Growing up, we had regular powder which we used for our faces and sometimes our bodies. Then we had “dusting powder”; that one mothers brought out when the heat peaked, as soon as – or even before – the prickly heat rash appeared on the first little body. When pronounced the Nigerian way, “dusting powder” sounds like a brand. And in fact, in the 80s, “dusting powder” generally meant one thing. This:
However, as time went on several new brands emerged. The practice of stocking up on dusting powder as ammunition against heat and its effects on the skin has lived on, but what is this thing and how is it different from our other talcum powders?
Dusting powder is simply powder for dusting over something, usually the body. So when I dust baby powder over myself or my child, it’s dusting powder. The real question then, is, what makes that kind of powder we call “dusting powder” different?
Our precious dusting powder is actually medicated mentholated dusting powder, and it different because unlike other skincare powders, it is not merely for cosmetic or hygiene purposes.
Medicated mentholated dusting powder is a medicinal preparation that cools the skin (thanks to the menthol in it) and keeps it dry, thereby helping to manage sweat and the discomfort that comes with it. Dusting powder also contains pharmacological substances that can treat prickly heat rash. This is why it is usually marketed as a special preparation for prickly heat.
Like other regular talcum powders, it contains starch. In addition, it contains zinc oxide, menthol, and of course sterilized talc.
So when the weather is very hot, instead of using regular talcum powder, dusting powder is valuable for managing increased perspiration by absorbing excess sweat. It also has superb antiseptic properties and helps prevent prickly heat.
It is an ally for parents who are often saddled with the responsibility of keeping children dry and rash-free. However, it is important to remember that medicated mentholated dusting powder is, well, medicated. As such it is not always suitable for babies and toddlers under 3 years of age. There are some brands, usually simply called “Prickly Heat Powder”, that are not too harsh for a young child. Be sure to check the brand you buy before using it on your baby.
Also, if you have any abrasions or scratches on your skin already, you want to avoid using medicated mentholated dusting powder.