Know Your Ingredients : Talc

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Good morning, loyal readers of my blog. Today, I decided to have a new section to this blog and named it 'Know Your Ingredients'. Basically, this section will discuss the ingredients found in most skin care and makeup products either briefly or in details. I hope with section everyone will get to understand more of the product and help with their skin problems. 

This first section is going to discuss about talc. Yes, you're reading it right. 

So, what it talc?
Talc is a mineral consisted of hydrated magnesium silicate, which is widely used as talcum powder in its loose form. 
Talc in its solid form

What is it often used for?
Talc is commonly found in most industries such as paper making, plastic, paint and coatings, rubber, food, electric cable, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and ceramics. The talc used in cosmetics are of a different grade than the ones used in paint, paper, etc. 
The usual form of talc that's commonly seen
Why is it used in the cosmetics industry?
Talc is often used in cosmetics to act as an absorbent, anti caking agent and to improve the feel of the product (due to its slippery and smooth attribute). 
The typical baby powder 
It's also used as baby powder, an astringent powder to help heal diaper rash. 


Is talc safe for your health?
This has been a debate since the 1970s, a controversial issue, if you may. Going back to the 70s, a research found particles of talc embedded in 75% of the ovarian tumors studied. [Henderson WJ, Joslin CA, Turnbull AC, Griffiths K (1971). "Talc and carcinoma of the ovary and cervix". J Obstet Gynaecol Br Commonw 78 (3): 266–272.]


Sounds scary, doesn't it? Well, don't be scared. In the 1970s, talcum powder are often contaminated with asbestos fibres. Those asbestos particles are one of the causes of lung cancer. 
A few of an example of talc in makeup
However, nowadays, talcum powder (cosmetic grade) is free from asbestos, as confirmed by X-ray diffraction and optical electron microscopy. At the end of the day, most of the talc producers will re-evaluate whether the final product is free from asbestos. 


Wait, you just said it causes lung cancer! Is it dangerous when inhaled?
Well, as I just wrote in the paragraphs above, it's not the talc that's dangerous, it's talc-containing-asbestos that will lead to cancer. 


Also, for more safety precautions, talc-containing loose powder is milled to a relatively large, non-respirable particle size (>5 µm) in the US. 


I've read a couple of articles stating that talc is a carcinogen, is that true?
When you read an article, you have to be thorough with all the research background and how they do the research. For example, take a look at this study.


The inhalation safety of talc has been studied by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). While a study on test animals inhaling large doses of talc over two years showed some animals developing adverse health effects, the experts attending the ISRTP/FDA Talc workshop concluded that this study is not relevant to predicting human risk because it exceeded the maximum functionally tolerated dose, which means that it exceeded the ability of the test system to produce meaningful results. 


The exposure levels were so high that they resulted in particle overload in the lungs. Therefore, the lung tumors that were observed in some test animals were most likely related to chronic toxicity as a result of particle overload, rather than a direct effect of talc. 


This means that it is entirely possible that the observed effect would have been seen with other particulate substances tested in a similar manner, regardless of the nature of the material tested.


To summarize the research, it's not the particle (talc) that causes cancer, but the amount of talc that the subjects are exposed to. So, any particle may trigger the cancer if given in a large amount. 



Does it clog pores?
There hasn't been a solid evidence indicating that talc clog pores and causes acne. There are numerous causes of clogged pores such as dirt, grime, makeup residue, hormonal changes and many more. 



How come I have acne when I use talc-based loose powder? 


It may be possible that you are sensitive (allergic) to talc. Acne is just one of the ways of your skin reacting to a product that it doesn't like. 


Well, that's all for my post this time. If you have more questions, leave a comment or just contact me via the form in the contact me here page. 

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