Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best adult body powders

The use of body powder can be traced back thousands of years to the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures. Combining the mineral talc with various herbs and dried flowers in a powder was a common method for reducing body odor and skin chafing. Later formulations included medicinal ingredients to soothe rashes or other skin conditions. By the 17th century, dusting powders also served as makeup and skin-drying agents.

Modern adult body powders are often used between showers as antiperspirants and protection against chafing. Some medicated body powders address the discomfort of heat rash, yeast infections, and other skin irritations. Because of safety issues concerning the use of talc, many modern adult body powders incorporate a number of safer ingredients. There is also a wide range of fragrances and formulations of adult body powders available these days.

Adult Body Powder
The first commercial talc-based adult body powder was introduced in 1894 by Johnson & Johnson.

How to buy the best adult body powder

Common uses for adult body powder

While keeping the skin and hair properly hydrated is a good hygienic goal, there are times when reducing moisture and oil are just as important. One common use for body powder is the absorption of excess body oils with a light dusting of powder all over the body.

Sweat absorption is also a common use for adult body powders, especially in areas such as the underarms, chest, groin, and feet. A generous dowsing of scented or medicated body powder will reduce the effects of sweat, including wetness and odor.

Medicated adult body powders address skin conditions such as rashes, allergic reactions, and acne. A moderate application directly on the affected areas can reduce itching, redness, and irritation.

Many people also use adult body powder as a form of dry body shampoo, especially between showers or baths. The powder absorbs excessive sweat and dirt, while the fragrance reduces body odor. Body powder can also reduce the effects of friction and chafing created by certain fabrics or types of clothing.

Adult body powder ingredients

For years the terms “talcum powder” and “body powder” were virtually interchangeable. But modern manufacturers of body powders have incorporated other ingredients that are considered safer than traditional talc, a mineral chemically related to asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Common ingredients found in modern body powders include the following:

  • Minerals: Talc is still commonly used in less expensive body powders because of its softness and absorbency. Kaolin clay is another mineral that can be found in a number of mid-range and higher-end adult body powders. Natural salts such as baking soda can also be used in adult body powders.
  • Plant starches: Powders derived from plant starches have become popular alternatives to talc in recent years. Cornstarch is perhaps the most recognized plant starch available, but other plant-based powders such as tapioca flour, arrowroot powder, and rice starch are also used. Because each type of plant starch has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to absorbing moisture, manufacturers often create a proprietary blend using a combination of ingredients.
  • Herbs, flowers, essential oils, and spices: Besides a neutral mineral or starch base, many adult body powders also contain natural or artificial fragrances. Dried herbs and flowers can be blended directly into the dry base, but essential oils and medicinal ingredients may require additional processing.

Is talcum powder safe?

One reason a number of manufacturers now offer alternatives to talc-based adult body powders is the controversy concerning talc as a possible carcinogen. Talcum powder itself has not been permanently banned as an ingredient in body powders, but its association with various lawsuits has definitely affected its popularity with consumers.

Natural deposits of talc may or may not contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. Pure talc is chemically inert, which makes it an ideal ingredient for body powders and other cosmetics. However, talc contaminated with asbestos is now a recognized health hazard, and continued use can lead to a form of cancer. The difficulty for consumers is determining the purity of the talc that’s still being used to formulate body powder.

The current recommendation is to choose a talc-free alternative whenever possible. Be sure to thoroughly research any body powder containing talc before using it on a regular basis. The manufacturer should be able to provide this product safety information.

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Staff Tip 
Adult body powder is meant for the body. To combat shine on the face and set makeup, use a translucent setting powder that is specifically formulated for the face.
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What features do adult body powders have?

Medicated formulas

Some adult body powders, like their baby powder counterparts, are formulated to be neutral or just slightly astringent. However, there are popular brands that contain natural ingredients with medicinal properties, such as menthol or chamomile, or active ingredients that treat topical skin conditions. The concentration level of these medicinal ingredients can vary significantly from brand to brand, so consumers should do some comparison shopping to find the right strength for their skin concern.

