I recently had a client ask if I would make her a dusting powder. She had been buying one from a popular chain that has great marketing claims about how 'green', 'ethical', and 'natural' they are. I love all those words. I also love the power we have as consumers to make buying choices that benefit the planet. What I don't love is green-washing and health-washing. The problem with marketing claims about being 'green' and 'natural' is that these terms are largely unregulated. They play on our values and good intentions, but when these terms are empty, we might end up paying more for something that isn't better for our bodies or the planet. In today's post, I'll share my recipe for making your own dusting powder and share why it's the awesomest thing to have on hand for hot, sticky days.
Ingredients to Avoid
There were a lot of questionable ingredients in this brand's body powders, (and worryingly they promoted dusting one of them onto your private parts for silky encounters!). Below are some of the ingredients that many brands use that are good to avoid.
Coumarin is rated a 7 out of 10 (10 being most toxic) by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They report coumarin as being an immune system toxicant and a known allergen. Coumarin can by naturally-occuring or synthetically-created as a fragrance additive. The European Union has restrictions on its use in cosmetics but North America does not.
Talc is a ground mineral that was the basis for most dusting and baby powders for many years. Then we found out that talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos fibers which are linked to lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. Not great for a product that is a fine particulate and easily inhaled during normal application. You may have read about the court case in the US where a woman's family successfully sued Johnson and Johnson for their contaminated baby powder. The family argued that their mother's use of baby powder in her genital area led to her death from ovarian cancer. The courts agreed and Johnson and Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages. There is now a class action lawsuit with over 1,200 women suing the company for their use of a known harmful ingredient in their formulations.
Fragrance or parfum is another common ingredient added to dusting powders. I've written about fragrance a lot on this blog. According to David Suzuki, fragrance can refer to thousands of potential ingredients, including skin irritants, hormone disruptors and carcinogens. (For more info, you can search fragrance to find previous posts.) With so many health concerns linked to our excessive exposure to fragrance ingredients in multiple, multiple products, this is a really important ingredient to avoid wherever possible.
DIY Natural Powder Ingredients
Kaolin clay is a wonderful ingredient to add to homemade dusting and baby powders. It's a fine, soft powder that is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Kaolin clay is naturally absorbent, helping to prevent chafing and rashes. Unlike stronger clays, Kaolin does not pull oil away from the skin, so it won't cause dryness. You can also use this clay for making facial masks, scrubs, deodorants and soaps. You can find kaolin clay sold at most health food stores and several online retailers sell it.
Arrowroot powder is made from the starch of the root of a plant. It's a fine powder that is a fantastic base for dusting and baby powders as it will absorb extra moisture. Arrowroot is often used as a substitute for corn starch for thickening sauces, so you may find this ingredient in a health food store, grocery store or bulk store. Look in the section where flours and baking ingredients are.
Essential oils are a lovely, natural way to add scent. I often use dusting powder to freshen up if a summer bike ride has got me really sweaty when I arrive at my destination or after teaching or taking a yoga class in a sweaty room. Adding a little natural scent can help me feel fresher, like I've had an 'instant shower' and is also a nice way to add a cooling scent. I love adding lavender and rose essential oils to my summer dusting powders as their scents create a cooling and calming sensation.
How and When to Use this Magic!
Dusting powders can be used to freshen up after you've gotten hot and sticky. They'll absorb sweat leaving your skin smooth and 'un-shiny' and if you're adding essential oils leave you smelling a little fresher!
Dusting powders can be used before you get sticky to prevent chafing, sweat marks and odours. I remember my first travels to Thailand and being really curious about why so many people I saw looking powdered. I'd see children on their way to school with faces dusty white. It didn't take long before I was joining them. Thailand is hot! In the south, temperatures soar and humidity can be stifling. Every corner store sells baby powder and Thais often use it in the morning, dusting their bodies and faces to proactively absorb sweat and prevent odours. I was soon joining them and it was awesome! What a difference! I can't imagine travelling to a hot place now without it. It also becomes a staple in my bathroom and my gym bag once the weather gets hot here.
Dusting Powder Recipe
I usually make a big batch and fill a large container for my bathroom and fill a smaller container to take with me on the go. You can reuse a baby powder bottle, you can fill a mason jar and poke holes in the lid, or you can fill spice jars. Spice jars come in a lot of sizes, have little holes which make application easy and they're inexpensive.
Mix 1 part kaolin clay to 2 parts arrowroot powder.
Add essential oils. I like rose, rose geranium and lavender. In this batch I used more grounding scents my client liked. This is a mix of vanilla (essential oil, not extract), sandalwood, frankincense and geranium. It was lovely! For each cup worth of powder, add approximately 15 drops of essential oils. Note that some essential oils are stronger than others and some are very cooling or heating on the skin. Blue Eucalyptus or Chilli essential oils may not be the best idea if you're going to be sprinkling your special bits! Dilute essential oils in a little carrier oil and test on a small patch of skin on your arm if you've never used it before.
The essential oils will form droplets, simply stir them into the powder and their scent will diffuse throughout.
Spoon or use a funnel (I just roll up a piece of paper and make a funnel shape) to fill your containers. Extra powder can be stored in a sealed glass jar or sealed bag.
The lungs do not like inhaling fine powders, period. It doesn't matter if it's something natural, even healing clays or the flour in your pancakes, lungs don't like fine particulate. You will create clouds of fine particulate as you funnel into your containers, so wear a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth. Also apply to your body gently to avoid creating big clouds of dust.
Hope this helps you stay soft, cool and dry!