The Truth About Talcum Powder | Is It Bad For You?

Feature | Woman choosing beauty product | The Truth About Talcum Powder

We’ve been using talcum powder for years, but it seems like this craze should be stopped right now. Find out why below.

In this article:

  1. The Issue With Talcum Powder
  2. Talcum Powder and Cancer – What the Research Says
  3. Talc in Makeup and Cosmetic Products
  4. Talcum Powder in Cosmetics – Banned in the European Union but Allowed in the United States
  5. The Role of Asbestos in the Talc Risk
  6. Aesthetics, Also a Concern with Talc

Is the Use of Talcum Powder Really Bad for Your Health?

Talcum Powder Definition: Talcum powder, also known as talc, is a clay mineral that contains hydrated magnesium silicate. It is widely used in the cosmetic industry and is commonly used in baby powder and other powdered makeup products.


The Issue With Talcum Powder

Talc powder on hands | The Truth About Talcum Powder

Talcum powder is an ingredient in many of today’s cosmetics, including everything from face powders to baby powder. Talc absorbs moisture and reduces friction, so in makeup, it helps control shine, and in other products, it reduces the risk of rashes. Yet current research indicates a potential link between talcum powder and cancer, causing many to wonder if talk in cosmetics is safe.

Here is a closer look at the dangers of talc in makeup and why you should consider looking for organic, natural, and talc-free cosmetics for your own skincare and cosmetic routines instead.

Talcum Powder and Cancer – What the Research Says

To test whether or not talc in cosmetics is a danger, researchers have taken to the lab. Animal experiments have mixed results. Some showed a connection between tumor foundation and talc. Others do not. Mixed results like these make it difficult for researchers to definitively state a danger.

Studying people is more difficult because most people aren’t willing to be lab test subjects. Instead, researchers must pool people who have experienced potential problems. Case-controlled studies have found small increases in cancer risk with the use of talc. Because these studies usually rely on a person’s memory of using talc, they are not reliable. Research continues in an effort to determine if a true link exists.

The legal world has also tackled this question. In one landmark case, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million to a family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. The woman used talcum powder regularly for feminine hygiene over a period of 35 years. The lawsuit claimed this caused her cancer and eventual death. Though this award was eventually overturned, it shed light on the potential risks of talc and was just one of many such lawsuits Johnson & Johnson faced.

In 2018, another lawsuit required the manufacturer to pay $4.7 billion to several families making the same claim. These cases show that some have decided talc is dangerous when used for feminine hygiene.

RELATED: 17 Bad Habits You Need To Break For Healthier Skin

Talc in Makeup and Cosmetic Products

Talcum powder in cosmetics is another story. If it’s dangerous when used in feminine hygiene, is it also dangerous in eyeshadow or face powder?

According to the American Cancer Society, it poses “no known risk,” but that does not mean it is safe. The research on talc in cosmetics is just not complete. The US National Toxicology Program, for instance, has not fully reviewed talc as a cancer-causing material. While it may not be a known carcinogen, it is not proven to be a safe product either.

Talcum Powder in Cosmetics – Banned in the European Union but Allowed in the United States

Woman shocked looking | The Truth About Talcum Powder

Talc is commonly used in cosmetics in the United States, but not in other parts of the world. For example, the European Union takes a more proactive stance on the chemicals allowed in cosmetics. They currently ban over 1,300 chemicals from use in cosmetic products, compared to around 30 in the United States. One of those products is talc. The EU bans products from cosmetics at the first sign of a potential problem, and talc has enough of a risk to make it potentially dangerous.

The Role of Asbestos in the Talc Risk

Why is talc in makeup bad for you? Why is the research on the danger mixed?

The answer may be because of asbestos. In its natural form, talc contains trace amounts of asbestos, a very dangerous element that increases the risk for a rare form of lung cancer and other health issues like:

  • eye irritation as its form may be a “foreign object”
  • a chronic cough
  • weight loss
  • rounded atelectasis – infolding of pleural fibrosis resulting in the collapse of a portion of the lungs
  • gene mutations
  • pleural plaques – collagenous deposits inside the lungs
  • pleural effusion – fluids inside the lungs
  • embryotoxicity
  • reproductive toxicity

The United States recognizes this and placed a ban on talc containing asbestos in the 1970s. Yet lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry, and an influx of cosmetics manufactured overseas means some may be slipping through that do contain asbestos. It may be the asbestos, not the talc, increasing the cancer risk from talc in makeup.

Asbestos Definition: Asbestos is composed of naturally occurring silicate minerals in the form of long and thin fibrous crystals. When inhaled, these fibrous crystals can aggravate and scar the lung tissues. The effects on the body may manifest as shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and dry, crackling sound during inhalation.

Aesthetics, Also a Concern with Talc

In addition to potential cancer risk, talcum powder also may not give you the look you want.

Today, people want their cosmetics to be as natural as possible. Talc can leave behind a chalky look. Natural, talc-free makeup gives the healthy glow today’s consumer wants. Thankfully, there are many options out there that allow you to get a beautiful look without the need to use makeup with talcum powder.


Learn how to make your own DIY natural alternative to talc powder in this video from Daisynics Recipes & DIY Crafts:

So, does talc makeup cause cancer? The US-based research is still unclear. Yet Europe has banned the material, and a link between talcum powder and cancer may truly exist. So, is it worth using? When organic alternatives exist, avoiding talk in favor of safe and non-toxic makeup is a wise choice.

Do you use baby powder or pressed powder? Has talcum powder ever affected your skin in an allergy or irritation sense? Let’s talk about this infamous cosmetic ingredient in the comment section below.

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