I constantly get asked about what ingredients I try to avoid in my makeup and other personal hygiene products, so I thought I’d do some individual posts on some of the main ingredients I try to stay away from whenever possible.
The first one is….Talc!
Growing up, my mom use to be super strict about me wearing makeup. Part of it was because I was the first child and had to wait longer than my other sisters to do anything that made me look older, but part of it was also because she was always concerned about the terrible ingredients in makeup products. I spent my teen years in Kentucky, and lets just say 10 years ago in the Blue Grass State “clean” or “natural” makeup was not a thing. We definitely did not have access to the more natural makeup options we have now. Although the makeup industry has come a long way since then, and natural clean makeup has become more trendy and easily accessible, we still have a long way to go.
I first heard about Talc when I was 12. My grandma use to work for Lancome and would always give me powders and other things I wanted to desperately throw on my face. However, my mom would always tell me we shouldn’t wear makeup like that because of all the toxic ingredients. One of the most common ones she would talk about was Talc. I’ll admit I was upset and thought she was crazy, but now I couldn’t be more appreciative that she instilled makeup safety awareness in me at a young age.
I have to start off by admitting that I have become unreasonably obsessed with makeup. I use to not care about it at all (weird I know). Until I discovered beauty YouTubers. I have this problem where I want to buy all of the products they use, but the Naturopathic student in me always makes sure to check labels first. And let me just tell you how hard it is to find clean makeup. Especially a Talc free product. Even the “cleaner” brands I stick to that are paraben, phthalate, sulfate, and gluten free…contain talc. Because of it’s prevalence in the cosmetic industry, I think it’s important that we all at least understand what it is so that we can make informed decisions as consumers.
So what the heck is it?
It’s a mineral ingredient found in many cosmetic products such as powders, (think foundation powders, bronzers, blush, setting powders…), foundation, shower and bath products, lotions, feminine hygiene products, eye shadows, deodorants, and even lipsticks. It’s main purpose is to absorb the moisture in the makeup, to prevent caking, and to make face makeup like foundations look opaque.
Doesn’t sound like anything too harmful right? So what’s the problem? The main health and safety concern with Talc is possible contamination with asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. If the talc contains asbestos, it can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer. BUT even talc free of asbestos can cause irritation in the lungs if you inhale it, especially if you are constantly inhaling a little bit every time you do your makeup. It increases the burden carried by your lungs and can cause damage to the cells if it builds up. Some respiratory symptoms you might experience are difficulty breathing and a chronic cough. Other potential issues are irritation of the lungs, cancers, and toxicity. The good news is that not all talc contains asbestos. The FDA has a list of specific Talc containing products that tested negatively for asbestos.
It’s not 1000% certain whether or not talc without Asbestos is a problem. However, studies have shown that inhaling talc containing products has led to respiratory distress. Even more concerning are the studies showing a link between talc and endometrial and ovarian cancer. In some cases where feminine hygiene products or baby powders containing talc were applied to the pelvic area, the talc was found to have entered the circulation and nearby organs. It was found in the ovaries and even in pelvic lymph nodes. Scary!! One study showed that Talc increased the risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women when applied to the genital area. It’s still unknown whether or not the frequency of talc use can be associated with cancer in all women, but I tend to rather play it safe than sorry. Before we all freak out, I have to reiterate that the studies show really mixed findings. Based on current research you can’t say that Talc causes Ovarian cancer or even that applying Talc containing powders near the pelvis will cause Talc to spread to your Ovaries. I just know for myself, a couple of studies showing it’s possible are enough to make me want to avoid when I can!
If it’s this bad why is it not banned from cosmetic products?? Well interestingly enough, the European Union actually restricts the use of talc. Unfortunately for the U.S., cosmetic products do not undergo review by the FDA. Basically, there is not much regulation over the safety of our makeup. This is something that really needs to change!
According to the Environmental Working Group, the overall hazard is moderate. They rated uncontaminated Talc as a 3 on the hazard scale, but Talc contaminated with Asbestos was rated as a 7. I’ve definitely seen worse ratings, but I’ve also seen better. Again, the point of this post wasn’t to scare anyone or even to say that you should completely avoid Talc. I just know that I have heard a lot of things on both ends and have been asked it about it a lot by friends and family, so I wanted to give some basic information so that you could make an informed decision as a consumer. Am I 1000% Talc free? Of course not! I really do believe in everything in moderation. However, as I’m learning more and more as a Naturopathic medical student I’m realizing that environmental exposure to chemicals and toxins is a real problem and is quite possibly a contributing factor to the rising rates of problems like cancer, infertility, and autoimmune disease, so I prefer to decrease exposures to things that might be possible toxins or hormone disruptors whenever possible. I think some things are easier to avoid than others, and Talc just happens to be something that is very possible to cut out of your products if you are more aware! Some of my favorite brands like Tarte, Cover Fx, Well People, RMS Beauty…and many more that I can’t think of right now… currently make powder products that are Talc free and honestly work just as well as their competitors. I hope that posts like this bring awareness to the issue of cosmetic health and safety and answer any questions you might have had related to Talc and your health!
Here are some of my favorite go to talc free products:
Baby powder and Body Powder:
- The Honest Company Organic Baby Powder
- Burts Bees Natural Dusting Powder
- Gold Bond Ultimate Comfort Powder for women
- Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush
- Cover Fx Pressed Mineral Foundation
- It Cosmetics CC cream
- Cover Fx Natural Finish Foundation (Sephora)
- Tarte Smooth Operator Loose Setting Powder
- Cover Fx Perfect Setting Powder (this one is my ALL time favorite)
- Juice Beauty Loose Setting Powder
- Primal Pit Paste
- LaVanila- Sport Luxe Healthy Deodorant- This is the larger sport edition of the deodorant.
- LaVanila The Healthy Deodorant Pure Vanilla: This is the smaller original, seriously smells like heaven!
Let me know if there are any other skin care or makeup ingredients you’d like to learn more about ?