Makeup Brand Ben Nye Files for Bankruptcy to Avoid Talc Lawsuits

Legislation & Litigation

Professional makeup brand Ben Nye, popular with film, stage and modeling makeup artists, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the midst of lawsuits. The suits claim its products contain asbestos-contaminated talc. The move could allow the company to reorganize while putting its many talc lawsuits on hold. 

The company says it stopped using talc in its face powders in January 2024, but talc is still being used in other products. Ben Nye’s talc suppliers claim they conducted an analysis and no asbestos was ever found in the talc they provided to the company.

According to a March 11, 2024 bankruptcy filing, Ben Nye has estimated assets of about $1 million to $10 million and liabilities estimated at $100,000 to $500,000. The company says it has enough cash to stay in business and has no plans to change the quality of its product. Ben Nye claims the bankruptcy won’t affect wages and benefits for its 35 employees in Los Angeles.

In a letter emailed to the digital publication Beauty Independent, Ben Nye president Dana Nye wrote: “The company has incurred monumental legal fees to defend itself. As a family-owned company we reached the point where we could not continue to pay such fees…”

Nye continued, “Despite the painful bankruptcy process, we believe this is the best decision to protect our business. This will allow us to move forward to focus on our business rather than to constantly fight claims thrown at us.”

Asbestos in Makeup

This isn’t the first time there have been reports of asbestos in makeup from popular brands. Retailer Claire’s issued recalls for 9 products after reports started coming out that the items tested positive for chrysotile asbestos in 2017. 

Claire’s again issued a recall in 2019 over concerns about asbestos contamination in a JoJo Siwa makeup set marketed to young girls. That set tested positive for asbestos according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That same year Beauty Plus Global Inc. also issued a recall of 4 of its City Color makeup products that tested positive for asbestos. 

Talc is a common ingredient in eye shadows, blushes, foundations and creams. Talc creates a soft texture, absorbs moisture and acts as a filler in a number of products. But talc can become easily contaminated with asbestos since both minerals are naturally found close together within the earth.

Connection Between Talc, Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Talcum powder is also at the center of Johnson & Johnson’s more than 50,000 cases still awaiting trial. The lawsuits center on claims of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder that caused mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other asbestos-related diseases

Despite thousands of lawsuits and court documents showing that J&J executives knew about the company’s asbestos liabilities as far back as the 1950s, the company insists that its talc-based products do not cause cancer. Inhaling or ingesting microscopic asbestos fibers can result in inflammation, scarring or respiratory problems decades after initial exposure. 

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma. The disease typically has a latency period of 20 to 60 years between initial asbestos exposure and the development of symptoms. 

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