If you shop for makeup regularly, you may have noticed more and more products tout themselves as “talc-free.” What is talc (also known as talcum powder) and why does it matter if your cosmetics and personal care items contain it?
The answer may surprise you.
Talc is one of the softest minerals on earth. It has been used in products like baby powder, foot powder, and powdered cosmetics like blush and eyeshadow for decades. It’s added to these products because it’s great for absorbing moisture, preventing caking, and making makeup opaque. It’s a natural substance, which means it’s safe, right?
Often, talc is located near, and therefore mined near, asbestos. Unless precautions are taken, cross contamination is likely. When talc goes to cosmetic manufacturers, asbestos may be going with it.
Let’s back up for a minute and talk about what asbestos is and why it’s dangerous. Asbestos is a set of six minerals that can be pulled into a soft, fibrous material, which is why it was previously used in housing insulation. It’s incredibly harmful to humans because when the microscopic fibers get into your body, they’re almost impossible to expel since they don’t dissolve. They get stuck in your body and can cause inflammation and cell damage, leading to cancers like mesothelioma. Since you can’t see or smell asbestos and symptoms can take decades to appear, you probably won’t know if or when it gets into your body.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why so many brands are creating talc-free products and why there was an uproar from parents when makeup targeted at tweens was recalled for testing positive for asbestos.
How do you know if your makeup is safe and how can you avoid purchasing dangerous products in the future? It’s not as hard as you might think.
Look at the products you’re currently using. Is talc on the ingredient list? If so, check the manufacturer’s website to see if they’ve pledged to use certified asbestos-free talc. If you can’t find the information, don’t be afraid to reach out on social media or via email. You deserve to know what’s in your makeup!
To avoid products that may contain asbestos, think about these things when you’re shopping:
- Remember that products labeled as “Natural” or “All natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safe. Talc and asbestos are both natural substances.
- Check the ingredient list for talc or talcum powder. If it’s present, check to make sure that the company uses asbestos-free talc.
- Look for products with talc alternatives like rice powder or oat flour. These serve the same purpose as talc but are completely safe.
- When possible, avoid low-quality products. Since talc is a very inexpensive ingredient, it’s used most often in low-quality cosmetics. (Although it can be used by more expensive brands, which is why it’s so important to read labels!)
The truth about asbestos in makeup is much less sinister than it sounds, but it’s still extremely harmful. Be diligent and do your homework when you’re shopping for makeup and personal care products. Many companies offer high-quality, affordable talc-free products and in light of the recent recall, more manufacturers will probably be moving toward safer alternatives.