Cosmetics

Talc

Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, from baby powder to blush. From time to time, FDA has received questions about its safety and whether talc contains harmful contaminants, such as asbestos. 

FDA's authority over cosmetic safety

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), cosmetic products and ingredients, with the exception of color additives, do not have to undergo FDA review or approval before they go on the market. Cosmetics must be properly labeled, and they must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use. Cosmetic companies have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products and ingredients, but the law does not require them to share their safety information with FDA. 

FDA monitors for potential safety problems with cosmetic products on the market and takes action when needed to protect public health. Before we can take such action against a cosmetic, we need sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use.  

Talc: What it is and how it is used in cosmetics

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, mined from the earth, composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Chemically, talc is a hydrous magnesium silicate with a chemical formula of Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.

Talc has many uses in cosmetics and other personal care products; in food, such as rice and chewing gum; and in the manufacture of tablets. For example, it may be used to absorb moisture, to prevent caking, to make facial makeup opaque, or to improve the feel of a product.

Asbestos: What it is, why it’s a concern, and how to prevent its occurrence in cosmetics

Asbestos is also a naturally occurring silicate mineral, but with a different crystal structure. Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that may be found in close proximity in the earth. Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen. For this reason, FDA considers it unacceptable for cosmetic talc to be contaminated with asbestos.

Published scientific literature going back to the 1960s has suggested a possible association between the use of powders containing talc and the incidence of ovarian cancer. However, these studies have not conclusively demonstrated such a link, or if such a link existed, what risk factors might be involved. Nevertheless, questions about the potential contamination of talc with asbestos have been raised since the 1970s.  

To prevent contamination of talc with asbestos, it is essential to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to purify the ore sufficiently.

How FDA followed up on the latest reports

Because safety questions about the possible presence of asbestos in talc are raised periodically, FDA decided to conduct an exploratory survey of currently marketed cosmetic-grade raw material talc, as well as some cosmetic products containing talc.

Because FDA’s cosmetic laboratories do not have the equipment needed to perform the analyses, we searched for a qualified outside laboratory to do the work. We contracted with AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) of Lanham, MD to conduct this laboratory survey, based on demonstrated experience with asbestos analysis in complex matrices, appropriate facilities, equipment, personnel, analytical strategy, and budget criteria. The study ran from September 28, 2009 to September 27, 2010.

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How the survey was conducted

The first step was to identify cosmetic talc suppliers and talc-containing cosmetic products. We found seven talc suppliers identified in the 2008 edition of the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook and two more by searching online. The contract laboratory contacted each supplier to request samples of its talc. Of the nine suppliers identified, four complied with the request.

We found talc-containing cosmetic products to analyze by visiting various retail outlets in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The samples identified for testing included low, medium, and high priced products, along with some from “niche” markets, in order to cover as broad a product range as possible. A total of thirty-four cosmetic products containing talc were selected, including eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder. All cosmetic products were purchased from retail stores in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The contract laboratory analyzed the samples using polarized light microscopy (PLM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) methods published by the New York State Department of Health, Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. Each sample was analyzed three times using both methods.

The results of FDA's survey and what they mean

The survey found no asbestos fibers or structures in any of the samples of cosmetic-grade raw material talc or cosmetic products containing talc. The results were limited, however, by the fact that only four talc suppliers submitted samples and by the number of products tested. For these reasons, while FDA finds these results informative, they do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination. As always, when potential public health concerns are raised, we will continue to monitor for new information and take appropriate actions to protect the public health.

The tables below list details for each of the cosmetic-grade raw material talc samples and cosmetic products containing talc that were analyzed in this survey. Limits of detection are shown below the table for each group of samples. Note: “NAD” means “no asbestos detected.”

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Cosmetic-grade raw material talc

SupplierProduct IdentityLot #% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaImperial 200 USPH10018NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaImperial 250 USPH10018NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaImperial 400 USPH06049-43NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaOlympic H USPH04018NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaSupreme H USP Lot 2H09219-79NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaSupra H USPH10018NADNAD
Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac AmericaSuprafino H USPH6309-78NADNAD

PLM average limit of quantitation and limit of detection = 0.23% ± 0.01
TEM average limit of detection = 0.0000021% ± 1.26567E-09
TEM average limit of detection = 0.021 ppm ± 0.001
TEM average limit of quantitation = 0.46% ± 0.01

SupplierProduct IdentityLot #% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
PresperseMicro Ace P-233070516NADNAD
PresperseMicro Ace P-437080823NADNAD
PresperseRose Talc2008-09NADNAD
PresperseTalc NK-48017 0306NADNAD
PresperseTalClear BH070608NADNAD
PresperseTalClear LH070529NADNAD

PLM average limit of quantitation and limit of detection = 0.22% ± 0.01
TEM average limit of detection = 0.0000021% ± 3.0099E-09
TEM average limit of detection = 0.021 ppm ± 0.003
TEM average limit of quantitation = 0.43% ± 0.02

