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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. The law does not require cosmetic companies to share 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. Learn more about FDA's Authority Over Cosmetics.

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. 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.

Published scientific literature going back to the 1960s has suggested a possible association between the use of powders containing talc in the genital area 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. The FDA has ongoing research in this area. In addition, questions about the potential contamination of talc with asbestos have been raised since the 1970s. 

Asbestos: What it is, Why it is 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 when inhaled. There is the potential for contamination of talc with asbestos and therefore, it is important to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to test the ore sufficiently.

2021 Testing of Talc-Containing Cosmetics for Asbestos

The FDA has continued its testing for asbestos contamination in talc-containing cosmetics. The products were selected based on various factors including, type of talc-containing cosmetic product, price range, popular products on social media and in advertisements, products marketed to the children, and, if any, third party reports of potential asbestos contamination. Testing of samples was conducted by AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) on behalf of the FDA. Samples were analyzed using polarized light microscopy (PLM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) methods. For additional information, see: 

The summary table, “FDA Summary of Results from Testing of Official Samples of Talc-Containing Cosmetics of Asbestiform Fibers completed by AMA Laboratories in 2021” provides details for each of the talc-containing cosmetics that were analyzed in this survey, including product distributor/manufacturer, brand, product name, batch/lot #, FDA Sample ID #, and the findings from the testing.

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