Updated: Sep 25
Talc, also known as talcum powder, is a mineral that's often used in makeup and skincare products due to its ability to absorb moisture and provide a smooth, silky texture. However, the use of talc has been a subject of controversy due to potential health risks. Talcum powder, a seemingly harmless product found in many households, has recently come under scrutiny due to its potential health risks. This common ingredient, often used in personal care products like baby powder, cosmetics, and even feminine hygiene products, is now linked to serious health concerns, particularly in women1&2. In today's blog, we are going to explore the:
Unseen Perils: Talc in Today's Skincare Products!
The Correlation Between Talcum Powder and Cancer
Research suggests that talcum powder might increase the risk of certain types of cancer when applied to the genital area or used on sanitary products. One study found a slight increase in the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer in women past menopause1. More alarmingly, several studies over the past 25 years have found an association between perineal talc powders and ovarian cancer3.
A growing body of evidence suggests that using talcum powder in the genital area can increase a woman's chances of developing ovarian cancer4. While there are other stronger risks for ovarian cancer, such as genetic abnormalities, hormone replacement therapy, and being overweight, the potential risk associated with talcum powder cannot be ignored5.
While the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is strong, men can also suffer from the negative effects of talc. Here's a summary of the key points:
Testicular Cancer: A 2017 meta-analysis found that exposure to talc with and without asbestos was associated with similarly elevated cancer risks1.
Lung Cancer: People who have long-term exposure to talc particles at work, such as talc miners, are at higher risk of lung cancer from breathing them in2.
Respiratory Issues: Talc dust can cause significant harm if it's swallowed or inhaled. Inhalation of talc can cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
However, there is currently no evidence to suggest talcum powder can cause cancer in men when used for personal hygiene6.
It's important to note that not all people exposed to talc will experience these side effects. The risk seems to be higher for those who have long-term exposure, particularly in occupational settings.
The Asbestos Connection
Another concern about talcum powder is its potential contamination with asbestos. Veins of asbestos are often found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination6. Breathing in talc contaminated with asbestos can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer7.
Unseen Perils: Talc in Today's Skincare Products
Despite these dangers, talcum powder continues to be marketed to women, often without adequate warnings about its potential risks. This raises serious ethical questions about consumer safety and corporate responsibility.
Be sure to check your skincare/makeup labeling to see if some of your favorites contain talc. Here is a sampling of some popular brands and products that still contain talc:
Several skincare and makeup products still contain talc as of 2023. However, the exact list of products may vary and it's recommended to check the ingredient list of each product for the most accurate information. Here are some examples:
Skincare Products Containing Talc:
Makeup Products Containing Talc:
Anastasia Beverly Hills
Talc is often used in cosmetics due to its soft texture and anti-caking properties. It can be found in a range of cosmetics including eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, blush, face powder, mascara, eyeliner, eyebrow pencils, and more12. Brands such as Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette, and Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me were found to contain asbestos-contaminated talc11.
However, many companies are moving away from using talc in their products due to increasing consumer awareness and legal issues. For example, Physicians Formula and Burt's Bees® offer talc-free face powders9. Other brands like TheBalm and Kosas have also released talc-free products12.
The primary reason for removing talc from products is the potential health risk it poses. As mentioned earlier, talc can sometimes be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, during the mining process13. Companies are reformulating their products to exclude talc to avoid potential legal liabilities and meet consumer demand for safer, more natural ingredients.
However, completely eliminating talc from all products may not be feasible for all companies due to cost implications and the challenge of finding suitable replacements that perform the same function as talc. In such cases, brands may choose to continue using talc but ensure its purity through rigorous testing to avoid asbestos contamination7.
Be Aware and Stay Safe
It's crucial to check the ingredients of your personal care products and avoid those containing talc, especially if they're used in the genital area. While cornstarch-based powders are unlikely to be tainted with asbestos and may be a safer alternative, it's always best to consult with a healthcare provider or dermatologist to make sure the products you're using are safe14.
For more information on this topic, we invite you to read our comprehensive guides on what exactly talcum powder is and its correlation with ovarian cancer:
What is Talcum Powder?1
Talcum Powder & Ovarian Cancer2