This week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that testing confirmed the presence of asbestos in three Claire's cosmetics products, according to a statement released by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Here's what you need to know about the results and the specific Claire's products they affect.
If this all sounds familiar, it's probably because the controversy started back in 2017.
These investigations originally stemmed from a local news report about a mother in Rhode Island who decided to have her daughter's Claire's makeup tested for asbestos. The test reportedly came back positive and the family decided to independently test even more products from various states, which also came back positive for asbestos.
To date, Claire's has denied the presence of asbestos in its products. Back in 2017, the company said that its internal test results were negative for asbestos, but it recalled several products out of an abundance of caution in 2017. Later, third-party testing did show that three Claire's products contained asbestos, but the company still "categorically denied" the test results in a statement last year.
After those reports, the FDA decided to do its own testing as well, the results of which were finally revealed on Tuesday.
"[A]fter Claire’s withdrew and Justice recalled suspect products from the market, the FDA began the process of conducting independent tests to determine if some of these products did in fact contain asbestos," the statement says. "In late February of this year, we received the results of this testing initiative."
Specifically, the FDA's testing found tremolite asbestos in three Claire's products:
- Claire’s Eye Shadows – Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
- Claire’s Compact Powder – Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
- Claire’s Contour Palette – Batch No/Lot No: 04/17
The FDA testing also found asbestos in a product from the clothing store Justice, and that product was recalled back in 2017.
The Claire's products are no longer for sale but have not been recalled.
Although Claire's told the FDA these products are no longer for sale, any consumers who already have them should get rid of them and should not use them. "The FDA requested that Claire’s recall the products because they should not be used by consumers. Claire’s has refused to comply with the FDA’s request, and the agency does not have authority to mandate a recall," a separate FDA safety alert says. "The FDA is therefore warning consumers not to use these products and will continue to communicate our safety concerns about them."
Claire's has since responded to the FDA's test results, saying that the company will remove those three products and any other remaining talc-based cosmetics from their stores. But the statement also disputes the FDA's test results: "The recent test results the FDA shared with us show significant errors. Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to the established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibers," their statement reads. "We are disappointed that the FDA has taken this step, and we will continue to work with them to demonstrate the safety of our products."
Asbestos in makeup in definitely a health concern.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that's found in rock and soil, SELF explained previously, and most of us are exposed to small amounts of it at some point in our lives. But asbestos also commonly occurs near talc, a compound often used in cosmetics. "During talc mining, if talc mining sites are not selected carefully and steps are taken to purify the talc ore sufficiently, the talc may be contaminated with asbestos," the FDA warning states.
Long-term exposure to asbestos can cause inflammation and scarring that may lead to breathing issues, the National Cancer Institute says. Asbestos is also considered to be a known human carcinogen, mostly relating to mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer affecting the tissues lining the chest and abdomen. So, avoiding asbestos exposure where possible is crucial.
Basically, it's not something you want to spend a ton of time around—and you definitely don't want to find it in your eyeshadow palette.
The FDA also announced it will ask the industry and Congress to rethink current cosmetics regulations.
Current regulations don't require that cosmetic products be approved, tested, or registered by the FDA. All safety testing responsibilities rest with the manufacturer. But the FDA announced that it would be requesting new information from manufacturers about their testing and sourcing procedures, specifically with regards to asbestos and talc testing, according to the statement. "We believe this information will help us better identify specific cosmetic products and raw ingredient suppliers that may be more likely to be contaminated and inform steps that the FDA may be able to take to better protect consumers," the statement reads.
Additionally, the FDA will be taking a hard look at its current regulations—and requesting the help of Congress to modernize them. "To improve consumer safety and secure our mission for years to come," the statement reads, "a more modern approach could include tools that are tailored for cosmetics, including appropriate frameworks for registration and listing of products and their ingredients, good manufacturing practice regulations, company reporting of adverse events, access to records (including consumer complaints) during routine or for-cause inspections, mandatory recalls, disclosure of known cosmetic allergens on a product’s label, and ingredient review."
It's not clear exactly what the next steps will be, but we'll be watching.