Baby Powder is one of those quintessential baby supplies, so it didn’t surprise me when I was gifted seven bottles at my baby shower. What did throw me for a loop, though, was when our NICU nurse instructed me not to use it on my baby.
I was new to natural living ideas and had no idea that harmful, or even unfavorable, ingredients might be lurking in baby products at all. But when I found out that talc particles inhaled through the air could cause potential damage to my teeny babe’s lungs, I realized that knowing what was in these products was pretty important.
Though there seems to be some debate over whether modern talc is safe in and of itself, reports like this one describe dangers to the bladder and kidneys, nervous system, lungs, and far more when it is inhaled. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises against the use of baby powder, and they even show a link to Infant Phthalate Exposure here. Not to mention all of the synthetic fragrances involved in my seven bottles of “original” baby powder, which were derived from petro-chemicals (yuck), and are known to cause skin irritation and allergies, among other things.
Is Baby Powder Even Necessary?
My first reaction when I started discovering some of the hazards was to just ditch baby powder altogether. And though I would certainly argue that one could live without it, there were two things that took place which caused me to want to use it again:
- My baby started sleeping through the night. Instead of changing her cloth diapers every 2-ish hours as I had been doing in the early days, Clementine’s 8–12 hours night’s sleep left her in the same get-up all night long. And because we used cloth diapers made with organic cotton, the moisture wasn’t whisked away from her skin as much as it might have been with synthetic fibers or SAP-filled disposables. Using a safe powder before putting her down for the night seemed like a good solution to help keep her skin drier. (P.S…. curious about more natural diapering methods? Read about our favorite cloth diapers, and a list of the greenest disposables available.)
- She got a killer diaper rash. This was actually due to the method I was using to launder our cloth diapers, and we found the solution and haven’t been bothered with rashes ever since, but it was during that time that I realized the importance of using powder to help keep her irritated skin as dry as possible.
So, I decided to make my own Baby Powder.
Why I don’t use Arrowroot Powder or Cornstarch
Most of the natural recipes I have found online either use cornstarch or arrowroot powder as the prime ingredient, often mixed with a drop or two of essential oils. Though these do work to help keep the skin dry, I wanted something that offered more benefits than that. I wanted a blend that would nourish, and maybe even heal, the skin too.
Not to mention the starches in both arrowroot and cornstarch can actually feed the yeast in a diaper yeast rash. And cornstarch is often full of GMO’s, and comes from a grain so our low/no grain family wouldn’t normally stock it.
I wanted my Homemade Baby Powder to be:
- All natural/organic
- Absorbent (obviously)
- Cloth diaper friendly
- Nourishing to the skin
- Inexpensive (i.e. to use supplies I had on hand)
- Easy to make
It hit me that one of the most commonly used items in my DIY beauty pantry would fit that bill perfectly: bentonite clay. I primarily use this clay for making toothpaste, face masks, and washing my hair, but I knew that it also had a lot to offer my baby’s skin.
Option 1: Bentonite Clay on its own
Sodium bentonite clay adsorbs toxins and impurities while leaving behind soothing minerals and nourishment for the skin. It is known to be softening/moisturizing, and to help heal skin irritations. I began using it on its own with great results.
Option 2: Bentonite Clay + Baby-Safe Essential Oils
Then I figured, why not add a few drops of nourishing essential oils? They make everything better, right? So I started mixing a drop or two of lavender oil per 1/2 cup of clay for its soothing and cleansing benefits. Plus, it smelled great! (Tip: need some help finding essential oils that are safe for baby’s skin? I have a free printable chart here.)
Option 3: Ramp it up and make my nourishing recipe!
By now I was already “mixing” and bottling my own baby powder, so I figured that I might as well step it up even more. I added a bit of kaolin clay (white cosmetic clay) which helps with smooth application and spread over the skin, and also is known for being very absorbent and soothing to skin sensitivities and irritations. I also began blending dried herbs into the mix.
Calendula is a favorite natural remedy ingredient of mine, and I have read that American physicians even used it to treat cuts, scrapes, bruises, and burns, as well as minor infections of the skin as little as 70 years ago. It is also said to possess cleansing properties that help to care for minor wounds. Plantain leaf is also a natural remedy go-to for soothing skin irritations, rashes, and sensitivities.
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Homemade Herbal Baby Powder
- 1 tsp Plantain Leaf (dried)
- 1/2 cup Bentonite Clay
- 2–3 tbsp Kaolin Clay
- 2–3 dried Calendula Flowers (or 1–1.5 tsp of petals)
- OPTIONAL: 2 drops of Lavender essential oil (And not a drop more! Trust me, this is plenty.)
Grind the dried herbs together in a coffee grinder, or along with the kaolin clay in a food processor. (I have found that the herbs on their own are not enough substance to grind well in my processor, and the kaolin helps move things along.) Be sure not to add any bentonite clay during this step as it should not come into contact with metal (i.e. the grinder blade), and too much clay in this stage will make a powdery hot mess!
If using a processor, your blend will probably look something like this. Use a flour sifter to remove any leftover pieces.
In a non-metal bowl, using a non-metal spoon, combine ground herbs with both of the clay powders. Stir until well combined. Add essential oils, if using, and stir again.
Transfer to a tightly-sealable, non-metal container and store in a cool, dry place. The product itself should be shelf-stable unless moisture or dirty fingers make their way in.
Sprinkle a small amount of powder onto your baby’s skin, gently patting it in to ensure light coverage over all of the diaper area. Our shaker has teeny, tiny holes that prevent powder from creating a cloudy mess, but unless you can find a similar one, I suggest pouring a small amount of the powder first into your hands and then sprinkling with fingers onto your babe to avoid any potential inhalation.
Our family only uses this powder at night time and when skin irritation or rash appears. All ingredients are safe and nourishing for the skin, though, so a light sprinkling could be used as often as each diaper change, if desired.
Have Extra Bentonite Clay Leftover?
I’ve got you covered. Grab this free printable of mine listing several beauty uses (and corresponding recipes) for bentonite clay. P.S.: Accessing this file will also give you the child-safe essential oils chart that I mentioned above.