HomeThe science of cosmeticsHow do baby products work?Can I use talcum powder on my baby?

How does talcum powder work?

The main ingredient of cosmetic talcum powder is talc, a natural, fine grained mineral that has a smooth soapy feel and comes in a range of colours including white, grey and green. As well as its use in cosmetics, talc is used in a whole range of other products including food. However, only specially selected pure talc is used in cosmetic products.

To produce cosmetic talcum powder, selected natural talc is purified and refined, giving it a softer, silky feel. Fragrance is sometimes added to give it a pleasant smell. Talc is made of millions of tiny, slippery mineral plates that glide easily over one another and can help to absorb excess moisture. It also forms a soft barrier between the skin and clothing or nappies, reducing irritation caused by friction.

Is talcum powder safe to use?

Yes. While cosmetic talcum powder is very fine in texture and easily inhaled, the small amounts inhaled in normal use are safe and would not cause any long-term problems.

However, parents should not let infants play with the talcum powder container since there is a risk of choking if the top comes off and talcum powder should be kept away from babies' and young children's nose and mouth.

Some media reports have falsely claimed that talcum powder poses more serious health risks, including cancer. However, parents should not feel concerned as, in addition to the intensive testing that product manufacturers carry out, all independent scientific studies into this issue have concluded that there is no connection between cosmetic talc and any form of cancer. Importantly, great care is taken to ensure that cosmetic talc is not contaminated with asbestos.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that cosmetic talcum powder is not safe to use on either adults or young children.

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