts the baby’s delicate eyes at risk.
4. It can result in dry skin in babies
Since talc absorbs moisture, baby powder is used to absorb moisture from body parts that tend to stay moist. However, this can backfire as talc absorbs even the natural moisture of baby’s skin, leading to dehydration of baby skin which is supposed to stay soft and supple.
5. It may cause cancer
Cancer has been a growing concern with baby powder, with lots of controversies popping up against popular baby product brands. Talc is found in underground deposits which may contain asbestos – a carcinogen – traces of which have been found in baby powder.
A few studies have found a correlation between ovarian cancer and women who use talcum powder on their genitals. Considering the structure of the female reproductive tract, the chance of talc particles making their way up the tract are more in case of baby girls than boys.
6. It may worsen fungal infections
Talcum powders made with cornstarch are getting popular nowadays, but there’s another problem with them. Cornstarch based powders can worsen infections caused by candida, a fungus.
Safer Alternatives to Baby Powder
Considering the fact that baby powder is usually used to prevent diaper rash, a much more effective and safer option is trying out natural home remedies for diaper rash. Talcum powder or baby powder is not going to change anyone’s skin color, so using it to enhance the complexion is pointless.
In case you still need to use baby powder, it’s better to follow a few tips:
- Choose a baby powder from a reputed brand and read the ingredients list carefully
- NEVER put powder on the baby’s face, and be careful when using it around the neck or armpits
- Always put some powder on your hands, away from the baby, and then gently pat on the baby’s skin
- NEVER shake the powder can directly on your baby
- Clean any residual powder that accumulates in the baby’s skin folds
- Keep the powder well out of reach of your baby and other children
- NEVER use a powder puff as they create clouds of powder in the air
- At every diaper change or bath, wash away any leftover powder
Cornstarch powder may be safer than general talc powder since the particles are larger and don’t travel as far as talc particles, reducing the chance of inhalation. They are also less likely to have traces of carcinogens. If your baby’s face ever gets covered in powder, rush to the hospital immediately.