Talc is a clay mineral, usually appearing as a white or grey fine powder and commonly known as Talcum Powder. It's one of the main ingredients used in many powdered cosmetics - including face powders, baby powders and body powders; and is also found in some bar soaps. Talc mining has been associated with contamination of the product by harmful asbestos fibres, which is why we choose to leave this out of our products.
Chemically, talc is known as hydrous magnesium silicate, and may contain a small portion of aluminium silicate. It is a natural mineral mined from the earth, and composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen molecules. Talc's defining characteristic is its softness, while its chemical structure allows for layers to easily glide over to each other - making it an effective dry lubricant. Other uses for talc include in Tailors Chalk, ceramics glazing, paper manufacture and in some plastics as a filler.
Talc mining occurs in many regions around the world, with China currently the world's largest producer. Asbestos is also a natural mineral, but is a known carcinogen and considered hazardous to human health. Talc and asbestos can be found in close proximity in the earth, which is why there is the possibility for cross contamination, and why mining locations for talc need to be selected and assessed carefully. The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regularly screens commercial talc products for asbestos contamination, and continues to evaluate scientific methodology and feedback with the possible aim of developing standards for testing. As part of their ongoing survey of cosmetics for asbestos, the FDA updated the Safety Alert in 2019 and issued a new Constituent Update warning consumers not to use certain cosmetic products tested positive for asbestos.
Aside from asbestos contamination, health concerns around talc include inhalation of particles when in powdered form. Particles are small enough that they can become suspended in the air and inhaled by children, causing airway obstruction, drying of the respiratory mucosa, impairment of the ciliary clearing mechanism, and inflammation. Talc has been restricted in Canada since 2007 to protect infants, and is under consideration for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) List of Toxic Substances.
Talc is sometimes used in bar soaps as an inexpensive filler, or to add whiteness and improve lather. We use plant-derived oils as our soap base, and other plant and mineral-derived ingredients with better health profiles to achieve the same performance.
Chemical class: Inorganics (including minerals and oxides)
Other names: H2Mg3O12Si4, Cosmetic Talc, French Chalk
United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Cosmetic Ingredients: Talc. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/talc
Robert Henning (2008). Pediatric Respiratory Medicine (Second Edition), Chapter 23. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50027-X
Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Canada - Prohibited and Restricted Cosmetics Ingredients: Talc. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemicals-product-safety/talc.html