Is Talc in Makeup Safe?

Dear Dr. Manny, 

Is talc in makeup safe? Does it cause cancer? 

Talc has been in makeup for thousands of years, but recent studies have found some link between talc and cancers. The USDA writes that talc is generally safe for use, and the mineral gives makeup a silky texture for skin. It also absorbs oil and prevents caking on the skin. 

Talc can cause some side effects if it’s swallowed or inhaled. It also can cause the eye to swell up and be irritated if it gets in the eye. 

Face powder poisoning is a real side effect that is caused by the talc in makeup. This is followed with coughing, eye irritation, and a burning sensation in your throat. Rarely is it serious or fatal, but occasionally you will need to seek medical attention. Some of the more serious symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Talcosis, which happens if you inhale makeup powder with talc in it, can cause lasting damage. The lungs can inflame and become stiff or scarred. This can lead to lung failure. 

X-rays can diagnose talcosis through looking at the lower part of the lung. 

There is no evidence that talc in makeup causes cancer, but it has potential, according to studies. Talc particles have been found in ovarian and cervical tumors, particularly if women have used talc powder near their genitals. But other studies have not found a connection. 

More importantly, makeup would not cause cancer, since it is not used near a genital area. However, if you are concerned about using makeup that contains talc, pay attention to the ingredient labels and avoid it altogether. A large number of makeup companies are phasing out the use of talc in their products.