Asbestos in cosmetics: what are the risks?

Cosmetic products contain materials that can be harmful to health. Unfortunately, toxic substances include asbestos, a mineral that predisposes to severe disease.

Last update: October 24, 2021

Cosmetic products use natural minerals, such as talc, to obtain the ideal characteristics that allow their use. However, it has been shown that used talc may be contaminated with asbestos fibers. The presence of asbestos in cosmetics represents a health risk.

Contamination of talcum based products with asbestos is not a new topic. The first findings of this toxic substance in beauty products date back to the 1970s.

The companies have had legal problems due to the contamination of their cosmetics with asbestos. In fact, Johnson & Johnson had to pay $ 2 million to a woman in 2020 who claimed that a baby powder caused her ovarian cancer. Do you want to know more about asbestos in cosmetics and its risks? Keep reading!

What are talc and asbestos?

Talc is a natural mineral known as magnesium silicate, which has a color between white and bluish gray. This mineral is widely used in industry, being useful in the manufacture of ceramics, plaster, paints and some cosmetic products. The use of talc alone is safe, however, the problem lies when it is contaminated with asbestos fibers.

For its part, asbestos is a mineral composed of soft and elastic microscopic fibers. The properties of this substance make it an ideal raw material for many products, especially construction materials. However, some studies show that inhaling asbestos fibers increases the likelihood of serious illness.

Multiple governments worldwide have banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture of construction materials and products of various kinds. The objective of this measure is to take care of the health of the population, since diseases caused by the mineral can be fatal.

How do you use talcum powder in makeup?

Talc is a common ingredient in products, being widely used in personal care items due to its softness. The use of talc in makeup and cosmetics is safe, as long as no asbestos fibers are found in it. This mineral does not irritate the skin and does not usually cause any obvious harmful effects.

The list of makeup products that use talc in their composition is very wide. Face powders, blushes, eyeshadows, and foundations are some of the cosmetics that use the compound. The addition of the mineral in the products helps to provide a smooth texture and to absorb moisture.

Other uses of talc in makeup are as follows:

  • Add color to the products.
  • Improve appearance and texture.
  • Help fix makeup on the skin.
  • Avoid peeling makeup.

On the other hand, magnesium silicate is also the main component of talcum powder used in babies. These products are relatively safe for use at all ages. However, the mineral may contain other compounds that cause allergies.

Talc is a relatively safe product. The problem is its contamination with asbestos fibers.

Possible risks of asbestos in cosmetics

The problem of asbestos in cosmetics occurs due to the lack of regulations for the purification of talc. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to impose unique measures for the purification of talc since 1977. However, the companies chose to apply other remedies, proposed by different associations.

Companies that use talc in their products purify the mineralHowever, studies show that the method does not perform the task adequately. The techniques used are unable to detect low levels of contamination, so cosmetics have levels not detectable of asbestos, instead of being 100% free of the mineral.

The presence of asbestos in cosmetics can promote the appearance of diseases. All the pathologies caused by this substance have many years of latency and appear by inhalation. Among the main ones that can develop due to exposure to fibers, the following stand out:

  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer.
  • Pleural plaques.
  • Malignant mesothelioma.
  • Ovarian cancer

Recommendations for use

The best recommendation to avoid inhaling the asbestos contained in cosmetics is to use talc-free products. Multiple brands, such as The real, Chanel and Revlon, They have cosmetics in which talc is not used in their manufacture.

Other brands that do not use talc in the manufacture of their cosmetics are the following:

  • Peaceful.
  • Shea Moisture.
  • Smashbox.
  • Ecco Bella.
  • Juice Beauty.

It is also important to recognize the other names for this mineral, such as talcum powder, cosmetic talc or magnesium silicate. In this way, products that contain it can be avoided. Also, all organic cosmetics are free of both talc and asbestos.

People should read the label of those products that contain talc and verify that they are 100% asbestos free. Today there are no safe levels of exposure to this toxic mineral, so 1% asbestos in cosmetics can be harmful to health.

It is essential that makeup products have labels that specify the use or not of talc.


An alarming situation

The presence of asbestos in cosmetics, such as children’s makeup, is a problem that goes back many years. Asbestos ends up in these types of products because it can be present in talc at very low concentrations. The situation is worrying, since its inhalation can generate the appearance of various diseases, like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Fortunately, there are multiple products available on the market that are talc-free. The use of cosmetics that do not use the mineral in their manufacture is 100% safe and does not generate any negative long-term effects.

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