SupplierProduct IdentityLot #% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Sensient Cosmetic Technologies28355 Talc PPW249-06NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic Technologies28368 Talc NBSBW080720NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic Technologies28460 Talc F-MSW053-08NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic Technologies61631 Talc LCW26449NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic TechnologiesR0175 Talc FHCW041397NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic TechnologiesR0255 Talc SIW05630NADNAD
Sensient Cosmetic TechnologiesR0435 Talc ASW061176NADNAD

PLM average limit of quantitation and limit of detection = 0.22% ± 0.01
TEM average limit of detection = 0.0000022% ± 1.91529E-09
TEM average limit of detection = 0.022 ppm ± 0.002
TEM average limit of quantitation = 0.43% ± 0.01

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SupplierProduct IdentityLot #% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Talc IMP BC IMP1886LH01018NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Supra H USP BC (*1718)H10016NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Imperial 400 USP BC (*1883)H01017NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Talcron MP 60-30 USP (1745)B8141N1NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Talc IMP BC IMP1820LH07018NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Talc Imperial USP BC IMP1885LH10017NADNAD
Brenntag Specialties, Inc.Lo-Micron USP BC 2755B7375N2NADNAD

PLM average limit of quantitation and limit of detection = 0.23% ± 0.01
TEM average limit of detection = 0.0000021% ± 2.10373E-09
TEM average limit of detection = 0.021 ppm ± 0.002
TEM average limit of quantitation = 0.46% ± 0.01


Cosmetic products containing talc

Blush:

BrandShade% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Maybelline New York Expert Wear BlushGentle Rose 109EWBR-30NADNAD
N.Y.C. New York Color Cheek Glow Powder BlushWest Side Wine 652ANADNAD
NARS BlushTorrid 4017NADNAD

Eye Shadow:

BrandShade% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips Custom Eye Enhancing Shadow & LinerHazel Eyes 2222NADNAD
Black Radiance Eyeshadow QuartetRetro Chic 8805NADNAD
Stilla Eye Shadow TrioVenus S461-03NADNAD
Dior 5-Colour Iridescent EyeshadowPetal Shine 809NADNAD

Foundation:

BrandShade% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Black Opal True Color Liquid FoundationHeavenly HoneyNADNAD
Laura Mercier Foundation PowderNumber 2NADNAD

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Face Powder:

BrandShade% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
LA Colors Pressed PowderNude BPP320NADNAD
Revlon Color Stay Pressed PowderFair 810NADNAD
Cover Girl TruBlend Mineral Loose Mineral PowderTranslucent Fair 405NADNAD
Physician’s Formula Summer Eclipse Bronzing & Shimmery Face PowderMoonlight/Light Bronzer 3104NADNAD
Wet n Wild BronzerLight/Medium 701NADNAD
Iman Luxury Pressed PowderClay Medium DarkNADNAD
Coty Air Spun Loose Face PowderTranslucent 070-24NADNAD
Black Opal Color Fusion PowderMosaic Raspberry BronzerNADNAD
Black Radiance Pressed PowderRich Mahogany Acajou riche 8607BNADNAD
Posner Finishing Touch Pressed PowderHoney Beige 53124NADNAD
N.Y.C.  New York Color Loose Face PowderTranslucent 741ANADNAD
Almay Nearly Naked Loose PowderLight/pale 100NADNAD
Clinique Stay Matte Sheer Pressed PowderInvisible Matte 101NADNAD
BeneFit Hello Flawless Custom Powder Cover-Up for Face SPF 15Me Vain? Champagne 1B168NADNAD
Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights Intermix Pressed PowderBaked Stardust DL 106NADNAD
Guerlain Meteorites Poudre de Perles Illuminating Perfecting Pressed PowderMythic Parfait 01NADNAD
Urban Decay Baked BronzerGildedNADNAD

Body Powder:

BrandShade% Asbestos by PLM% Asbestos by TEM
Johnson’s Baby Powdern/aNADNAD
CVS Brand Baby Powdern/aNADNAD
Rite Aid Baby Powdern/aNADNAD
Anti Monkey Butt Powdern/aNADNAD
Assured Shower & Bath Absorbent Body Powdern/aNADNAD
Angel of Mine Baby Powdern/aNADNAD
Family Dollar Mild Baby Powdern/aNADNAD
Shower to Shower Morning Fresh Absorbent Body Powdern/aNADNAD

PLM average limit of quantitation and limit of detection = 0.19% ± 0.04
TEM average limit of detection = 0.0000044% ± 1.76229E-08
TEM average limit of detection = 0.044 ppm ± 0.018
TEM average limit of quantitation = 0.39% ± 0.08

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Page Last Updated: 03/19/2014
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