One staple of parenthood and raising a baby is dealing with diaper rash. But just because it’s common, it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. It’s not only an uncomfortable condition for your baby but can lead to other complications if left unattended.
Diaper rash appears in the diaper area, but especially around the baby’s genitals, causing irritation, itchiness, and pain to your baby. It can be prevented by using diaper rash cream every time you change your baby’s diaper and also changing the diapers frequently, so the area remains as dry as possible.
There are a lot of commercial diaper rash cream brands available with different components and levels of protection and treatment (from when there already is diaper rash). You can also use alternatives, and cornstarch is one of those.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about cornstarch for diaper rash.
What is cornstarch?
Cornstarch is used in recipes and food preparation and can be found in most grocery stores in the baking aisle. Its characteristics have made it an alternative choice to baby powder and as a way to treat and prevent diaper rash.
But is it an effective solution for diaper rash, and is it safe to use cornstarch? Let’s find out.
What is diaper rash?
Before we analyze cornstarch’s effectiveness on diaper rash, let’s understand this condition.
Diaper rash, also known as irritant diaper dermatitis, is a form of inflamed skin that appears as a patchwork of bright red skin on your baby’s bottom. It may appear due to wet skin and infrequent diaper changes, chafing, and how sensitive a baby’s skin is.
It doesn’t necessarily require medical treatment and usually clears up quickly with at-home treatments that include air drying, more frequent diaper changes, and diaper rash cream.
With diaper rash, you may also notice your baby seems uncomfortable and fussy and may cry when you change their diaper or wash the area.
Diaper rash can be treated at home, but if, after a few days, there’s no improvement or it worsens, then call your pediatrician for prescription medication. Steroid creams may need to be prescribed and, if so, should be used carefully, don’t use them without proper instructions from your pediatrician.
Signs that you need to call the doctor include that the diaper rash spreads to other areas, bleeds, itches, or oozes, your baby cries every time they pee or poop, and there’s a fever.
Causes for diaper rash
Diaper rash may appear for several reasons, the most obvious one being the infrequent diaper change and moisture build-up. However, that’s not the only reason.
If the diaper is too tight for your baby, they may chafe, causing a diaper rash. So make sure you’re using the correct diaper size according to your baby’s weight and stage (there are diapers for active babies if your little one can’t stay still).
Also, a baby’s sensitive skin can be easily irritated by a baby wipe, detergent, bleach, and fabric softeners used to wash their clothes. Before picking up a pack of baby wipes, ensure they don’t contain alcohol or perfumes and have a high water content to prevent irritation. And favor baby-safe laundry products free of harsh chemicals that could harm your baby’s skin.
A warm and moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. So if your baby’s skin has a yeast infection, it could easily spread to the diaper area and grow in the skin’s creases.
Another common cause of diaper rash is the introduction of solid foods into the baby’s diet because this changes the consistency and frequency of stools. If solid food causes an intolerance or allergy in your baby, it will increase the acidity of the baby’s stool and lead to diaper rashes. The same applies to breastfed babies that may react to what the mom has eaten and passes through breast milk.
Antibiotics may also be the culprit for diaper rash because they kill bacteria, good and bad. This means that antibiotics kill the bacteria that fight yeast growth, so it may spread to the diaper area and cause a diaper rash. Also, antibiotics may cause diarrhea which also irritates the skin.
Finally, babies with skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or eczema, although it may be present in other areas of the body, may develop diaper rash because of how sensitive their skin is.
Can cornstarch be used for diaper rash?
The short answer is yes, but with some caveats. Cornstarch (also known as maize starch or corn flour) is a white powder derived from corn. It is commonly used as a food ingredient as a thickening agent. It is also commonly used as an anti-sticking agent for latex medical products such as condoms, diaphragms, and medical gloves.
Because of the anti-sticking properties and the ability to repel moisture from the skin, cornstarch has been used to prevent diaper rash and treat it. The fine texture of cornstarch powder sticks to the baby’s skin, creating an excellent barrier against humidity and also helping to reduce friction with the diaper that may cause the rash.
And since cornstarch is PH-neutral, it doesn’t contain chemicals that may add complications to diaper rashes. Cornstarch is actually an ingredient in talc powders, so many may think that using talcum powder is more effective, but in recent years the FDA has been advising against using talc powders because of possible adverse effects.
But those side effects are not caused by cornstarch, so it’s still a viable option. It’s believed that when you use cornstarch for diaper rash, there are even anti-inflammatory effects and an immediate soothing feeling on the irritated skin.
However, a possible downside is that cornstarch may be a good source of food for yeast, so if your baby has diaper dermatitis because of a yeast infection, using cornstarch for diaper rash or baby powder may actually aggravate the rash, so before using this natural treatment look for signs of yeast infection in the affected area.
How to apply cornstarch for diaper rash
Apply cornstarch close to the affected area with soft patting movements, ensuring it doesn’t get into your baby’s face and airway.
Parents may be wary of using cornstarch because of all that’s been said against using talcum powder and baby powders. The main reason why the FDA has advised against talcum powder is that it may be accidentally inhaled and cause respiratory problems in babies and adults.
Cornstarch is water repellent, which is why it can reduce moisture.
You won’t be able to mix it with water to form a paste to spread on the rashes and provide protection. But you can mix it with some petroleum jelly or coconut oil. Once you have the mixture, spread it evenly on your little one’s skin and let air dry for about 5-10 minutes.
After it’s dry, wash it off with warm water and some mild soap, pat them dry softly to avoid a frictional injury on the delicate skin, and put a new diaper on your baby. You can repeat this process a few times a day for better results, and in no time, you’ll notice improvements.
Home remedies for diaper rash
The most common treatments for diaper rashes are zinc oxide or petrolatum-based creams, but they tend to have a weird smell and be very thick when applied, which may cause a build-up if not cleaned properly.
- In hot weather, the heat can cause bouts of diaper rash. A coconut oil remedy can be beneficial as it has anti-fungal properties and can fight a yeast infection. So you could use coconut oil as an ointment (if its liquified, keep it in the refrigerator or in a cooled area to make it solid and creamy) or mix it with cornstarch to form a paste that will combine both component’s benefits. An alternative is olive oil because it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties on human skin.
- Many parents have tried using breast milk against diaper rashes and said it’s actually effective. Let’s not forget that breast milk is called liquid gold for its many properties and the ability to target your baby’s needs, so using it to fight rashes makes sense. Breast milk is full of antibodies, so you could spread a little on your baby’s skin and let it air dry before putting on a diaper.
- Adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to a baby’s bath water may help prevent diaper rash because it’s a powerful agent against yeast and bacteria.
So, is it safe to use cornstarch? It depends. If the rash is caused by bacterial or yeast infection, it might not be the best idea to use cornstarch because there are reports of worsened rashes caused by this practice under this condition.
But if other reasons cause the rash or you want to keep the baby’s skin dry and avoid irritation and pain, cornstarch is a viable way to prevent diaper rash. Just remember to use it with caution, no matter if you use disposable diapers or cloth diapers.