If you have problems with excessive sweating, you'll probably try a variety of products to stop it or at least cover up the odor. While using stronger antiperspirant/ deodorant can help, typically, it's designed just for underarm sweating, and it can also irritate sensitive skin. So what do you do if you sweat a lot in other places on your body, or just want a more natural way to reduce your sweating? Baby powder is one option.
Traditional baby powder is talcum powder mixed with a fragrance additive. Talcum powder is the finely milled version of talc, a very soft mineral made of magnesium silicate. It's an astringent, which means that it causes body tissues to constrict and creates a dry surface. Talcum powder is also very absorbent, reduces friction and acts as a skin protectant. Parents have used baby powder for years to help reduce diaper rash, and those same properties can help adults with sweating problems. Baby powder can absorb sweat and keep down sweat production in areas where there's skin-on-skin contact, like the underarms or thighs. The fragrance can also mask body odor.
Many baby powders are made with cornstarch instead of talc. Talcum powder is so fine that it can be easily inhaled, and it has been linked to breathing problems and even death in babies. Cornstarch has larger grains and poses no health risks. There have also been preliminary studies showing that talcum powder use may be linked to a higher risk of some types of cancer, although there isn't yet enough information to make a definitive connection. That's why you'll see talc-free, cornstarch-based baby powders on the market. They work just as well as talc-based powders. If you don't care about the fragrance, you can buy straight cornstarch in the baking aisle of your local grocery store. And if you also have irritated skin, you might consider using medicated powders that contain ingredients like menthol and zinc oxide, which cool and protect the skin.
No matter what kind of powder you use, it's important to note that none of them can actually stop sweating as well as an antiperspirant does. Powdering can also get messy and leave white streaks on your clothes. If you sweat a lot, you might end up with unsightly clumps of powder. Make sure that you're completely dry before powdering, and be cautious when using cornstarch in the groin area -- it can cause yeast infections. While baby powder isn't really a substitute for antiperspirant, it can definitely help in the fight against sweat.
- American Cancer Society. "Talcum Powder and Cancer." Cancer.org. 2010. (Aug. 10, 2010)http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/talcum-powder-and-cancer
- Mineral Information Institute. "Talc and Pyrophyllite." 2010. (Aug. 10, 2010)http://www.mii.org/Minerals/phototalc.html
- Steele, Robert. "Is talcum powder safe for babies?" iVillage Pregnancy and Parenting. Jan. 1, 1999. (Aug. 11, 2010)http://www.ivillage.com/talcum-powder-safe-babies/6-n-136821
- Summer, Nancy. "Don't Sweat It: Tips for Surviving Summer." Radiance Magazine. Summer 1999. (Aug. 12, 2010)http://www.radiancemagazine.com/issues/1999/summer_99/summer_99_surviving_summer.htm