Is Talc Bad for Your Skin?

For years, every morning, my mother would tell me to use baby powder instead of pricier pressed or loose cosmetic powders.

“It absorbs the oil better,” my mother, a former beautician, would inform me before dusting the powder across my face.

Around 1995, we heard a report that talc is bad for your skin, causing breakouts and clogging pores.  So we switched to regular ol’ powders.  Then, the other day, I was reviewing Estee Lauder Double Matte Oil-Free Pressed Powder – voted #1 on Total Beauty for oily skin – and it occurred to me that the main ingredient in the product was talc.  Could it be that we were avoiding talc for no reason all of these years?

Talc Does Not Clog Pores

Turns out that talc is noncomedogenic, meaning that it does not clog pores.  A 1984 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that a mixture including water, glycerin, and talc was less comedogenic than numerous other ingredients common to skin care, including isopropyl isostearate, butyl stearate, myristyl myristate, and many others.

Talc Does Not Cause Lung Cancer

Talc was long believed to cause a health concern because it is closely related to asbestos (they are both silicates).  In the industrial setting, talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers.  However, since 1976, the cosmetics’ makers association called upon its members to make cosmetics-grade talc asbestos-free.  A 2006 review in Occupational and Environmental Medicine confirmed this report, finding no increased risk of lung cancer when using talc-based cosmetic products.

Despite this, it is important not to let your infant inhale too much of the talc in baby powder.  Several hundred infants each year inspire too much baby powder, leading to respiratory complications, according to a review in Toxicology Letters.  It is best to apply the powder into your hands a safe distance away from the infant first, and then apply to the child.

Talc Does Not Cause Ovarian Cancer, Either

There was a lot of alarm a few years ago, when a study found that applying talcum powder to the genital area could increase ovarian cancer in women.  However, as pointed out by The Beauty Brains, the study found a higher risk with deodorizing powders (i.e., talc and silica) than non-deodorizing powders (i.e., talc alone).  Further, the study ultimately concluded that the results were inconclusive, and additional research needed to be done.  In one later study, the ovaries of rats were actually injected with talc, and cancer did not develop.

Bottom Line:  Talc is Good!

I never knew the day would come, but now I’m back to periodically dusting my face with baby powder again.  (!)  Researchers from Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology to the Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun agree with my conclusion that talc is not only non-carcinogenic, but cosmetically beneficial to the skin, absorbing oil, preventing shine, and providing a lightweight base for further cosmetic application.  I’m a fan again, and I can now safely recommend Estée Lauder Double Matte Powder to my readers too!     

Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop!

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Image source:  © Graça Victoria –