Is Baby Powder Bad For You?

Baby powder is a hygienic powder used to prevent diaper rash in babies and infants. It's also sometimes used in adult men and women to help soothe friction and rashes and reduce genital odor (via Healthline). Despite its usefulness, however, baby powder has long been the subject of a controversial debate over the product's safety. That's because the main ingredient in baby powder is talc, a type of clay mineral which many studies conducted since the 1970s and 1980s have loosely linked to certain types of cancer.

Over the years, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson over its talc-based baby powder. The suits were primarily filed on behalf of women with ovarian cancer, who alleged that the product was the cause of their cancer. While the company eventually discontinued its sale of talc-based baby powder in North America, there is still no strong or concrete evidence that talc causes ovarian cancer.

Potential risks of talc-based baby powder

According to Dr. Stephanie Wethington, a gynecologic oncologist and assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, there is not enough data connecting talc to ovarian cancer for it to be considered a cancer risk. "At this point in time, especially with the modern product, current testing, and current attention to the issue, I do think it's safe," Dr. Wethington told Parents. "I don't think we have any compelling evidence to indicate that it is unsafe." In fact, a 2020 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found no association between the use of baby powder in the genital region and ovarian cancer. However, Healthline advises against applying baby powder directly to the genitals, and instead suggests patting the powder lightly onto the skin surrounding the genitals.

It is also important to make sure your baby doesn't inhale talc-based baby powder. Inhaling too much powder can be harmful to a child's lungs and may even result in talc pneumoconiosis. For this reason, pediatricians advise against using powders and encourage the use of creams and lotion. If you still want to use a powder, however, you can purchase one made with cornstarch. This is a much safer product than talcum powder because the particles are much larger and less of a threat to your baby's airway.