In 2017, after growing concerned about the safety of her daughter's glitter makeup from Claire's, a Rhode Island-based mother and lawyer sent samples of the product to an independent lab for testing. Yesterday, more than a year later, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released a statement confirming those suspicions: Product samples from the brand — as well as fellow teen retailer Justice — have tested positive for asbestos, the dangerous fiber that’s linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other pulmonary diseases.
In an announcement made yesterday, the regulatory agency, which currently has no authority to recall cosmetics, issued an alert and offered a stern warning for consumers not to use eyeshadow, compact powder, or contour powder from the store.
“Consumers who have these batches/lots of Claire’s Eye Shadow, Compact Powder, and Contour in their home should stop using them,” the FDA said in a statement. “Claire’s has informed us that it does not believe that affected products are still available for sale.”
Meanwhile, Claire's has responded to the news in a tweet of its own, declaring the FDA’s test results to contain “significant errors” and expressing the company is “disappointed that the FDA has taken this step.” The brand also stated, “There is no evidence that any products sold by Claire’s are unsafe. In early 2018, the three items identified by the FDA were extensively tested by multiple independent accredited laboratories, and all products were found to be compliant with all relevant cosmetic safety regulations.”
Here's the kicker: Even if asbestos was found in some of its products, the company’s claim that “all products were found to be compliant with all relevant cosmetic safety regulations” may technically be true.
As Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., who had requested the FDA investigate the safety of products sold by Claire’s and Justice, pointed out in a statement, “Every day millions of Americans assume the cosmetics they use are safe, but unfortunately that is not always the case. The reality is that cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market and FDA acknowledged today that the agency does not have the necessary authority to oversee the industry ... Unfortunately, FDA does not currently have the authority to mandate a recall on the products.”
He continues, “examples like Claire’s refusal to voluntarily recall their asbestos-tainted products demonstrates the need to modernize the current regulatory framework for cosmetic and personal care products to ensure that FDA can act to protect consumers when industry fails to do so.”
A movement for change is underway. Pallone, for his part, has “circulated a bipartisan discussion draft on a proposal to update our laws for the first time in over eighty years.” Advocates in the beauty industry are working to do the same: Beautycounter and its brand consultants have flocked to Washington to lobby for the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that would allow the FDA to more closely regulate what’s in our personal-care products and demand more transparency of the industry.
For now, it’s up to consumer advocates and beauty brands themselves to push for and adopt the change that‘s needed. We’ve reached out to Claire’s for additional comment, and will update this story if we hear back.