Baby Powder Vs Cornstarch [Differences, Safety, And Tips!]


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Changing your baby’s diaper is a mundane task that is occasionally speckled with the unpleasant surprise of finding a diaper rash.  As a new parent, you may feel conflicted about which products are best to use in order to treat and prevent recurrent diaper rashes. Further, there is a lot of conflicting information about the use of traditional baby powder as it relates to a baby’s long-term health.

Baby powder is traditionally made from talcum powder, but the term includes all powders that are used to treat a baby’s diaper rash. Cornstarch, a common food ingredient, is often used as a substitute for talcum powder because it is safer and natural while still effectively treating diaper rash.

The answer to whether or not you should choose corn starch or baby powder, or use a combination of both on your child is not a simple one. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of each type of diaper area treatment. You will need to read on in order to gain a full understanding of which option is best for your baby.

Cornstarch baby powder vs regular baby powder

I vividly remember one weekend when all three of my young children caught a terrible stomach virus. In turn, my daughter developed an awful diaper rash and she would scream and scream in pain. None of the creams or powders I was using were helping. So, I finally broke down and sprinkled some pure cornstarch directly on the rash. She instantly began to feel better. After this incident, I became extremely interested in looking into baby powders that are made of corn starch and why they may be effective in some cases over traditional baby powder formulas.

Talcum powder is made from talc which is itself made up of the minerals magnesium, oxygen, and silicon. It is a fantastic moisture absorber and can also help reduce friction when skin rubs against itself. Both of these properties work well for reducing the symptoms of diaper rash. Traditional baby powder that you would find in the stores for many decades would include talcum powder as the main active ingredient along with other additives that prevented clumping and other issues. 

Cornstarch, meanwhile, is just the starch extracted from the kernel of the corn plant and has similar absorptive and anti-friction properties to talcum powder. While it is most commonly used in food preparation, it has increasingly found its way into commercial baby powders and diaper rash remedies.

Is regular baby powder safe?

There have been over 6,000 lawsuits brought against the company Johnson & Johnson for selling a baby powder that may have been linked to the development of ovarian cancer in adulthood. According to the American Cancer Society, a baby powder that is made from talc may have a mildly increased chance of causing ovarian cancer in adulthood.

While that statistic is alarming, the biggest controversy actually stems from other additives mixed in baby powders. In years past, baby powder made from talc also contained an amount of Asbestos. Asbestos is a substance that has been directly linked to cause cancer and baby powder is no longer made with this substance in it. So, recent studies are conflicted on whether or not regular baby powder is actually linked to an increased risk in cancer.

For the most part, research shows that there is no definitive link between the use of talc powder and ovarian cancer. Many people continue to use regular baby powder on their babies to reduce the effects of diaper rash, or to prevent diaper rash from occurring.

Still, with cornstarch offering close to the same level of performance, there is really no reason in my mind not to go with the natural approach.

Are any baby powders made of cornstarch?

Yes.

Many companies have started adding or substituting cornstarch into their formulas in recent years. Johnson and Johnson, for example, now make a cornstarch baby powder for parents who are skeptical of using regular baby powder on their children. This baby powder is infused with vitamin E and Aloe Vera to maximize its healing properties and is free of parabens, phthalates, dyes, and harsh fragrances. Since it is from a huge brand, it’s also still very affordable. You can find it right here (along with reviews about its effectiveness).

If you are looking for a brand other than Johnson’s, then I highly recommend this talc-free baby powder from Era Organics. They use a mixture of arrowroot powder, cornstarch, kaolin clay, calendula extract, and rosemary extract to provide a completely non-toxic and 100% natural alternative to talcum-based powders. It is designed to keep skin soft and help remove excess moisture. On top of that, they offer a 60-day guarantee on all of their products if you don’t LOVE it!

How do you make your own baby powder with cornstarch?

If you are more of the DIY type, or you just don’t have time to wait, making your own baby powder with cornstarch is easy and can be done in less than five minutes of your time. This is an added bonus for any busy parent in the modern world.

