Chanel, L’Oreal, Revlon moving away from talc in certain products
As US cancer lawsuits and customer fears rise, Chanel, L’Oreal, Revlon, three of the largest cosmetics companies are slowly moving away from the use of talc in certain products.
The luxury cosmetics company Chanel removed talc from a loose face powder and dropped a talc body powder due to negative opinions of the mineral, court documents reviewed by Reuters show.
Revlon removed talc from its body products and L’Oreal is exploring alternatives to the mineral, those companies advised Reuters.
The moves come amid a reappraisal by consumers, regulators and manufacturers of talc in body powders and cosmetics. Talc, a potent carcinogen which is contained in the same rock as asbestos, is used in thousands of cosmetic and personal care goods to absorb moisture, prevent caking and create softness.
Thousands of cancer lawsuits, some dating back to 2013, have been brought against market-leading body-powder Johnson & Johnson.
Claims that asbestos contamination induced plaintiffs’ cancers started in 2017. Other manufacturers of talc powders also face suits, including Revlon, Chanel and Avon, securities filings and court documents reveal.
Scrutiny of talc products worsened following a 2018 investigation by Reuters reported that J&J knew for decades that asbestos lingered in its talc and powders. The company has contested Reuters’ report and maintains its powders are safe and asbestos-free.
J&J announced last month that it would refrain from selling talc Baby Powder in the United States and Canada, attributing the decision to falling sales and negative press.
In March, a spokesperson from Chanel revealed in a court testimony that the company had stopped producing a talc-based body powder in 2017, scented with the famous No. 5 fragrance it has produced since 1924.
The testimony was filed in a Los Angeles court lawsuit which was settled in 2018. In it, a woman from California claimed she got mesothelioma, in part from asbestos-tainted Chanel and J&J powders she used for years.
Asbestos is the only well-known cause of mesothelioma, a rare incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs and other organs.
Chanel spokesperson Amy Wyatt said in the deposition that Chanel was sued for the first time over its talc powder in 2016 and she refuted Chanel powders contained asbestos.
“We know that it was a safe product,” Wyatt said in the deposition. But “we determined from public perception to have it removed from the market.”
Wyatt said Chanel had removed talc from its loose face powder as well, but she was not sure when the new formulation would be released on the market. She did not mention what the talc was replaced with.
Chanel told Reuters that it routinely updates its products “to ensure we keep meeting the changing needs and expectations of our customers,” a spokeswoman said in an email.
Chanel, which continues to use talc in other products including pressed powder, blush and eye shadow, said all the talc that it uses is “selected according to strict purity criteria, fully complies with current global regulations, and is safe under standard conditions of cosmetic use”.
The privately held company did not answer questions regarding the deposition or litigation.
A Revlon spokesperson told Reuters that the talc had been removed from the company’s body products. He refused to say when or why; he has also refused to comment on the litigation.
L’Oreal said it was looking for a talc substitute but had not found anything that worked.
“There are well-known partial alternatives, and we keep exploring and actively consider performant alternatives,” a spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
“But none match the same performance for our products.” L’Oreal, like other brands, requires its suppliers to certify annually that its talc is asbestos-free, and it does in-house testing, she said.
“We have not detected any trace of asbestos in any of our raw materials that contain more than 20 per cent talcum powder,” said the spokesperson for L’Oreal.
Other companies in the personal care sector also stopped selling talc powder. In 2018, Germany’s Beiersdorf said it switched to corn starch in its Nivea baby powder.
Bausch Health switched the formula of its Shower to Shower powder in 2018 “to keep the item in line with industry dynamics and customer preferences” and not because of safety issues, a spokeswoman said.
Bausch, who last sold talc powder in February 2019, was named in 165 lawsuits; securities filings are showing that 12 are pending.
Avon, which refused to comment, said in a securities filing that 128 lawsuits were pending against it over talc goods.
Sanofi, Gold Bond powder manufacturer, told Reuters that it stood by the safety of its talc powder and was “strongly” challenging talc lawsuits against it.
“In light of supply and consumer demand, Sanofi will continue to review its product offerings,” a spokesman said.
According to Euromonitor International, consumers are forecast to purchase 139,350 tonnes of talc globally this year, down 0.6 per cent from last year.
Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration discovered asbestos in nine products during an analysis of 52 talc-containing cosmetic products, including three sold by tween retailer Claire’s and one bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder. All of the products were recalled voluntarily.
A spokeswoman said Claire’s had stopped using talc, and replaced it in most of its products with mica.
This year, the FDA is analysing 50 more samples and is considering establishing a testing standard for asbestos.
In 2018, Canada’s Health Ministry tentatively concluded that talc itself could cause lung problems if inhaled, and ovarian cancer if used in the genital region. A final ruling, due next year, could result in a ban or restriction on the use of talc in certain products in Canada.