A baby’s soft skin. The smell of lilies in the field. Talcum powder. Things you usually associate with freshness. Except, did you know, that one of those three things might actually be harmful to you instead of good?
Since the first two are simply undeniably amazing things in this world, we’re talking about talcum powder here. Starting from about five years ago, a popular baby powder manufacturing company started coming under fire in thousands of lawsuits where women allegedly developed ovarian cancer after using their talc-based powder as a part of their daily feminine hygiene routine.
Since then, studies have also reported a link, albeit not a significant one, between women using talc and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
But hold up, you might say, just what is talc? Is the problem with talc or talcum powder?
Talc is actually a mineral found in nature. Talc rocks are crushed and milled to create a fine powder which has great benefits such as absorbing excess moisture and smoothening out friction. Naturally, us humans have found ways to harness these benefits by adding talc to their cosmetic and personal care products – including talcum powder or baby powder. (Fun fact, talc actually first came onto the market in 1894 to make medicated bandages less irritating on skin!)
While many governing and research bodies haven’t been able to come to a solid conclusion of whether or not using talc will lead to ovarian cancer, the idea is that because talc powder is made up of such finely-ground particles, when applied to a woman’s genital area, it can easily travel up the mucus membranes to one’s uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, causing inflammation that could possibly eventually lead to cancer.
For this reason, it has always been recommended that parents use baby powder only on a baby’s bum and away from their face as talc can easily be inhaled, leading to irritation, sinus problems, inflammation and even chronic lung conditions.
So while this will remain a hot topic for some time with no sure conclusion, the question marks surrounding talc – and the fact they don’t surround its alternative, cornstarch – might be real enough to set off a cautious exclamation mark in our minds. When it comes to the best vaginal health, the best and safest way is still to remain talc-free.