Everything You Need to Know About Talc Safety and Reliability

The naturally occurring mineral talc has become a widely used mineral among cosmetics and medicine. It offers a variety of uses that can be helpful to many other types of products as well, but is it entirely safe? You may have noticed that there are “talc-free” versions of products on the market. Why is that? Should you be purchasing talc-free products?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about talc to determine what is best for you.

Talc Defined

Talc is a natural mineral that is made up of oxygen, magnesium, hydrogen, and silicon. It is retrieved by mining it from the earth and is one of the softest naturally occurring minerals. This makes it extremely useful for a plethora of different consumer products.

Uses for Talc

Talc’s texture and chemical structure make it a useful additive to many products. There are three primary purposes for talc in the formation of by-products. It can:

  • Absorb moisture
  • Add texture
  • Prevent clotting

When people think of talc, they most often think of talcum powder, also known as baby powder, to relieve the discomfort of babies’ diaper rashes. However, that is just one of the many products that utilize talc. You can find it in makeup products like foundations, lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara, and blushes. Personal care products like dry shampoo and deodorants also use talc to absorb moisture.

Use for Talc in medicine

After learning that talk is a product that is often used in personal care products, the natural question can arise “Why is talc in medicine?” Talc’s ability to prevent clumping makes it the perfect addition to maintaining the texture of most over-the-counter medications.

Talc Testing for Asbestos Among Various Products

While most companies use talc to make these products, a few make them without talc because of its possible interaction with asbestos and the risks that come with it.

Like talc, asbestos is a silicate mineral naturally occurring in similar areas. Since they can be found in the same places, if talc mining locations are not properly tested, they run the risk of extracting asbestos-contaminated talc.

Risks of Talc

With its possible relation to asbestos, talc and talc-based products come with their own set of health risks. Some have suggested that it has been known to cause ovarian cancer when applied to the genital area. However, after a few studies on this matter, the results are more or less inconclusive.

Some studies have reported that there is, in fact, a slight increase in the risk of ovarian cancer. These studies however are mainly “case-control studies”. This means that the studies rely on their memory of talc use from the years past, which may come with some bias.

Other studies have reported no increase in risk. These are mainly “prospective cohort studies”, which don’t have the same type of bias as case-control studies. However, in both cases, the size of the studies isn’t quite large enough to provide reliable results. This is simply because ovarian cancer is not that common.  Johnson and Johnson is discontinuing its sales of talc-based baby powder after several years of litigation.

Other Products with Talc

While cosmetics, baby powder, and medicine are a few primary uses for talc, several other products utilize it. Here are a few examples:

  • Rubber
  • Plastics
  • Countertops
  • Paint
  • Ceramics
  • Insecticides
  • Gum
  • Paper
  • Crayons and other children’s toys


Talc is a naturally occurring magnesium silicate that can be mined from the earth and used for many different purposes. Three primary uses are moisture absorption, texture addition, and clotting prevention. Being one of the softest natural materials, it works great for its primary product, talcum powder, also known as baby powder. It also is found among different over-the-counter medications and pharmaceuticals.

While talc alone is a useful product for many different reasons, when contaminated with asbestos it can come with a few risks. Asbestos can be naturally found in the same places as talc, and when the mining area is not properly tested it can contaminate it and end up in many of the products that people all across the globe use every day. When ingested or applied to the genital area asbestos-contaminated talc has been suspected to lead to cancer. While this hasn’t been proven, it could be best to steer towards talc-free cosmetics and personal products.


Talc | U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Talcum Powder and Cancer | American Cancer Society