Beauty Without Compromise: Tips for Avoiding Asbestos in Makeup

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I’m sure you must’ve heard of Asbestos before. I would be surprised if you haven’t. Asbestos used to be found in roofing, water pipes and car brake discs not too long ago. Until it was discovered that it was a huge carcinogen.

But did you know asbestos is also found in makeup? Asbestos contamination in cosmetic products such as talcum powder (commonly known as baby powder) and foundation is a real concern that we face even to this day!

Understanding Asbestos: Its Properties and Dangers

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that are mined. These minerals are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. The fibrous nature of these materials give asbestos impressive properties such as heat resistance, flexibility, and insulating capabilities.

Asbestos has been used in various industries such as construction and manufacturing for centuries.

However, over the past couple of decades, it’s unique properties have been overshadowed by its dangers to health and well being.

As we just mentioned, asbestos is structurally fibers. When it is shaken or moved, tiny fibers are released into the air. These fibers are then inhaled into your lungs. They can then become trapped in your lungs leading to health issues such as Asbestosis and Mesothelioma cancer.

The Presence of Asbestos Contaminated Talc in Certain Makeup Products Explained

You maybe wondering what on Earth does Talc and Make up have to do with Asbestos? Well, Talc is actually a mineral. It’s mined from the ground. The thing is, Talc is a silicate mineral just like Asbestos. And they are generally found extremely close to each other. Because of this, there’s is an extremely high chance of cross-contamination during the mining process, which eventually leads to asbestos in talcum powder based products.

Talc’s velvety texture and ability to absorb moisture make it a goto ingredient when it comes to cosmetics like foundations, blush and other powder cosmetics (think baby powder). Talc gives that smooth matte finish. It’s also used to prevent caking and clumping.

Regulations and Standards

Regulatory bodies such as the FDA set guidelines for acceptable levels of harmful chemicals in makeup. For talc, asbestos should be undetectable. Any amount of asbestos, no matter how small will be considered unfit for human use.

But there’s more…

Let me explain.

You see, there is a challenge when it come to accurately detecting asbestos in talc. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and can be almost impossible to detect without specialized equipment capable of detecting even the smallest amount of asbestos(such as and electron microscope”.

An FDA report from January 2020, revealed that even light microscopy is not sensitive enough in testing for asbestos in makeup. Furthermore, in November 2020, the Environmental working group (EWG) conducted several tests on cosmetics listed on Amazon using an electron microscope to test for asbestos. About 14% of products tested positive for asbestos. With some having up to levels of 40%, they concluded that the makeup industries screening methods are inadequate and outdated.

To make things even worse, the FDA does not have a standardised testing protocol for manufacturers to follow. This creates a massive loophole for manufacturers to use quick,cheap and easy but ineffective methods to claim their products are asbestos free without violating the FDA’s regulations.

The good news is that many makeup brands in the industry realize this and have taken steps to ensure safety of their products.

Some of these steps include using asbestos free talc and alternative ingredients that give a similar texture as talc.

Alternatives to Talc containing makeup

1. Rice Powder:

Rice powder is a finely ground version of rice that gives a silky texture similar to talc. It absorbs excess oil and creates a smooth finish on the skin. This is a great option that works well for setting and pressed powders.

2. Cornstarch:

Cornstarch is another great alternative to talc in cosmetics. It’s absorbent properties and soft texture, make it incredibly suited for powders, blushes, and bronzers. Gentle on the skin and effective at reducing shine.

3. Kaolin Clay:

Kaolin clay has oil-absorbing properties and gives a distinct matte finish Found in foundations, powders, and masks to control excess oil. If you have sensitive skin, this ingredient is best suited for you as it is known to be gentle.

4. Mica:

Mica is a naturally occurring mineral that adds a subtle shimmer and luminosity to makeup products. It is commonly used in eyeshadows, highlighters, and bronzers to create a radiant and glowing look. Perfect ingredient to lookout for if you want a lightweight texture.

5. Arrowroot Powder:

Arrowroot powder is derived from the roots of the arrowroot plant. Similar to cornstarch, it has absorbent properties and can be used as a talc alternative in powders, setting sprays, and dry shampoos.

6. Silica:

Silica is a mineral that helps control oil and reduce shine. It is often used in translucent powders and primers to create a matte effect and smooth the appearance of the skin. Silica is lightweight and suitable for a wide range of skin types.

