Is it safe to use cosmetics with talc?

In previous articles, we talked about substances that should be avoided and that are good for us. In this article, we will talk about a specific material - talc. Due to its versatility, this material is added to countless products. Therefore, even without using decorative cosmetics, everyone still has to deal with this substance. Many cosmetic manufacturers do not give up this substance, but after looking into talc in more detail, it remains for us to decide whether we really want to see this substance in the products we use.

And If you haven't read Karolina's highly popular and discussed article about SPF filters, you can find it here.

What is talc and where can you find it?

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen. Talc is commonly mined in open pits around the world. Its primary deposits are spread over all continents, each with unique talc deposits in terms of chemical and morphological characteristics, as deposits can be geologically formed in different ways. Consequently, no two talc deposits are alike.

It may be listed as talc or talcum powder, cosmetic talc or magnesium silicate in the ingredients list.

Talc can be found at:

  • Baby powders;
  • In body and shower products;
  • In feminine hygiene products;
  • Eye shadow;
  • In lipsticks; 
  • In make-up bases;       
  • Mascaras; 
  • Face powders;
  • in blush;
  • In face masks;
  • In deodorants;
  • In dry shampoos.

Talc is also used in food processing, some supplements, pharmaceutical tablets, chewing gum, polished rice. Consumer groups have also found it in crayons and children's toys . Talc is a raw material that is also used in plastics, ceramics, paints, roofing, paper, and lubricants. Unknowingly, we often encounter talc in household items. It is an essential part of everyday life.

What is the purpose of talcum powder? 

It is added to absorb moisture, smooth or soften products, and prevent sticking. In make-up products, talc improves the application of make-up. It is also used to give the product a more pleasant texture. The softness and whiteness of talc make it valuable in industry and domestic use. Another positive feature of talc is that it does not chemically react with fragrances, pigments, moisturizers, binders, thickeners, emulsifiers and preservatives. This makes it possible to add talc to many tools. It gradually releases odors and does not encourage the growth of bacteria, making it an excellent carrier. 

Why is talc considered a poisonous substance by the majority, why is it avoided? And why are more and more cosmetic companies refusing to use it in their production?

The substance that makes talc toxic is asbestos. Asbestos is also a naturally occurring silicate mineral, but has a different crystal structure. Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that can be found close to the ground . However, unlike talc, asbestos is a known inhalation carcinogen. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos and this is unfortunately a very common occurrence. IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer)  found that talc containing asbestiform fibers is carcinogenic to humans. The relationship between talc and asbestos is often misunderstood. The assumption that asbestos and talc are usually associated or combined is incorrect. Talc and asbestos  are formed under different geological conditions and are separated into adjacent, but different, layers. Talc and asbestos are minerals that occur naturally close to each other. Some talc deposits are contaminated with asbestos and are difficult to separate, so asbestos often ends up in the final product.

Why is asbestos added to cosmetics?

Manufacturers do not knowingly add asbestos to cosmetics, but there is a lack of regulation on cosmetic talc. Due to loose oversight and the absence of a law on talc quality testing, very few companies voluntarily check whether the talc they use does not contain asbestos impurities. This means that companies can get away with not testing their talcum powder for asbestos before adding it to their products.

What side effects can be caused by talc in cosmetics containing asbestos? 

Lung diseases

Talc particles are inhaled, then attach to the lung tissue and remain there because the body cannot remove the talc particles. Over the years, these asbestos-contaminated particles can gradually cause severe inflammation and tissue scarring, which can eventually lead to lung disease.

Disease affecting the lungs will develop 20 to 50 years after talcum powder is first consumed because these diseases have a long latency period.  Regular inhalation of talcum powder significantly increases the risk of developing lung diseases.

in 2002 an exposure study published in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health found that talc miners in upstate New York developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung diseases.

Ovarian oncological diseases

The most widely used consumer talc product is talcum powder, and safety concerns have led the WHO to classify perineal (genital) talc use as a possible carcinogen in humans. 

