Talcum in cosmetics: safe or not ?


   I have been researching online to find whether talc really does cause cancer, whether it blocks pores, and whether there are better substitutes for it. I would like to share my findings with you. Apparetly, the problem with cosmetic talc is that it´s not regulated: meaning it may be contaminated with asbestos. Cosmetically speaking, it blocks the pores.

Talc or talcum powder ? Is it the same ?

   Apparently talc is the mineral hydrated magnesium silicate. Talcum powder is pure talc ground into powder, and often with other substances added to it (such as perfume).

Where you'll find talc:

  • Makeup: mascara, lipstick, foundations, eye-shadows, powders, bronzers, and much more.
  • Baby powders
  • Body powders such as foot powders or deodorizing powders
  • In food as an anti-caking agent.
  • Deodorant
  • In medicines
   Talc absorbs moisture and oil, mattifies, gives a powdery consistency.

Health hazards:

   Whether talc is safe is still a matter of debate. Talc may be contaminated with cancer-causing Asbestos, but even asbestos-free talc has been linked with lung, ovarian and skin cancer. A US National Toxicology Program report found that cosmetic grade talc caused tumours. On the other hand the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers non-asbestiform talc to be safe.

Cosmetic problems with talc:

   Talc blocks skin pores, and may irritate the skin. That is why it is usually advised to look for mineral makeup without it.

The bottom line:

    The problem with cosmetic talc is that it´s not regulated: meaning it´s not checked whether it´s contaminated with asbestos. In Europe the situation is better, since talc is better regulated. I would advise avoiding talc as much as possible. Why risk it when so many talc-free products are available ? Better quality mineral make-up should be talc-free anyway, since talc is just a filler.
    Experts advise against using talc in the genital area, and on babies (inhaling talc can be very dangerous for them !). Ointments and plant based oils are equally effective in preventing diaper rash !
   Generally talcum in fluids and creams is safer than talcum in powders.


  • Minerals: Kaolin clay, silica, serecite, boron nitrate/nitrite, etc. (Mineral makeup is should be talc free)
  • Plant-based replacements for talc: Corn flour / corn starch, tapioca starch, rice starch, arrow root powder, etc. These are used in natural cosmetics.
  • Silica: there are two kinds of silica, and one of them (crystalline silica) is carcinogenic, while the other kind (silica microspheres) is safe. The problem is that labels usually do not state which kind of silica the product contains !
  • Nylon-12 - An artificial substance, a kind of nylon powder that has high absorbent powers. I have not found much information about it, and I'm not sure I like the sound of it.

Photo by yoshiko314  

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