Are you a talcum powder user? I stopped using talcum powder and products containing talc several years ago. You should stop using talc to protect your health and replace it with an easy, all-natural substitute.
What is talcum powder?
Talc or talcum powder is a compound made from magnesium silicate (the softest known mineral) and artificial fragrance. It is often used on infants and toddlers to prevent rashes and diaper irritation. Some women also use talcum powder on their bikini or perennial area. Talc is often the main ingredient in other medicated powders and designer perfumed body powders.
Why you should stop using talc
Increased cancer risk (Is that concise enough?)
According to the American Cancer Society, “it is not clear if consumer products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk.” They suggest that, “until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it.”
Here’s why I stopped using talc:
- A 2008 study from Harvard University epidemiologist Margaret Gates suggested women who use talcum powder once a week increase their risk of contracting ovarian cancer by 36 percent. For daily users, the risk jumped by 41 percent. Read the whole study in this PDF from the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention journal.
- In 2013 a federal jury found that a use of products that contained talcum contributed to a 56-year-old woman’s ovarian cancer. The jury said that the manufacturer should warn consumers of the link between ovarian cancer and the use of talc-based body powder for feminine hygiene.
- At the trial the manufacturer argued that talc is safe, because research showing a link between talc and cancer “never has been strong enough to warrant a warning.”
Call me overly cautious, but even if the cancer-talc relationship has not been definitively proven I still think twice about applying it to my children or myself. I want products marketed for use on the diaper area of a baby and the bikini (perianal) area to be 100% safe!
More chemical yucky-ness!
In addition to a possible cancer link, many commercially manufactured talcum/baby powders contain artificial fragrance. According to the Environmental Working Group Cosmetics Database, “The word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on a product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals. These chemical fragrances have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, and/or respiratory distress and have potential effects on the reproductive system.”
Natural substitutions for talc
Corn starch and arrowroot powder are both safe and effective substitutions for talcum powder.
- Corn Starch is a starch derived from corn. It is a fine white powder that is made by grinding, washing and drying part of the corn kernel (endosperm) until it reaches a fine, powdery state. Cornstarch is often used a thickener when cooking. It costs about $1.50 for 16 ounces (around $4.00 for organic versions).
- Arrowroot Powder is a fine white powder that feels and acts just like corn starch. It is derived from a tropical plant and has long been used in South America and the Marshall Islands as a food source. It has recently gained popularity in the US for use in gluten-free cooking and it is non-GMO. It costs about $4.00 for 16 ounces.
You can buy commercial baby powders that are made from corn starch or other powders, however these tend to be more expensive than making your own and many still contain artificial fragrance.
I simply buy a box of corn starch or arrowroot powder and use it in place talcum powder. I refill a glass shaker from the dollar store or an old spice bottle with food grade corn starch. For a scented version add 1-2 drops of essential oil per cup of starch then stir well to combine.
Uses for corn starch and arrowroot powder
You can use corn starch or arrowroot powder any place you uses baby powder. Here’s a few ways I use it:
- For natural body care.
- To deodorize feet and shoes.
- In my baby diapering routine.
- To keep swim caps from sticking together. (My kiddos are swimmers, find out how I naturally protect swimmers from chlorine.)
- As a carpet and vacuum deodorizer. (You can get my Natural Carpet Deodorizer and Room Freshener recipe here.)
- Please note: This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for medical care or to prescribe treatment for any specific health condition.
- If you use essential oil to scent your cornstarch or arrowroot powder be cautious about using it near the eyes and/or genitals. Some essential oils can be “hot” or cause sensitivity in tender areas.
- Before using any essential oil you should patch test it to make sure that you do not have an adverse reaction.
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I’ve read that talc and asbestos are found in the same mineral deposits, and each might contain particles of the other.
Good post and especially good for “newbies” who’ve never heard about talc. Been using cornstarch for years….probably long before you were born. (Ugh…not gonna say how old I am but I might be almost as old as dirt! Hahah!)
Great site, thanks for sharing. I am trying out tea tree oil on my feet, and look forward to using the muffin recipes. Your spellchecker has let you down though – “perennial area” should be “perianal area”.
Thanks for the compliment and spelling error catch, Francine. I won’t be using talc on the flower beds either! 😉
I had read yet another study that came out showing a link between cancer and talc. I was looking for a replacement. Thank you for posting safe alternatives. I have teenage daughters that hate when I stop buying their personal care items. Thank you too for the other personal care recipes. We’re using them!
Thank Jamie! I am glad you like the recipes and the replacements.
Incredibly insightful. I use talc regularly. I am going to switch to corn starch. Thank you for writing this!
Thanks Nicole! I’m so glad the post was helpful!
I’ve never heard this before. Good to know. Thank you for sharing.
thank you for sharing this. I was told by my fertility doctor that they believe talc/baby powder is also linked to endometriosis. Who is why we have such an epidemic amount women my age!!!
Thank you for sharing this information about endometriosis, Courtney. I had no idea!