Which Forms of Talc Cosmetics Are Dangerous to My Health?

Closeup of pink makeup swatch

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that appears in many cosmetics and personal hygiene products. However, while talc in cosmetics products is fairly prevalent, they’re not always safe to use.

With the recent news about talc causing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, many women are checking the ingredients in their cosmetics and products carefully. According to experts, talc poses the biggest risk when it’s in a loose powder form.

Health Dangers of Loose Talc in Cosmetics Products

Talcum powder is commonly used in cosmetics to absorb moisture, enhance the appearance of makeup and improve the feel of a product. It’s often added to pressed powders like eyeshadow, bronzer, blush and certain types of foundation. Other times it appears in loose powders such as translucent powder, baby powder, bath bombs and dry shampoo.

Studies dating back to the 1960s suggest a connection between loose talc and ovarian cancer. While this potential link has never been demonstrated conclusively, the FDA is conducting further research into this area.

A recent Health Canada report warns of different talc products and their associated risks. The report suggests that inhaling loose talc powder could be harmful to the lungs and using talc products on the female genital area could potentially cause ovarian cancer. According to the report, this risk is limited to loose talc and not creams or oral medications containing talc.

Loose Talc Powder Can Be Inhaled and Absorbed

The reason for the alerts about loose talc in cosmetics is because this form can be more easily inhaled than solid, pressed powders. When inhaled, talc fibers can lodge in the lungs and cause pulmonary fibrosis—scar tissue build-up that causes difficulty breathing.

Furthermore, when loose talc is used around the genital area, it can be absorbed and cause ovarian cancer. While some researchers point out that the connection is not conclusive, that has not stopped companies from being held responsible in court.

Last December, a judge upheld a verdict ordering Johnson & Johnson® to payout $4.69 billion to women who claim their ovarian cancer was caused by asbestos in the company’s talc products.

Talc Powder Can Contain Asbestos

Like Health Canada, the FDA is also warning about talc products. But the FDA’s warning is about the possible contamination of asbestos in talc. Like talc, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. However, unlike talc which is only a suspected carcinogen, asbestos is known to cause cancer. Specifically, it is known to cause mesothelioma.

Asbestos and talc minerals are often found beside each other in the earth, which can cause contamination in cosmetic products. After the talc is mined, it needs to be purified correctly to ensure that it is free from asbestos fibers.

Recent research by Jessica Donahue at Western Oregon University indicates that this purification process may not always happen thoroughly enough. She tested several drug store makeup brands and found that Kat Von D, L.A. Colors and Wet n Wild products might have contained asbestos when she examined them under a microscope. Even if future research confirms that talc is not a carcinogen on its own, using loose talc products can still put you at risk of cancer due to its potential contamination with asbestos.

What to Do if You Use Talc Products

It’s important to note that not all talc-containing products are dangerous. For example, when it appears in oral medications, it is believed to be safe to consume. However, it is advised to avoid using loose powders that contain talc, either inhaling it or using it on your genital areas. It’s always better to be safe.

If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you are a talc powder consumer, you may have legal rights. Contact Talcum Powder Cancer Guide for a free legal consultation.



“A Study of Talc-Containing Cosmetics and Their Potential Asbestos Contamination,” Digital Commons. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.wou.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1159&context=honors_theses. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“Canada Says Talc Maybe ‘Harmful to Human Health’,” Medscape. Retrieved from: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/906187. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“Johnson & Johnson Loses Bid to Overturn a $4.7 Billion Baby Powder Verdict,” The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/business/johnson-johnson-baby-powder-verdict.html. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“Talc,” U.S. Food and Drug. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/ingredients/ucm293184.htm. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“Talc – Potential Risk of Lung Effects and Ovarian Cancer,” Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2018/68320a-eng.php. Accessed April 25, 2019.

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