The recipe:

  • ¼ Cup Cornstarch
  • ¼ Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Drops of Essential Oil for Scent (optional)

Simply place all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed. The essential oils are added for scent, but can also be selected carefully for added benefits. For example, you may choose to add lavender to a nighttime baby powder mixture in order to help your children fall asleep at bedtime.

Mountain Rose Herbs also has a great resource all about making your own baby powder with awesome ingredients available as well!

Most people choose to store their homemade baby powder in a simple mason jar. These are a great, dry place to store powders to keep humidity from getting to the powder and allowing it to clump up.

Is it safe to use cornstarch instead of baby powder?

Cornstarch has been used for a long time as a home remedy for diaper rash. However, many people question the safety of cornstarch over baby powders made with talcum powder. In general, both types of baby powder are equally as problematic when used on young babies and children.

In all cases, special care should be taken not to let the powder spread too much into the air where your child can breathe it in. Simply sprinkle a little in the diaper area and then immediately cover the area with the fresh diaper. The main concern involving cornstarch is that is can cause respiratory issues according to the Academy of American Pediatrics. This is especially true for children who are already battling issues with respiratory distress, or children who are born prematurely. 

Is it safe to put cornstarch on diaper rash?

In general, cornstarch is regarded as safe for use on the common diaper rash. In fact, in my experience, cornstarch is one of the fastest methods for treating regular diaper rash, and can even relieve pain and discomfort caused by diaper rash extremely quickly.

However, in the case that the diaper rash is caused by yeast, then cornstarch is not going to be an effective method for treating the rash. You will usually need to see a doctor to definitively be diagnosed with a yeast infection over a regular run-of-the-mill diaper rash.

When using cornstarch on an infant, be sure to limit it to the cornstarch to the area of the diaper. Cornstarch should be kept away from an infant’s face to avoid respiratory issues that may be associated with inhaling the substance into the lungs. As long as you can keep cornstarch away from the mouth and nose, there are no real issues noted with the use of cornstarch on young children to treat diaper rash.

Does cornstarch cause yeast infections?

Cornstarch powder does not cause yeast infections. However, if you try to use cornstarch powder to treat a yeast infection or a yeast rash, then you will likely make the rash much worse than it was when you first started treating it. In fact, this is the first sign that you may be dealing with a yeast rash rather than a regular diaper rash.

Cornstarch makes yeast infections worse because the yeast will feed on the cornstarch. In my experience, yeast is best treated with the assistance of a doctor or pediatrician. Pediatricians can call in powders and creams that can quickly and effectively treat the infection without the use of cornstarch or talcum powder.

Other cornstarch baby powder uses

Cornstarch baby powder has a ton of less common uses that can make your life a lot easier and help you save money in some cases! Some of these are practical for mammas even though they do not directly relate to your children.

  • Have an issue with sand-covered children after visiting the beach or the sandbox? Using baby powder can dry excess moisture up causing the sand to fall right off of your children.
  • If you live in an extremely humid climate, then you may consider sprinkling cornstarch baby powder between your sheets to remove moisture before going to bed.
  • Do you have a pet? Cornstarch baby powder can be used as a type of dry shampoo for your pet when you do not have time for a regular bath. Sprinkle some cornstarch powder into your pet’s hair to absorb dirt and oil and then give them a good brushing. They will look like they have just had a fresh bath!
  • Similarly, cornstarch baby powder can be sprinkled onto a child or adult scalp to act as a type of dry shampoo when there is no time to wash and dry hair.
  • Have you ever thought you may have to throw your children’s clothes into the donate pile because they got a large grease stain on them? Before throwing them out, try vigorously rubbing some cornstarch baby powder onto the grease spot. Often, you can remove a grease spot by using this practice followed by a good washing in the washing machine. This can save parents a tremendous amount of money.
  • If your children to have smelly shoes, you can sprinkle a little of their cornstarch baby powder into the shoe to remove the sweat odor. Further, giving their shoe a sprinkle before putting the shoe on can reduce the likelihood that the feet will sweat causing the smell to return.

Cornstarch baby powder has an abundance of uses that exceed beyond simply treating a diaper rash. If you decide to purchase a bottle of cornstarch baby powder, you can use it in a variety of ways!

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Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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