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Ingredient Decoder: Is Talc Safe?

In the world of beauty, it can be hard to distinguish between fancy advertising and real results. But when all’s said and done, it all boils down to one thing: the ingredients. Every week, our resident science buff Mai will be separating the good from the bad, explaining how products work, and sharing her latest discoveries.

Photo: Fab Sugar

When you think of baby powder, the first things that come to mind are probably changing tables and giggling Gerber babies. What you might not know is that the familiar white powder is made with talc, which also happens to be the number one ingredient in many blushes and shadows. What’s the big deal, you ask? You should know that talc is one of the most hotly debated ingredients out there. Learn why after the jump!

Infant associations aside, talc is a finely ground mineral that helps your makeup stay put. It absorbs all kinds of moisture—from sweat to your skin’s natural oils—ensuring that the products you applied at 8 am won’t wear off by noon. Since it’s cheap, talc is also used a common “bulking agent” (aka filler) to add heft to pigments. All of this sounds harmless enough, but talc can be harsh on sensitive skin, leading to breakouts and irritation. Critics also hypothesize that inhaling high doses of talc may lead to lung tumors, though the FDA has not made a decisive ruling. And while none of us go around sniffing our blush compacts, it’s certainly possible to inhale a stray particle here and there. There’s no cause to raise your red flag of alarm, but it’s probably a good idea to minimize your exposure to this iffy substance. 

If you’re trying to steer clear of talc-based products, you’re in luck. There are plenty of alternatives out there, and you don’t have to sacrifice staying power or color payoff. In the blush category, take a page from my book and try the Balm’s gorgeous, skin-safe formulas. I especially adore Hot Mama, a peachy pink laced with gold shimmer. It adds a decidedly grown-up flush to your cheeks and also works as a shadow and highlighter. The best part? You can wear it all day, every day without worrying that it’s damaging your skin (or your health). I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to worry about is the chemical composition of my makeup.


Searching for more talc-free blushes? Check out rms beauty’s Lip2Cheek Tint, which is made with pure organic ingredients.

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