There have been many claims that talc is the cause of ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers. Many lawsuits have been filed against companies that sell talc-based products because they are possibly harmful. Because of this, large makeup brands like Chanel, Revlon, and L’Oréal are starting to move away from talc in products to promote a safer brand for women. This is a big step in the right path considering most makeup products contain talc.

The Big Move Away from Talc

Three of the biggest brands in the makeup industry, L’Oréal, Chanel, and Revlon are moving away from using talc in their products. They are doing this following the many cancer lawsuits against other brands that use talc and the many studies to prove that talc is harmful. These brands are beginning to remove talc from their list of ingredients because of the adverse perceptions of many people.

In 2016, Chanel was sued over its talc-based body powder for the development of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. Following, Chanel stopped making its talc-based powder with its iconic No. 5 scent. A Chanel agent stated, “We know that it was a safe product, but we determined from public perception to remove it from the market”.

According to Reuters, a Revlon spokesman told Reuters the company removed talc from its body products. He declined to say when or why; he also declined to comment on litigation.

The report also states that they spoke to L’Oréal about their talc products, which they say that they are looking for a talc replacement but have not found anything that works as well. “Well known partial alternatives exist, and we continue to explore and seriously consider performant alternatives,” a spokeswoman told Reuters in an email. “But none meet the same performance for our products.” They also state, “We have not detected any trace of asbestos in any of our raw materials containing more than 20% talcum powder,” L’Oréal’s spokeswoman said.

What is Talc?

Talcum powder, also known as talc, is a natural mineral that many brands use in products such as cosmetics, deodorants, and baby powder. It is a common ingredient because absorbs moisture and cuts down on friction keeping skin dry. Many common makeup products also use talc like blush, eyeshadow, powder foundations, and many other powder cosmetics. Many brands use talc in makeup because it has a soft silky texture that makes makeup easy to apply and blend into the skin. Because talc absorbs oil, it prevents makeup caking which is very undesirable by makeup users. Most common makeup products that contain talc include:

  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Blush
  • Eye shadow
  • Face powder
  • Mascara
  • Rouge
  • Eyeliner
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Lipstick
  • Moisturizing Cream
  • Lotion
  • Face masks

Why Do Away with Talc now?

Brands have been using talc in makeup products for decades, so why transition now? Well on May 19th, 2020 Johnson and Johnson pulls all talc-based baby powder products from U.S. and Canada markets. For the past several years J&J has had hundreds of people file lawsuits against them claiming their products were the cause of their cancer growth. People and scientists have been claiming that talcum powder may contain traces of asbestos, especially in cosmetics, for several years. The talc mineral is sometimes found on the same rock as asbestos, which is a classified human carcinogen. There have been many studies by the FDA and other institutions to prove that talcum powder is harmful.

Because of the recent event of J&J pulling their product, most people are beginning to worry that talc is harmful. This poses a problem for makeup brands because if people are sacred to buy their products, they will look for talc-free alternatives, and eventually their sales will decline.

Why is Talc Allegedly Dangerous?

Because talc is a mineral that is often found on the same rock as asbestos, a known cancer-causing element, there are many studies finding traces of asbestos in talc samples. Here is a timeline of vital talc/asbestos related instances:

  • In September 2018, AMA was awarded a one-year contract to test talc-containing cosmetics for the presence of asbestos fibers.
  • In October 2019, the FDA updated the Safety Alert and issued a warning not to use talcum powder that tested positive for asbestos.
  • On October 18th, 2019 Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall of their baby powder product after the FDA sampled it and tested it sample positive for asbestos.
  • In February 2020, the FDA held a public meeting on testing methods for asbestos and products containing talc.
  • In March 2020, the FDA issued a new Constituent Update and FDA In Brief on the release of results from FDA’s sampling assignment with AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) testing talc-containing cosmetic products for the presence of asbestos.
  • In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced that they will stop selling their talcum powder-based baby powder products from the United States and Canada markets.

The FDA claims they continue to analyze cosmetics for asbestos contamination and will provide updates as they become available.

There have been many lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of the most popular talc-based baby powder. J&J has have appealed over $4 billion in talcum powder verdicts. The most common injuries that people report from these lawsuits include:

  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Fallopian Tube Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Mesothelioma