Powder Safety and Talc - Should You Be Concerned?

Talc (also known as Talcum Powder and Hydrated Magnesium Silicate) has been in the news lately regarding its safety in personal care products.

Talc has been used for cosmetics and personal care for hundreds of years because it is soft and absorbs oil easily. But over the past several decades, talc has fallen out of favor due to questions about its safety. Earlier this year, the FDA held a meeting about testing for asbestos in talc and cosmetics containing talc.

This seems like the time to mention that BRUSH ON BLOCK® products do  NOT contain talc, and never have. We should also mention that many modern cosmetic powders do not contain talc, but you should always read the label. Be sure to look for Hydrated Magnesium Silicate as well as talc, as some brands don’t necessarily want to claim they use talc, so they fall back on the scientific name. We know of at least one SPF powder that has Hydrated Magnesium Silicate as its main ingredient, but also claim to be talc-free. So be sure you are reading labels and looking for all of the names.

There are several concerns with talc, but the one the FDA is most concerned with is its potential to be contaminated with asbestos. A lawsuit filed in California alleges manufacturers of such brands as Johnson’s Baby Powder, Gold Bond Powder and Shower to Shower, along with private label brands distributed at CVS, Dollar General, Target, Walgreens and Walmart are among those that hid the fact that their products contain excessive levels of dangerous chemicals shown to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Without testing, there is no way to know if a particular talc product is contaminated with asbestos, lead or other harmful compounds, so the FDA has taken action. Asbestos has also been found to be present in high levels in cosmetics for children sold at stores like Claire’s and Justice.

Should you be concerned about talc? Asbestos and other contaminants aside, the American Cancer Society has said there is a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer with use of talc, but the studies results are mixed and rely on memory of talc use. They recommend that until more information is available, “people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it.” And fortunately, there are many alternatives available—cornstarch, kaolin clay, zinc oxide, boron nitride and silica. 

With talc in cosmetic powders for use on the face, contaminants are the main concern. To protect yourself and your family, purchase products that are free of talc. With all of the alternatives available, there is really no reason to risk your health.