I decided to revisit the talc issue when Anastasia ILLUMIN8 With Youthful Synergy™ Complex Bronzer ($29) arrived on my desk. Talc is the dominant ingredient and a controversial one, as I noted in 2009 when I looked at La Mer’s Powder Foundation. Around that time, there was a flurry of lobbying to get talc banned because of associations with cancer. The cosmetics industry body, the CIR protested that cosmetic grade talc was safe. The jury was effectively hung. A couple of years on, however, it seemed worth seeing if there was new evidence that might give us a verdict on whether talc is safe or not.

Talc raises concerns for a number of reasons. First, Talc particles have similarities to asbestos and although about 40 years ago the FDA considered imposing limits on those fibers, no ruling was ever made. Then, in 1993, a National Toxicology Program report found that cosmetic grade talc, even without any asbestos-like fibers, caused tumors in animals. Thirdly, studies have shown a strong link between frequent use of talc in the female genital area and ovarian cancer.

Csometics Info, a resource provided by the cosmetics industry, dismisses all of this arguing that the NTP’s research was conducted on animals and involved large amounts and that studies cince then “do not provide evidence that talc is carcinogenic”.  Also, the American Cancer Society says that all home-use talcum products have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.

Nonetheless, the American Cancer Society advocates a somewhat cautious approach and says: “It is not clear if consumer products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk. Studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk. No other forms of cancer appear to be associated with consumer use of talcum powder. Until more information is available, people concerned about using talc may want to consider using cornstarch-based cosmetic products instead.”