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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48-50

Talcum powder and photoprotection

1 Department of Dermatology, INHS Asvini, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Ranga Centre, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
Surg Capt Jandhyala Sridhar
Department of Dermatology, INHS Asvini, Colaba, Mumbai - 400 005, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmms.jmms_35_17

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Context: Talcum powder is a popular daily use cosmetic product in India with a high urban and rural penetration. Aim: To examine the photoprotective ability of a popular brand of talcum powder. Design: Nonrandomized controlled efficacy study. Subjects and Methods: Minimal erythema dose (MED) following narrowband ultraviolet B irradiation among ten volunteers was recorded. Sun protection factor (SPF) of talcum powder was determined by standard in vivo method. Percentages of zinc oxide in the test sample and ten other commercially available brands of talcum powder were estimated by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Statistical Analysis Used: Calculation of mean. Results: The mean MED of volunteers was 310 milli Joule (mJ) without talcum powder and 400 mJ with talcum powder. The mean SPF of talcum powder was 1.29. The percentage of zinc oxide in the test sample was estimated to be 1.5%. Conclusions: Talcum powder offers low photoprotection due to low zinc oxide content.

Keywords: Photoprotection, talcum powder, zinc oxide

How to cite this article:
Sridhar J, Srinivas C R. Talcum powder and photoprotection. J Mar Med Soc 2017;19:48-50

How to cite this URL:
Sridhar J, Srinivas C R. Talcum powder and photoprotection. J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Apr 1];19:48-50. Available from: https://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/text.asp?2017/19/1/48/213101

  Introduction Top

Grooming is increasingly associated with professional and social success in today's globalized world. Taking care of one's appearance is now regarded as a virtue rather than vanity. Sunscreens protect against the sun's ultraviolet rays that tan the skin and cause photoaging. The emergence of sunscreens and sunscreen-containing cosmetics in the Indian market suggests that today's customers aspire for photoprotection in their daily use formulations.

Talcum powder is an established cosmetic product in India with a high urban and rural penetration.[1] Its market is estimated to be worth INR 4.4 billion and growing at the rate of 12% per annum with a penetration level is 41.4% and 25.2% in urban and rural areas, respectively.[2] Some of the well-recognized attributes of talcum powder are an ability to impart agreeable complexion, discreet fragrance, and sweat and sebum absorptiveness.[3] In an age of heightened public awareness about sun damage, the photoprotective attributes of talcum powder merit further study. We therefore examined the photoprotective ability of Pond's Dreamflower ®, a popular brand of talcum powder in India.

  Subjects and Methods Top

Minimal erythema dose (MED) following narrow band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) irradiation at 311 nano metre (nm) wavelength was determined among ten volunteers. The volunteers were asked to wear a cloth gown containing ten closeable 2.5 x 2.5 cm apertures over the back. The apertures were incrementally exposed to 150–600 mJ/sq cm of NB-UVB radiation from a 1 ft distance. MED was recorded after 24 h.

A previously standardized amount of talcum powder (0.8 mg/cm2) required for attaining a cosmetically acceptable milky glaze was applied uniformly over the back of each volunteer using a template. The powdered skin was immediately exposed to NB-UVB radiation as discussed. MED with talcum powder was recorded after 24 h. The sun protection factor (SPF) was calculated as MED on powdered skin/MED on unpowdered skin.

Percentages of zinc in the test sample and ten other commercially available brands of talcum powder were estimated by atomic absorption spectroscopy as follows:[4] each sample was dry ashed in silica crucible at 500°C and digested with nitric and perchloric acids. The sample was heated till white fumes of perchloric acid appeared. Hydrochloric acid was then added and the sample filtered and transferred into a volumetric flask. To this solution, 5% acetic acid was added to enable complete extractability of the zinc [5] and diluted with 10% hydrochloric acid to obtain a solution within the range of measurement of the atomic absorption spectrophotometer (AAS4136A, Electronics Corporation of India Limited). After determining the zinc content, the percentage of zinc oxide in the sample was determined by applying the respective atomic and molecular weights.

  Results Top

The mean MED was 310 mJ without talcum powder and 400 mJ following application of talcum powder. The mean SPF of test talcum powder was 1.29 [Table 1]. The percentage of zinc oxide in the test sample was estimated to be 1.5%. Zinc oxide percentages in ten other samples of talcum powder are shown in [Table 2].
Table 1: Minimal erythema dose and sun protection factor of test talcum powder*

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Table 2: Concentration of zinc oxide in 11 commercially available samples of talcum powder as analyzed by atomic absorption spectrophotometry

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  Discussion Top

Talcum powder remains one of the basic products of the Indian cosmetics industry. It provides an agreeable complexion, matte finish, coverage of pores and imperfections, imparts tactile smoothness, and a discreet fragrance while diminishing the glossy shine that results due to perspiration and sebum accumulation.[3] It can be applied over the body or intertriginous areas after a bath [2] and used over a facial moisturizer, foundation, or sunscreen to increase product longevity and photoprotection.[6] It is valuable to the dermatologist to enhance coverage of underlying pigmentation disorders and to absorb oil, especially in the sebum-rich T-zone of the face.[2] In addition, talcum powder is popular among patients with multiple allergies and sensitive skin, since it has fewer organic ingredients than conventional cosmeceuticals.

