What is Talcum Powder?

We’ve all seen the small and shiny compact cases, sleek and black with a small mirror for you to look at yourself. Chances are, you’ve probably seen your mom, aunt, or other family members carry these around in their purses.

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Talcum Powder
Compacts generally have a mirror fixed to them and contain some type of powder. Credit: DS Stories
Beyond always helping someone look their best, have you ever wondered about what the white, chalk-like powder in the compact is? Well, it’s talcum powder. Let’s find out what that is ! Talcum powder is a fine powder made from talc or talcum. Talcum is a
clay A type of soil that can be molded when wet and gets hard when dry and can be used to make pots and bricks.
mineral. In fact, we don’t have to work super hard to make talcum. This is because talcum is a naturally occurring mineral! So instead of making it, we just have to refine or process it. This means that we can mine it from the ground. We don’t get it ready as talcum when we dig it out. There are talc deposits all over the world. From China to the United States, we can find deposits of talcum everywhere. When we mine talc, we usually get it in the form of a green, grey, white, brown, or colorless rock. This rock is composed of several chemicals and is called hydrous magnesium silicate. In fact, the rock is actually multiple sheets of chemicals stuck together! These sheets are held together by chemical bonds. To make talcum powder, all that is required is to grind the rock into a powder. Powdered talc is also often mixed with corn starch to make talcum powder.

What do we use talcum powder for?

Talcum powder is an essential ingredient in many cosmetic products due to its useful properties. For example, it has unbelievable absorptive properties and can absorb water, oil, and other liquids. It also can absorb many different types of odors and smells. Furthermore, talcum is an incredibly soft
mineral. A solid and naturally-occurring substance that can be mined from under the surface of the earth.
The hardness of each mineral can be judged using something known as the Mohs Hardness Scale. The lower the number assigned to the mineral, the softer it is. So, it should be no surprise to anyone that talcum has an assigned value of 1 on the scale. It is ridiculously soft and crumbles into heaps when we touch it. This specific property is also what helps talcum powder create a smooth and silky texture when used in makeup and other cosmetics.
Talc
This is how talc looks when we mine it from the ground. Credit: Wikimedia/Jan Helebrant

The concern with talcum powder

Talcum powder has come under a lot of fire recently. A large number of studies have linked the use of talcum with cancers. It’s also been linked with breathing difficulties,
inflammationA type of defense response by the body to fight off bacteria or viruses.
, and infection. Recent medical studies advise against the use of talcum in makeup and as an ingredient in baby powders.

Conclusion

There’s no need to worry, as scientists have already identified safe-to-use alternatives to talcum!
Cornstarch A material made from corn; often used as a thickening agent that makes soups and stews thicker.
has emerged as a good alternative to talc in baby powders. Similarly, several cosmetic companies have also begun to use talc-free cosmetics with alternative ingredients like rice starch or silk powder.

Glossary

Mineral: A solid and naturally-occurring substance that can be mined from under the surface of the earth.

 

Clay: A type of soil that can be molded when wet and gets hard when dry and can be used to make pots and bricks.

 

Cornstarch: A material made from corn; often used as a thickening agent that makes soups and stews thicker.

 

Inflammation: A type of defense response by the body to fight off bacteria or viruses.

Readability: 64.6

 

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 7.2

U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Talc. December 7, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/talc

 

Michelle Llamas. Talcum Powder. December 29, 2022. https://www.drugwatch.com/talcum-powder/

 

Hobart M. King. Talc: The Softest Mineral. https://geology.com/minerals/talc.shtml

 

The American Cancer Society. Talcum Powder and Cancer. December 6, 2022. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/chemicals/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html

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