Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cosmetics Q&A: Let's Talk Talc

Talc is an extremely common ingredient in cosmetics, especially powders such as eye shadows, but why does it seem to get so much negative attention?

What is it? 
Talc is a mineral and it is usually sourced from Talc rocks, which are processed and milled into a very fine powder. Talc may be referred to as talcum powder.

What types of cosmetics is Talc found in?
Talc can be found in some eye shadows, blushes, highlighters, bronzers, foundations, sunscreens, baby powder, etc.

Why is it used in cosmetics? 
Talc is used for its anti-caking properties, as a skin protectant, for absorbancy, for slip, and to add bulk to products.

What health concerns are there in relation to Talc?
Talc is very closely related to the carcinogen asbestos and can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, which is obviously not a desirable material. Studies have shown that Talc can cause tumor growth in both the lungs and ovaries of subjects. Some studies related Talc directly to skin cancer.

What are other countries saying about Talc?
Canada has already classified Talc as something that is expected to be harmful or toxic in relation to non-reproductive organ system toxicity.

Why do we still use Talc if there are potential health hazards?
As with so many other ingredients that raise eyebrows, Talc is yet another that has not yet been deemed hazardous enough to be further restricted or even banned from use in cosmetics. Talc is effective, however, there is plenty of evidence showing that it may not be worth using. For example, back in 1973 the FDA drafted a resolution that stated that asbestos-like fibers could no longer be present in cosmetic-grade talc. The problem is, a report by the National Toxicology Program in 1993 showed that cosmetic-grade talc still caused tumors in the animals used in the tests even when it didn't have asbestos-like fibers. It's also important to remember that while the FDA does grant approval to individual ingredients, it does not regulate cosmetics on a mandatory basis (with the exception of sunscreen because of its SPF rating), so it seems as though many cosmetic ingredients such as Talc and cosmetic dyes get less attention as a result.

Is the beauty industry limiting Talc on its own?
Yes, in some ways. There are many makeup companies that forgo the use of Talc. There are a number of mineral makeup companies and indies (as well as corporate cosmetic companies) that simply choose not to use Talc at all or only in limited products. Companies that product things such as baby powder offer alternatives with other base ingredients such as corn starch.

What should you do?
The choice is really yours. Personally, I avoid Talc whenever possible and when I do make exceptions it isn't daily. I'm not going to lie, it is difficult to avoid Talc in cosmetics and there will be products you'll miss out on if you choose to stay away from it completely. On the other hand, I know many makeup users that don't feel Talc is enough of a hazard to avoid at all. Everyone has to make their own choice. Your face/body, your choice! Do what you're comfortable with, whether that means never using talc, limiting your use of products that include talc, or never giving it another thought.

More Reading...
This is a great site for makeup lovers that are extremely cautious when it comes to ingredients, though they're limited as to what topics they touch upon:

This site is also great for super health-conscious makeup lovers:

I wish I could dig up more, but for some reason it seems a bit limited no matter where I search.

How do you feel about Talc? Do you limited your Talc use or is it not a concern to you?

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