Caring for a newborn is one of life's ultimate challenges. There are the hurdles we all know (but parents never complain about, right?) — the sleepless nights, learning your baby's needs without the helpful use of language. Another is the challenge of finding really high-quality products to treat your baby's tender skin.
If you can't find products that you love, why not make them? Making your own skincare products is often surprisingly easy and cost-effective, thanks to common kitchen ingredients, and it lets you know exactly what you're putting onto your baby's skin. Baby powder is a great place to start. Here's how.
Why I Make My Own Baby Powder
Why make your own? Isn't baby powder cheap and easy to find? Well, besides the ability it gives you to gently scent or customize the powder to your liking (or as a gift for a new mama), it also lets you avoid anything that you find irritates your baby. A newborn has incredibly sensitive skin, and some mothers prefer to avoid common ingredients that make their way into commercially made apothecary goods.
Why Some People Avoid Talc
Take, for example, talc. A primary ingredient in most commercial baby powders, talcum powder comes from industrially mined minerals, and it has been used for decades to absorb moisture and help soften the skin. The argument against talc is that trace amounts of asbestos have been found in the mineral, leading to beliefs that it may cause cancer. This obviously would make it a dangerous ingredient for the skin, and even more dangerous to lungs as the tiny particles are easily inhaled. In February, a Missouri court required Johnson & Johnson to pay 72 million dollars in damages to a woman whose ovarian cancer was linked to use of their talcum powder.
- Read more about the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder case: Johnson & Johnson Has a Baby Powder Problem
Technically, baby powder and other consumer cosmetic products are required to be made with high-grade talc that is free of even the tiniest amount of asbestos, but some mothers understandably prefer to simply avoid talc altogether.
What's In Herbal Baby Powder?
This recipe for homemade herbal baby powder eschews talc and corn-based ingredients like cornstarch, which can sometimes cause skin irritation. Instead, I opt for arrowroot powder as the primary ingredient. This superfine powder quickly absorbs moisture leaving baby's skin dry and free from irritation.
Arrowroot is derived from the rhizome of the South American plant Maranta arundinacea. Some historians say that the name comes from the practice of using arrowroot to draw out the poison in poisoned-arrow wounds, thanks to its moisture absorbing qualities.
French white clay, also known as Montmorillonite clay, also makes an appearance in this recipe. Named after the Montmorillon region in France, this clay is antimicrobial and is claimed to treat contact dermatitis and skin irritations due to its skin soothing properties. (And yes, while it sounds uber-fancy, it is widely available and only costs a few dollars. See our list of sources below!)
I like to add marshmallow root powder for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to heal and prevent diaper rash.
Marshmallow comes from, believe it or not, the marshmallow plant, a member of the Malvaceae family. This perennial plant has downy soft leaves that feel slightly furry to the touch. The roots of this plant were one of the original ingredients in the puffy white confection we know today — before corn syrup got involved, anyway. Think of its inclusion in this recipe as a protective layer for baby's bottom — a Stay Puft diaper, so to speak.
Finally, a few drops of essential oil can lightly scent the herbal powder. Just make sure when selecting your fragrance that you're using only 100-percent natural essential oils and make sure to mix them thoroughly into your powder to avoid any potential irritation. We like orange blossom or lavender for everyday use or the addition of myrrh when bouts of diaper rash appear.
The cheapest and easiest source for most of these herbal ingredients is often your natural health foods store, where you can usually buy these specialty herbal ingredients in bulk. Buy just what you need (not a whole bag) for less.
If you don't have a good natural foods store close by, here are some internet retailers and sources.
- Arrowroot Powder, $8/pound at Amazon
- French Green Clay, starting at $2.50 at Etsy
- Marshmallow Root Powder, $6.50/4 ounces at Mountain Rose Herbs
- Lavender Essential Oil, $5.50 at Mountain Rose Herbs
How To Make Herbal Baby Powder
Makes 1 1/2 cups baby powder
1 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 cup French Montmorillonite clay
2 tablespoons marshmallow root powder
3 to 5 drops essential oil, such as lavender, myrrh, or orange blossom
Airtight shaker, such as a large salt shaker
- Combine the powders: Combine the arrowroot powder, French Montmorillonite clay and marshmallow root powder in bowl and whisk together until the powders are a uniform color.
- Optional - Add the essential oils: While continuing to whisk, add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil and continue to whisk until blended.
- Let the powder sit overnight: Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the powder sit overnight so that the moisture in the essential oil can evaporate. If opting not to use essential oil, skip this step and go straight to step 4.
- Store in an airtight container: Whisk the mixture once more to make sure the essential oil is evenly dispersed and then transfer to an airtight shaker. A clean, unused salt shaker works well, as does a cute canister and puff combo.
To use: Sprinkle liberally on baby's bottom to keep him or her comfortable, dry and sweet smelling. Store the mixture away from moisture. If properly stored, the herbal baby powder will last up to six months.
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