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Five reasons why talcum powder does you more harm than good

The ovarian cancer link to talcs is the most deadly of the many reasons why it’s best to avoid using them.

health-and-fitness Updated: May 04, 2016 14:17 IST
Aanavi Sinha
Aanavi Sinha
Hindustan Times
Using talcum powder in sensitive areas like armpit and groin can cause infections, warn doctors.
Using talcum powder in sensitive areas like armpit and groin can cause infections, warn doctors. (Shutterstock)

Over the last three months, US courts have awarded millions of dollars in damages to two women who developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder products.

We spoke to Dr Rohit Batra, consultant dermatologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, and Dr Rajat Kandhari, consultant dermatologist, Dermatosurgeon and specialist in aesthetic procedure , on why it’s best to not use talcum powder.

1. It has starch

This means that using it in sensitive areas — like armpit and groin — causes them to ‘clump’ or ‘cake up’, promoting infections instead of getting rid of them.

2. It causes dermatitis

Talcum powder blogs up the pores and doesn’t allow your sweat to evaporate; this can make existing rashes worse or even cause new ones.

3. Some contain asbestos

A substance which can cause lung cancer, asbestos is a common ingredient in some talcum powder products. It is known to cause other diseases as well, such as asbestosis.

Doctors advise using antibacterial powder instead of talcum powder to keep body sweat under check. (Shutterstock)

4. It may cause ovarian cancer

Excessive and prolonged use of talcum powder in genital areas can lead to the powder collecting. Prolonged use has been shown to cause ovarian cancer.

5. Risk of endometrial cancer

Prolonged use in the groin area can cause the talcum powder particles to collect and travel to the uterus, increasing the risk of uterine cancer.

Though the reasons listed above should convince against using talcum powder, Dr Rohit Batra says it does not mean you shouldn’t use it. “But it should not be used in excess,” he cautions.

However, Dr Rajat Kandhari says, “It is a cosmeceutical powder; there is no point in using it.”

He instead recommends using antibacterial powder when you’re looking to decrease the sweat in your body. He also recommends using Lacto Calamine, which is essentially powder mixed with water, but is much more effective and safe in when you’re trying to stay cool in this bustling heat.

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