INCI is the label that, by law in different countries, shows the list of ingredients used in a cosmetic product. It is therefore important to know how to read the INCI in order to be able to choose safe and beneficial cosmetics that do not contain irritating or harmful substances. Among the possible ingredients that can appear in cosmetics there is also talc. In particular, today we will see its use in cosmetics and we will try to understand if this substance is safe or not.
Talc in cosmetics
Talc is a very common mineral that, due to its absorbent properties, is often used in products for intimate hygiene, for baby’s daily hygiene but also in make-up products such as face powder or foundation. In the INCI it appears with the name talc and has been and is the subject of numerous studies and debates about its safety. In fact, there is a suspicion that talc may be linked to certain types of cancer, especially ovarian cancer. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen. However, since the 1970s the talc used in cosmetics must not contain asbestos (Fiume et al, Int J Toxicol, 2015). So is asbestos-free talc safe? It would appear not. In fact, scientific studies have shown that the contact of talc based products in intimate areas may have a possible carcinogenic effect, estimating a 33% increase in cases of ovarian cancer (Terry et al, Cancer Prev Res, 2013). In 2006 the IARC itself, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, indicated that talc used on private parts could be considered a possible carcinogen. So, a good choice could be to not include talc and talc-based products in your daily intimate hygiene. As for the talc used in face powders and foundations, which then come into contact with the face, or in products that are not dedicated to intimate hygiene but are applied on other parts of the body, such as the soles of the feet, there is no evidence of an increase in risk of developing tumors (Terry et al, Cancer Prev Res, 2013). In fact, the IARC indicates asbestos-free talc not used for intimate hygiene as not classifiable as a possible carcinogen since the tests are not sufficient to indicate a different action. However, a good choice could always be to limit the use of these cosmetics. In fact, according to scientific studies (Cramer et al, Epidemiology, 2016), talc based products seem to be associated with an increased risk of developing asthma. Not only that, talc, although it acts by absorbing sebum, can clog the pores of the skin, thus worsening an already existing condition of acne (Goh et al, J Cutan Aesthet Surg, Apr 2016).