When Indie Lee decided to ditch her corporate lifestyle in 2005 to cultivate an all-natural greenhouse, she never fathomed her new career path could potentially help save her health. But that’s what happened, when just three years later, she was diagnosed with a rare, nearly-fatal brain tumor. “When I asked my doctors how someone as health conscious as me could develop a tumor, they said it was likely environmental,” said Indie, who later started her own all-natural talc-free skincare line. “I learned the hard way that eating natural foods is just one piece of the puzzle, and that using natural products is just as important for overall wellness.”
While the exact figures range considerably (“The skin is a sponge!” “No, the skin is a barrier!”), it’s no secret that the skin absorbs at least some of what you apply topically. Of course, this varies by person, product and even time of day, but if your largest organ is sucking in even 10% of what you put on it, wouldn’t you want to be sure your cleansers, lotions and exfoliants are all non-toxic?
And while it’s impossible to pinpoint one specific cancer culprit, the latest bad guy on the skincare front is talc, which, in some forms, is almost structurally identical to asbestos. Talcum powder is a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate, and it’s present in everything from eyeshadow to foundation to finishing powder. It’s favored because of its ability to help a product stick to the skin, and though the FDA announced cosmetic-grade talc as safe, a recent British study found that rats who were exposed to said cosmetic-grade talc developed unexplained inflammatory lung disorders, and additional studies linked talcum powder to ovarian cancers, most seen in women who apply baby powder to the genitals on a daily basis. While you should be conscious of what you’re putting on your face and body, talc is most dangerous when inhaled.
“I knew then that my mission–once I kicked the tumor to the curb–was to create safer choices in skin care that are both effective and luxurious,” said Indie, who uses ingredients like jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil and calendula oil in her products.
Myriad other brands have jumped on the all-natural wagon, refusing to use talc because of the possible links to cancer. Those brands includes emerginC — an all-service botanical line of cleansers, moisturizers, exfoliants and creams — Korres, Zosimos Botanicals, Pure Luxe and Ada Cosmetics, among others. Keep in mind that Tricalcium Phosphate is the safe, widely accepted anti-caking substitute for talc, which now formulates many baby powders, eye shadows and pressed powders.
“Talc never even entered the equation when creating products at emerginC,” a rep from the brand said. “It is a toxic ingredient that we did not want to expose to our consumers.”
The best way to be sure you’re not putting yourself in danger is to steer clear of products with parabens, sulfates, drying alcohols. And if you can’t read the ingredient list after a couple tries, at least make a second thought about including it in your everyday repertoire.
Want more beauty tips and advice? Check out the biggest hair and makeup trends from Milan Fashion Week, read up on our review of St. Ives Apricot Scrub, or find out how you can banish dark under-eye circles in just three days.