Talc is a very traditional cosmetic ingredient. It is a mineral commonly found in nature. Talc has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years in cosmetics. Now, most cosmetic brands are giving up the use of talc. What makes talc such a problematic cosmetic product? Should talc be avoided?
Talc is a very common mineral
Talc is found in many places on earth. It is a very soft clay mineral that contains among other things magnesium and silicon. Talc occurs naturally in greenish, yellow or white colours. Talc is the main mineral of soapstone. Soapstone can contain up to 50% talc.
China is the biggest producer country of talc. Other talc producers are the USA, India, Brazil, South Korea, France and Finland.
Talk has many uses
Thanks to its softness, talc is very easy to cut. The talc stone can easily be scratched with a fingernail. Talc has been a very popular material for making sculptures, bowls and working surfaces for thousands of years.
Talc is most commonly used as a powder. Cosmetics are just one of the uses of talc.
Talc’s unique properties make it an important ingredient in the manufacture of paints, paper, ceramics, plastics and rubber. Talc is commonly used even in insecticides.
The importance of talc in cosmetics
Talc is used in colour cosmetics to dilute pigments. Eyeshadows and powders are mixed by combining the pigment with talc or some other diluent.
The popularity of talc as an ingredient in powders and eyeshadows is based on its ability to absorb moisture. When applied to the skin, talc reduces the feeling of moist. Talc also absorbs oils from the skin. This feature is useful in facial makeup. Talc removes the shine from the skin and makes the matt finish.
Why talc is a problematic ingredient
Talc is a natural product. Quite common belief is that natural products cannot be harmful to humans. This is certainly not the case.
Talc’s problems in cosmetics are due to the possible contamination of talc. Asbestos is a toxic mineral that occurs in the same places as talc. Talc is very easily contaminated during the mining process. Of course, talc for cosmetics is or should be inspected carefully.
The purity of talc should not be relied upon. In 2018, a Reuters survey found that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos was present in their baby talc. Johnson & Johnson stopped the production of baby talc in 2020. The decision was made because of numerous lost lawsuits. People with cancer and their relatives sued Johnson & Johnson for hiding the truth.
Dusty talc causes problems to respiratory system
Talc containing asbestos causes problems when inhaled. The danger is really great. Talc has been used for the skin care of new-borns. The lungs of the new-borns are really sensitive and defenceless. Symptoms of poisoning include cough, difficulties in breathing, eye irritation, and burning eyes.
Talc is a potentially carcinogenic substance
In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO institute, classified talc as a potential carcinogen. Talc is suspected to be associated particularly with ovarian cancer. The danger is greatest if talc is used on a woman’s genital area.
There has been several court cases about the carcinogenic effect of talc. In the U.S., several women with ovarian cancer sued Johnson & Johnson. The women had been using the talc produced by the company for decades. The court sentenced Johnson & Johnson to pay $ 72 million to the relatives of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. This was just one case. Johnson & Johnson has been sued several times for contaminated talc and the company has always lost the cases.
How can I replace talc in cosmetics?
Talc is not recommended anymore by anyone for skin care. Cosmetics manufacturers have replaced talc with another mineral.
Talc can easily be replaced with completely harmless, herbal ingredients. Many starches are popular in homemade cosmetics. Corn, potato and rice starch are familiar to many. They can be used to make dry shampoo or to use as a raw material for deodorants. They act like talc, absorbing moisture from the skin.
Arrowroot starch is my own favourite. It is one of the best starches in natural cosmetics. It is a very fine powder with skin healing effects.
If you are looking for a talc substitute to treat your baby’s skin, you should choose arrowroot powder. Many mothers of small babies have found it a very good product. You can just use pure arrowroot powder for the skincare of your baby. You don’t need any additives or other ingredients.
Magnesium carbonate is a fine, white, light powder. It can be used as a base for colour and powder cosmetics. Magnesium carbonate absorbs moisture. Therefore, it is often used on the skin instead of talc.
Magnesium carbonate is more commonly used in gyms. Weightlifters and gymnasts rub it on their hands to avoid sweating.
Also read about other harmful chemicals
How do you replace talc in cosmetics?