7. Tapioca Starch:

Tapioca starch is derived from cassava roots and is known for its oil-absorbing properties. It can be used in setting powders, bronzers, and blushes to create a smooth and matte finish.

Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure from makeup products

mesothelioma patient that is terminally ill and lying in hospital bed

Asbestos is proven carcinogen. When ingested or inhaled, it causes cellular mutation which eventually leads to tumors. The biggest concern though, is the inhalation of asbestos fibres. When used, loose powders such as baby powder and foundation can release the fibres into the air and are subsequently inhaled into the lungs and can never be removed. This can lead to long term health consequence which take years to develop such as mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

From Asbestos Exposure to Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers most of our organs. This layer is called the mesothelioma. Unfortunately, this type of cancer can only be detected when the disease has already progressed to an advanced stage. But what makes mesothelioma cancer such a deadly disease is that once it has been diagnosed, the average life expectancy is 12 to 21 months.

Steps to Take If You Suspect Asbestos in Your Makeup Products

woman reading back of makeup product ingredients

If you suspect that your makeup products contain asbestos,this is what you can do follow:

  1. Stop using the product immediately.
  2. Isolate the product. Put the product into a sealable bag to minimize the risk of accidental exposure.
  3. Contact the manufacturer and ask about their testing methods for asbestos in talc.

The best remedy is prevention. That being said here are some tips to avoid talc based cosmetics. Research brands and choose brands that are transparent and use alternative to talc. Carefully read labels and ingredients. Look for products that clearly state they are Talc free. Some brands will be deceptive and use the chemical name for talc(magnesium silicate) to try and hide it. Avoid any product that lists talc or magnesium silicate as an ingredient.

List of Talc based cosmetic products

Below is a comprehensive list of cosmetic products that usually contain talc(magnesium silicate) as an ingredient.

  • Anti-aging face creams
  • Antiperspirant/deodorant
  • Around-eye cream
  • Baby powder
  • Bar soap
  • Bath oil/salts/soak
  • BB cream
  • Beach & sport sunscreen
  • Beard cleanser
  • Blush
  • Body powder
  • Body wash/cleanser
  • Bronzer/highlighter
  • Brow liner
  • CC cream
  • City color shimmer bronzer
  • Concealer
  • Diaper cream
  • Exfoliant/scrub
  • Eyeliner
  • Eye shadow
  • Facial cleanser
  • Facial moisturizer/treatment
  • Facial powder
  • Foot odor control
  • Foundation
  • Glitter
  • Hair color and bleaching
  • Hair styling aide
  • Hair treatment/serum
  • Lip balm
  • Lip gloss
  • Lip liner
  • Lipstick
  • Makeup primer
  • Mascara
  • Mask
  • Moisturizer
  • Moisturizer with SPF
  • Nail polish
  • Nail treatment
  • Oil controller
  • Other eye makeup
  • Shine shimmer powder

Some of the brands that offer talc-based cosmetics include Almay, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Clinique, CoverGirl, L’Oreal, Laura Mercier, Maybelline, Neutrogena, NYX, Physicians Formula, Revlon, Ulta Beauty, and Wet N Wild.

Legal actions that consumers can take against companies that sell makeup products which contain asbestos

If you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos in makeup and have developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be able to pursue legal action against the manufacturer of the product. However, there are no laws in the U.S. that prohibit the use of asbestos-contaminated talc in cosmetic products, so it can be difficult to prove liability.

A notable ongoing case is the Johnson & Johnson lawsuit that has been going on for years without resolution.

Moving Forward

Corporate Responsibility and Accountability:

Until recently, no federal law required tests for asbestos in cosmetics, leaving consumers vulnerable to talc-containing products. This lack of testing requirements has raised concerns about the safety of talc-based cosmetics.

Cosmetic companies are not purposefully adding asbestos into makeup, but asbestos can contaminate the raw talc used in these products. This contamination mostly occurs during the mining and processing of talc. It would not be feasible for cosmetic manufacturers to invest in microscopes.

A better approach that we hopefully see is manufacturers moving away from using talc altogether and use alternatives in their products. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are aware of the dangers of talc. And even if they do, most people know talc as an ingredient of baby powder. They have no idea that you can find it in other cosmetics as well as its chemical name – magnesium silicate.

We can all do out part in spreading awareness. But it will take a a series of successful lawsuits to really convince manufacturers to push the cosmetic industry to care about our health.