What is it?

“Talc or talcum is a clay mineral composed of hydrated magnesiums ilicate with the chemical formula H2Mg3(SiO3)4 or Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

The European Union and Canada has restricted the use of talc in cosmetic products.

The National Toxicology Program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concludes in a report that “talc products are sold in a multitude of grades which have physical or functional characteristics especially suited for particular applications, so occupational and consumer exposures to talc are complex. Epidemiology studies have suggested an association between non-fibrous talc and lung cancer risk. Talc was nominated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for study by the NTP because of widespread human exposure and because of the lack of adequate information on its chronic toxicity and potential carcinogenicity.”

Cosmetic talc is on the Red List* from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously the Breast Cancer Fund). They classify the mineral as a probable carcinogen and of occupational concern.


Even though it is not listed on the ingredient labels, products with talc may contain toxic impurities from:

Asbestos – linked to cancer, organ system toxicity, bioaccumulation and environmental hazards. Talc contain asbestos in its natural form

* “The Red List includes chemicals found in personal care products that pose serious, chronic health concerns including cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive and developmental harm. The list also flags chemicals that are banned or have use restrictions by the U.S. or other world governments, ingredients that adversely impact worker health, and ingredients that are widely used in products marketed to women of color.” – Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

How is it used?

Human exposure to talc is widespread and from multiple sources, not only from cosmetics*. Cosmetic talc can be found in products such as eye shadows, foundations, blushes, facial powders, bronzers, highlighters, sunscreens, concealers and eyeliners. It functions as a anti-caking agent (avoids lumps or hard masses in products), bulking agent (decreases bulk density of cosmetics), opacifying agent (decreases transparency or translucency of cosmetics), skin protectant (helps avoid harmful effects to the skin from external factors) and slip modifier (helps ingredients spread over skin and to penetrate it) in cosmetic products. It’s common to use talk in powdery products intended to be used for small children.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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