Fragrance

While most baby powders incorporate a minimal amount of fragrance, adult body powders often include proprietary blends of herbs, spices, and essential oils. Citrus and floral overtones are common in body powders formulated for women, while body powders for men often include spicy, musky, or woodsy notes. If you have sensitive skin, stick to a fragrance-free body powder to avoid any irritation.

Packaging

Adult body powders come in a range of containers, from metal canisters to plastic bottles to glass tubs. The packaging is designed to protect the product from moisture but still allow it to be dispensed under control. Some containers have special perforated caps that dispense the powder with a shake, while others require a brush, cotton swab, or powder puff to pick up the loose powder. Most containers hold a generous supply of adult body powder to encourage liberal dispensing.

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Did You Know?
Ancient Egyptian and Roman cultures used body powders infused with oil-based perfumes to combat body odor.
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How much do adult body powders cost?

Inexpensive

The least expensive adult body powders generally retail for less than $5 and come in smaller quantities. There are some medicated and talc-free body powders available at this price point, but most offerings are talc-based and unscented.

Mid-range

Most adult body powders for general use fall into the $5 to $15 price range, including most of the well-known brands in cosmetics. Talc alternatives such as cornstarch or colloidal oats are easier to find at this price point, and there will be a much wider assortment of fragrances to choose from.

Expensive

The highest-end adult body powders are often found at specialized cosmetics stores or as part of a larger skincare line. These formulations are almost always talc-free, with herbal ingredients and top-quality fragrances. Expect to pay $25 or more for these premium adult body powders.

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Did You Know?
Modern adult body powders often include alternatives to talc such as cornstarch, ground rice hulls, tapioca flour, and baking soda.
Staff
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Tips

  • Avoid combining adult body powder with lotions or moisturizers. Mixing a drying powder with a moisturizing liquid of any kind tends to create an unsatisfying paste. You can apply body powder after your moisturizer has fully dried, however.
  • Do not put adult body powder on an open wound. Medicated body powder is very astringent, and any direct contact with a shaving nick, an unhealed cut, or recent scratch can be very irritating.
  • Liberal application is encouraged. Other skincare products may require a light touch, but adult body powder often works best with a more generous application. Areas of the body prone to excessive perspiration, such as the feet, armpits, and lower abdomen, tend to benefit from more body powder, not less.
  • Do not use adult body powders on young children or infants. While it might be tempting for parents to apply a stronger medicated powder for severe diaper rash or other skin irritations, adult body powders are not formulated for younger skin. Stick to baby powder when it comes to the kids.
Adult Body Powder
Natural talc has astringent tissue-shrinking properties, but many modern adult body powders use witch hazel for astringency.

FAQ

Q. Is talc-based adult body powder safe to regularly use?

A. While many body powder manufacturers are shifting to talc alternatives such as kaolin clay and cornstarch, pure talc is still considered to be safe when used as directed. The controversy over talc as a possible carcinogen stems from its proximity to asbestos in the ground. Talc contaminated with asbestos is unsafe, but purified talc is chemically inert and safe for human application.

Q. What is the difference between an adult body powder and baby powder?

A. Adult body powders can contain ingredients that would be too harsh or astringent on a baby’s sensitive skin. Baby powder was developed specifically for use on babies, although it is perfectly safe for adult use as well. Medicated adult body powders should never be used to treat pediatric skin conditions such as diaper rash.

Q. Can I apply adult body powder to my clothing instead of my skin?

A. In many situations, you can safely apply a layer of body powder to your clothing for additional protection against chafing. But keep in mind that most body powders are not designed to dry invisibly like a deodorant or antiperspirant. The powder will still be visible until it is fully absorbed by the skin.

Q. Can I apply an adult body powder immediately after shaving my face, armpits, chest, or other areas of my body?

A. You may want to give your freshly shaven skin time to heal before applying a body powder, especially if the powder is medicated or heavily fragranced. Shaving can create micro-abrasions in the skin, and astringent or scented body powders could create an unpleasant stinging or burning sensation in those areas.

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