Beauty Science: Is Talc bad?

When a lot of beauty gurus discuss the quality of eye shadows or other powder products, they often comment on whether the make up is made with talc. The implication is that talc is a low end product that should be avoided. Why is that, what is talc?

Talc is a very soft mineral. In fact, you might remember being allowed to play with it in Jr. High when you learnt about the Mohs Hardness scale. Talc is a number 1 on that scale and can easily be scratched. These rocks are ground up to create talcum powder, which is a major ingredient in baby powder. Talc acts as an absorbent, so in baby powder it wicks moisture away from the baby’s bottom to keep their bottom dry. In make up, it serves the purpose of providing filler (to tone down the pigment and make the make up opaque) and stop the make up from caking. Talc is even used in food products that need to control moisture levels.

If talc is safe for your a baby’s bottom, why are some people scared of putting it on their face? One issue is that Asbestos, also a natural mineral, is found near talc. Thus, some are concerned about talc becoming contaminated with cancer causing Asbestos. Although this is a valid concern, only uncontaminated products are allowed to be used in cosmetics. The FDA has also completed survey studies to monitor the quality of talc and have yet to find a contaminated sample. However, because of this link to Asbestos, many people worry that talc can cause cancer. As of yet, there is no confirmed link between talc and increased rate of cancer.

Another reason that people avoid talc is because they worry that it will clog their pores and cause breakouts. But I cannot find any scientific support for that claim either. I was able to find a study by two Dermatologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine that ran a study in 2012 looking at the effects of camouflaging skin conditions with make up to improve patients psychological health. In this study, one of the cosmetics they recommend is Dermablend Cover Cream specifically because it is nonacnegenic (won’t cause acne) and they list talc as an ingredient. So it seems likely this not a valid concern either.

So, if you have switched to mineral make up to avoid talc, just remember that talc is a mineral, so the mineral make up trend is more about hype than science. Don’t forget, make up is a combinations of chemicals that also react to your body chemistry. The answer is rarely as easy as finding one chemical that irritates you. It is more likely to be a combination of chemicals that interact to cause irritation. Thus, it is a good idea to keep a make up journal. Track what does and does not work for you. Your make up preference will be as individual as you body chemistry.

If you have noticed any errors in this post, please let me know so that I can correct the mistake.

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