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What Is Dusting Powder?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

A dusting powder is a fine powder formulated to be spread, or dusted, over a person’s body. The powder may be unscented or may be perfumed. Historically, dusting powders were used by both men and women to absorb perspiration and help prevent body odor. Many people still use dusting powder as a way of enjoying a favorite fragrance, to absorb perspiration and skin oils, and to prevent skin chafing. Many cosmetics and fragrance manufacturers produce scented powders and often include them in cosmetic or perfume gift sets. In addition to using dusting powder on the body, some individuals use it as a dry shampoo for when they do not have the time or ability to wash their hair.

Manufacturers of dusting powders may use one of several ingredients to prepare the powder, although many use talc, a natural mineral. While there has been some controversy over the use of talc in dusting powders and other cosmetics and personal care products, some major cancer research organizations have stated that there is no conclusive proof that asbestos-free talc contributes to cancer. Research into this matter is ongoing. Some companies use ingredients other than talc in their formulations, and many people make their own dusting powder at home using cornstarch or other absorbent powders.

Cornstarch is commonly used as dusting powder.
Cornstarch is commonly used as dusting powder.

Many companies sell their dusting powders with a large powder puff so that it can be applied easily and quickly all over the wearer's body. For individuals who are fond of wearing a particular scent, using dusting powder in conjunction with a perfume and a body wash or lotion can make the scent last longer. In addition to smelling nicely, many people believe that dusting powder keeps their skin feeling smooth. Individuals with dry or rough skin report that powdering the skin can keep delicate fabrics from catching on their skin, making them more comfortable in their clothes.

Dusting powder may be included in perfume gift sets.
Dusting powder may be included in perfume gift sets.

Dusting powders have other uses beyond scenting and smoothing the skin. Barbers will sometimes dust powder on the back of their customers' necks after a haircut, as the powder can catch stray hairs and make them easy to remove. Those who experience sunburn on the backs of their knees or on the inside of their elbows may use powder to prevent chafing against this sensitive skin. Individuals who have folds of skin on their bodies may also use dusting powder to prevent chafing and to absorb moisture that could lead to skin rashes.

Discussion Comments


I may my own dusting powder using perfume and cornstarch. I spray a cotton ball with perfume and in a mason jar put the fragrant cotton ball inside with two cups of organic cornstarch and shake until the fragrance is absorbed in the cornstarch.


@simrin – I love perfumed dusting powder. To me, it has more of a light scent than body lotion, yet it manages to linger all day on my skin.

I have to use an unscented hydrating lotion, and this pairs well with the dusting powder. I could not stand to use a perfumed lotion all over my body, because that would be overwhelming.

I have patches of rough, dry skin, and the powder smooths them out. In the summer, I like to wear delicate, thin fabrics, and without the powder, they would get stuck on the rough spots.


I use dusting powder in my hair when I don't have time to wash it. I powder my roots lightly with a makeup brush, and then I comb the powder through to the tips.

It absorbs the excess oil. This is great for times when I am in a rush. Shampooing and blow-drying my hair would take nearly an hour, so this saves so much time.

Also, my hair is already styled from the previous day, so after I powder it, I'm ready to go. If I were to shampoo it, I would have to use the curling iron after it was dry, which would take another twenty minutes.


@ddljohn – That's how my husband feels about dusting powder. He only uses it to prevent chafing while working, and he definitely does not want to smell like a girl.

He has to walk briskly all day while stacking heavy boxes onto pallets. He has to wear a couple of layers of clothing, because he works in a refrigerated warehouse. Often, his first layer will rub uncomfortably against his skin with the repetitive motion.

He sprinkles dusting powder all over his legs before putting on his clothes. This way, he doesn't get raw spots or blisters on them.


I have some dusting powder that has shiny flecks in it to give my body a shimmery appearance. I love using this powder before going out at night, because it makes me look glamorous.

It is much more subtle than body glitter. When the colored lights in a dance club hit the flecks just right, I seem to glow. Since I have pale skin, the effect is intensified.

I even use it on my face on top of my makeup so that my skin shimmers all over. The only place I don't apply it is my eyelids. I use a shimmery shadow instead, because I am too afraid of getting that loose powder in my eyes, and I imagine that the flecks might scratch my corneas.


Dusting powder makes me feel so luxurious! I agree with @burcidi that it's a great product to use in the summer. Where I live, it gets very hot and humid in the summer and I spend most of my time showering and trying to stay cool and dry. So dusting powder definitely helps.

The one I use smells flowery and citrus like. My mother thinks the scent is too strong but I like it that way. Even at the end of the day, when I go out with my friends after work, people comment on how good I smell.

I also keep a little bit of it in my purse to freshen up. Sometimes I apply it on my hands and run my fingers through my hair to give them some volume and to absorb any oil. It works great!

I know there are concerns over talc. I think talc is superfine particles of stone. My mom has always told me to hold my breath while applying dusting powder. She said it could cause problems if it gets into my lungs. So I always hold my breath and do my best not to inhale any. I hope it's not bad for health because I really like it.


I like dusting powders without talc and with little or no scent. I've heard about talc being linked to cancer before. I think some years ago, several female cancer patients were found to have talc particles in their ovaries. I know that nothing has been proven about this, but it still puts my mind at ease to use something talc-free.

I don't like heavily perfumed dusting powders either because I generally use it to absorb sweat. I have sensitive skin and have reacted badly to perfumes before. I just want to feel fresh and clean, I don't need to smell like I sprayed perfume all over.


I use an all natural dusting powder year-round. It has a really nice, slightly sweet, rosy scent. It's one of my favorite products and I don't think I could get through summers without it. In the winter, I generally apply it on my underarms because it keeps me fresh and sweat free.

In the summer, I apply it all over my body. It cools me down and I smell great all day. I even apply it on my feet in the summer because the friction from sandals can be hard on my skin. I always get painful patches and calluses on my feet in the summer. Dusting powder helps prevent that to some extent.

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    • Cornstarch is commonly used as dusting powder.
      By: Yuriy Afonkin
      Cornstarch is commonly used as dusting powder.
    • Dusting powder may be included in perfume gift sets.
      By: Liv Friis-larsen
      Dusting powder may be included in perfume gift sets.
    • Historically, both men and women used dusting powder to lessen body odor before the advent of modern deodorants.
      By: HamsterMan
      Historically, both men and women used dusting powder to lessen body odor before the advent of modern deodorants.