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Face, mostly lips, covered in a white powder substance.

Photo by Ricardo Garcia

As more and more beauty brands make the shift to “clean” beauty, many common ingredients are being removed from the shelves. In an effort to produce better-for-you beauty products, beauty brands are removing potentially harmful, toxic, non-natural ingredients. One ingredient that is currently being looked into is talc. Talc is a mineral-based powder, making it a popular ingredient in many setting powders or other powder-based products.

Talc has sparked controversy in recent years for testing positive for asbestos and being linked to both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. While the FDA is still investigating these claims, many brands are choosing to act out of an abundance of caution by removing talc from their products.

No conclusive studies have proven a direct link between talc in beauty products to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, but the asbestos contamination serves as the greater issue. When using a beauty product that has been contaminated with asbestos, consumers face the risk of carcinogenic exposure. This exposure can increase your risk of cancer. It is extremely common for talc to be contaminated with asbestos, as they come from the same parent rock and are often formed alongside each other.

Multiple eyeshadow packages on a table
Photo by zhugewala

Despite the risks of including talc as an ingredient, it has been popular for this long due to its absorbent tendencies. This helps improve the texture of beauty powders, preventing them from caking. Though sometimes found in liquids, you’ll most frequently find talc in pressed or loose powders such as setting powders, bronzers, eyeshadow, blush and more. Talc is more of a risk in powders, especially, as you are more likely to inhale it as it disperses through the air.

In light of these concerns, many brands are switching to safer alternatives. The most popular alternative is plant-based starches, such as corn and tapioca. These are not mineral-based, reducing risk of contamination. These alternatives also have a larger particle size, reducing the risk of inhalation getting deep into your lungs and causing concern.

With research still being performed on the links to talc and ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, it’s ultimately up to you with which products you choose. But with time, we will slowly see more and more beauty brands switching this potentially harmful ingredient for safer, more natural alternatives. As “clean” beauty continues to rise in popularity, we look forward to seeing more good-for-you creations on the market.

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