Asbestos In Cosmetics: Should We Worry?

Should we worry about asbestos in cosmetics? We take a deep dive

By Bec Gregory

It all started with Johnson and Johnson.

You might have heard they are currently facing tens of thousands of lawsuits claiming that its asbestos-contaminated baby powder has caused ovarian cancer. Consequently, the company has recently proposed a $8.9 billion settlement.

Following these legal battles over their baby powderโ€™s safety, Johnson and Johnson will end global sales of talc-based products this year and switch to corn starch based formulations. And with good reason.

Studies as far back as the 1970s indicated that long-term exposure to asbestos through contaminated talcum powder may increase the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer in women, and lung cancer among miners of the stuff.

But asbestos isnโ€™t just in talcum powder. Itโ€™s also in cosmetics.

Here are some scientific studies that prove this:
Moreover, cosmetic products and brands that tested positive for asbestos include:ย 
  • Johnsonโ€™s Baby Powder (of course)
  • Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette
  • Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette
  • Beauty Plus Global City Color
  • Childrenโ€™s makeup sold by Claireโ€™s
  • Just Shine Shimmer Powder sold by Justice

Youโ€™re probably aware of the serious health risks from asbestos exposure since the carcinogenic mineral has been banned in 55 countries worldwide.ย 

Read on to learn more about asbestos in cosmetics, and what you should watch out for.

asbestos in cosmetics

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given for a group of six naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals. They are heat and chemical resistant, fireproof and strong. These qualities, coupled with affordability, made asbestos a popular addition in thousands of domestic, commercial, and industrial products. Most notably in building and construction.ย 

However, mounting evidence in the late eighties and nineties linking asbestos exposure to the development of cancer led to many nations eventually banning the mineral. But it is still legal to use asbestos in the United States, Canada, China, Russia, and India.ย 

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause four different types of cancer and several pulmonary conditions. No level of asbestos exposure is considered safe. However, most health problems arise after years of repeated and long-term exposure to the carcinogen.

You can be at risk of asbestos exposure when microscopic asbestos fibres in products become airborne. The toxic mineral dust can remain in the air for hours, placing anyone nearby in danger of inhaling or ingesting it.

A history of asbestos in cosmetics

Cosmetic-grade talc, A.K.A, talcum powder, is a popular cosmetic ingredient. It has multiple properties and benefits, sure. But it also has a long-documented history of asbestos contamination.

Because talc and asbestos are minerals that form together, when talc is mined, it may contain traces of asbestos, too. That means talc mined for commercial uses can be contaminated with asbestos.ย 

Talc is the softest mineral and absorbs moisture well. This makes it particularly useful in makeup aimed at reducing the appearance of oily skin.

For example, talc-based face powders are commonly used on top of liquid or cream foundations to โ€˜setโ€™ the foundation so that it stays in place and looks naturally matte instead of oily and shiny.

It gives a soft, silky texture to the skin and is used in cosmetic formulations for several reasons. For example:

  • improving the long-lasting presence of fragrances
  • efficient pigment dispersion
  • increased adherence
  • and for use as a filler

It is a common ingredient in many cosmetic products, including:

  • powder compacts
  • finishing powders
  • eye shadows
  • blushes
  • foundations
  • creams
  • deodorants
  • feminine hygiene products
  • and soap.ย 

Because talcum powder used in cosmetics can be contaminated with asbestos, these products could pose serious health risks for consumers, possibly causing cancer.

Chanel, Revlon and Lโ€™Oreal have chosen to remove talc from some, but not all, of their products.

No other cosmetic brands have announced plans to remove talc from their cosmetics.ย 

Even kids are at risk!

Several cosmetic products, including makeup for children and teens, can also contain.

In 2015, asbestos was detected in childrenโ€™s toys, including crayons and a toy fingerprint kit. In 2019, the FDA in the U.S.A. found asbestos in childrenโ€™s makeup.

Consequently, also in 2019, retailers Justice and Claireโ€™s recalled their childrenโ€™s makeup products that contained asbestos, and Beauty Plus Global recalled its City Color products that tested positive.

But none of these companies have since announced plans to stop using talc or stop selling talc-based cosmetics in the future. Hmm.

Asbestos In Cosmetics

How does asbestos end up in cosmetics?

There is a serious lack of regulation around cosmetic-grade talc. In short, asbestos ends up in cosmetics because of poor regulations.ย 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetic-grade talc. The federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 does not require the FDA to review cosmetic products and their ingredients, with the exception of colour additives.

Cosmetic manufacturers certainly may try to avoid talc contaminated with asbestos, but there is a long history of asbestos remaining in talc that is certified asbestos-free. And there is no regulating body checking commercial talc for the presence of asbestos.

Additionally, the FDA and other federal agencies do not examine talc and talc-containing products made overseas.ย 

That means companies donโ€™t test their talc for asbestos before putting it into their products. Possibly harming consumers in the process.

What you should know

The greatest risk to your health comes from loose powder products like finishing powders and compact foundations. When these products are contaminated with asbestos, they pose an inhalation risk that could lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Asbestos in cosmetics doesnโ€™t cause any immediate side effects. Thatโ€™s because the health consequences of asbestos exposure take decades to develop. For example? The latency period associated with mesothelioma is between 20 and 60 years after a person is first exposed to asbestos.

The U.S. government allows products that contain up to 1% asbestos to be labelled as asbestos-free. As a result, hundreds to thousands of asbestos fibres remain in products that arenโ€™t considered asbestos-containing materials in the eyes of the law.

Itโ€™s up to consumers to protect themselves and their children from the risk of asbestos in cosmetics because the government isnโ€™t doing enough to regulate asbestos.

Solutions

Clearly, we cannot rely on governments for our health and safety. But luckily, there is a simple solution to avoid exposure to asbestos in cosmetics. And that is: simply ditch the products you currently have that contain talc. And of course, stop buying any talc-containing products.ย 

You will have to read the ingredients labels of the cosmetics youโ€™re interested in to check for the presence of talc. And youโ€™ll also need to know these different terms for talc:

  • Talcum
  • Talcum Powder
  • Cosmetic Talc
  • Magnesium Silicateย 

The good news is that many cosmetic brands offer talc-free products. There are also online resources available to make finding these brands and products easier. For example, you can use the websites Skin Deepย andย Made Safeย to find talc-free cosmetics.

Finally, parents should protect their children and teens from asbestos in cosmetics by only buying cosmetics that do not contain talc.ย 

In conclusion

To sum up, you can avoid asbestos in cosmetics by:ย 

  • Regularly checking for updates from The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com for news stories and information on cosmetic products that have tested positive for asbestos.
  • Being aware of and avoiding brands that test positive for asbestos.
  • Opting for talc-free brands.
  • Checking out our product recommendations at Eluxemagazine.com/category/beauty
  • Reading cosmetics ingredient labels to check for the presence of talc.
  • Donโ€™t assume brands that claim to be asbestos-free, organic, or natural are totally free of asbestos if they contain talc.ย 

Please share this post with your family, friends and social network to increase awareness of the risk to human health of asbestos in cosmetics.ย 

Guest

4 thoughts on โ€œAsbestos In Cosmetics: Should We Worry?โ€

  1. The presence of asbestos in cosmetics is deeply concerning and highlights the urgent need for stricter regulations and thorough testing. Consumer safety should always be the top priority, and measures must be taken to eliminate asbestos from cosmetic products.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top