The primary texturing consistency, opaqueness, and spreading ability (“slip”) of talcum powder is attributable to talc, or hydrated magnesium silicate.[3] Secondary components that lend opaqueness include calcium carbonate (also absorbs sweat, reduces shine),[3] magnesium carbonate (absorbs sebum, imbibes fragrance),[7] kaolin, or hydrated aluminum silicate (absorbs oil and perspiration),[8] titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide (provide covering power, astringent action and photoprotection).[9] Fragrance mix and dipropylene glycol (which carries fragrance)[3] are the other additives.

Facial powders rely on higher concentrations of zinc oxide (a monographed inorganic sunscreen) to achieve photoprotection; its particles scatter and reflect the solar radiation providing broad-spectrum protection against UV radiation.[9] Various pigments such as iron oxides, ultramarines, chrome oxide, and chrome hydrate may be used to match the brown tones representative of the human population and minimize the cosmetically unattractive whiteness of talcum powder. These additional pigments may also increase the product SPF even though they are not monographed sunscreen ingredients.[8]

Depending on the zinc oxide composition and thickness of the application, talcum powder may offer an SPF ranging from 2 to 10.[2],[6] When applied on top of a sunscreen, a transparent powder can increase the SPF of a sunscreen by two SPF points, while an opaque powder can increase the sunscreen SPF by five SPF points.[8]

In this study, one application of a cosmetically acceptable amount of test talcum powder imparted an SPF of 1.29 approximately (with NB-UVB at 311 nm). We were compelled to use NB-UVB to determine MED instead of broadband-UVB (BB-UVB) since the bulbs of the latter are not available. Serish had earlier observed a correlation of about 1:15 between MED using NB-UVB and BB-UVB light sources.[9]

The percentage of zinc oxide in the test sample was estimated to be 1.5%. Standard formulations for talcum powder available in the literature recommend a higher zinc oxide concentration ranging from 2% to 25%.[10],[11] The relatively low percentage of zinc oxide in the test sample (Pond's Dreamflower ®) may thus account for the finding of a low SPF of 1.29. Zinc oxide concentration in ten other commercially available samples ranged from 0.95% (Premium®) to 1.99% (Cuticura ®).

  Conclusion Top

The photoprotective ability of commercially available talcum powders in India is low, possibly due to low zinc oxide content. We propose to augment the zinc oxide content of available talcum powder and reevaluate the photoprotective effect while confirming its cosmetic acceptability.


We would like to acknowledge Dr. K Latha, Project Coordinator, T Stanes and Company (Herbal Division), 1597, Trichy Road, Coimbatore - 641 018 for the estimation of zinc oxide in the study samples.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Thappa DM. Cosmetics in children. In: Thappa DM, editor. Clinical Pediatric Dermatology. 1st ed. Noida, UP India: Elsevier; 2009. p. 182-91.  Back to cited text no. 1
Fast Moving Consumer Goods in India 2016. India Brand Equity Foundation. Available from: http://www.india-opportunities.es/archivos/publicaciones/FMCG-January-2016.pdf. [Last accessed on 2017 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 2
Barel AO, Paye M, Maibach HI. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology. 3rd ed. London: Informa Health Care; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 3
Salvador A, Pascual-Martí MC, Adell JR, Requeni A, March JG. Analytical methodologies for atomic spectrometric determination of metallic oxides in UV sunscreen creams. J Pharm Biomed Anal 2000;22:301-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India. Chemical methods: Assay for zinc. In: Indian Pharmacoepia, Vol 1. Ghaziabad: The Indian Pharmacoepia Commission; 2007. p.95.  Back to cited text no. 5
Laznet M. Modern formulations of coloring agents: Facial and eye. In: Frost P, Horwitz SN, editors. Principles of Cosmetics for the Dermatologist. St. Louis: Mosby; 1982. p. 280-95.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ahluwalia VK, Raghav S. Comprehensive Experimental Chemistry. New Delhi: New Age International; 1997.  Back to cited text no. 7
Draelos ZD. Photoprotection from sunless tanning products and colored cosmetics. In: Wang SQ, Lim HW, editors. Principles and Practice of Photoprotection. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing; 2016. p. 405-16.  Back to cited text no. 8
Serish, Srinivas CR. Minimal erythema dose (Med) to narrow band ultraviolet-B (NB-UVB) broad band ultraviolet-B (BB-UVB) – A pilot study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2002;68:63-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
Kasture PV, Gokhale SB, Parakh SR. Practical Pharmaceutics. Pune: Nirali Prakashan; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 10
Flick EW. Cosmetic and Toiletry Formulations. 2nd ed. Norwich, NY: William Andrew; 1995.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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