Many of the lawsuits involved the talcum powder in Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder.

  • in 2016 In May , Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million to a South Dakota woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A woman has been using Johnson and Johnson's Baby Powder for over 35 years.
  • Although Johnson & Johnson stopped selling talcum powder in Canada and the US in 2020, they still sell talcum powder in some European and Asian countries. According to J&J, they stopped selling the baby powder in North America because "people in the US and Canada prefer baby powder made from corn starch." They did not cite cancer concerns as a reason for removing talc-based baby powder from North American shelves.

Is talc safe to use on the skin?

Products with talc should be avoided in case of damage to the epidermal barrier. Also, contact with talc on the skin where there are wounds can cause infections and inflammation. in 2006 The Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology described a case where a six-year-old boy developed granulomas on his face after applying talcum powder to chickenpox lesions. In case of scratches or other skin injuries, decorative or other products with talc should be avoided.

Individuals with sensitive skin may experience irritation or a rash when talcum powder is applied to areas of the body where the skin is thin and delicate. Talc should not be applied to eczematous or psoriatic skin.

Talcum powder can worsen the condition of the skin because it is finely ground and clogs the pores of the skin. It prevents sweat from evaporating during the summer season. This can worsen existing rashes or even cause new ones. Cosmetic face powders are available that contain salicylic acid in addition to talc, as the acid will prevent clogging of pores.

Are there alternatives to talc? 

Since we cannot be sure whether talc is asbestos-free, there is no way to check it, we recommend choosing products without talc and instead choose products that contain: corn starch, mica, zinc oxide, rice powder, kaolin clay. These materials are often used as an alternative to talc and have good fixation and make-up retention.

    Talc-free cosmetics

    It should be noted that most of the widely used, luxury and popular cosmetic companies still use talc in their products. One of the most common makeup tools used by women is compact or loose powder. These products usually contain talc and are very easy to inhale.

    In summary, talc as a material is not carcinogenic, but it is not clear whether it will contain asbestos impurities, as tests are necessary, which are not carried out by all companies. To avoid asbestos-contaminated talc, it is not enough to simply look for "natural" or organic cosmetics. This is because talc is a completely natural substance and is not required to be tested. There is no reliable way to know if the talc in a cosmetic is truly asbestos-free without extensive testing of the individual product. Consumers should look at the product label to see if it contains talc, and whether or not to avoid it is up to you. Parents can protect their children from asbestos by buying only talc-free cosmetics. Using products with talc does not mean that health problems will appear immediately, but long-term and regular use of talc can bring negative consequences in the future. Particular attention should be paid to aerosol products, because during their use, entry into the respiratory tract is the best.

    We, the team, recommend choosing talc-free powders for setting make-up, and as an alternative to it rice or corn starch. 


      The powder does not contain talc, rice powder is used as an alternative. This product provides a natural effect at the end of the make-up, the most important thing is that it does not dry out the skin due to the deep sea water it contains. 


     Loose setting powder is also available from Jane Iredale cosmetics. Rice starch absorbs excess fat. The powder does not dry out the skin, it leaves moisture in it because it contains pine bark and pomegranate extracts. 


    The product absorbs facial skin fat and, thanks to the cornstarch and bamboo extract contained in the composition, regulates their release. However, even with matifying properties, this powder does not dry out the skin, on the contrary, enriched with aloe vera extract, it moisturizes the skin and gives a long-lasting feeling of freshness. Suitable for all skin types and even dry skin as it does not dry it out.


    Talc in this product is replaced by rice and corn starches. The product absorbs excess oil, and jojoba seed oil and flower extracts help the product not dry out the skin.


    This clear, silky texture loose powder reduces unwanted shine on the face skin, smoothes skin irregularities, hides enlarged pores and various scars.


    Helps set makeup and prolongs and helps it last longer. Controls shine and gives the skin the appearance of healthy skin, completes the make-up. Active ingredients: mica, rice powder, corn starch and silicon, tapioca starch.


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