It’s time to kiss lead in lipsticks goodbye


By pH health care professionals

Consumers and advocates have raised concerns over some of the ingredients in beauty products, like phthalates, parabens and, in the case of lipsticks, lead. It’s really become an issue where you as the consumer have to be proactive instead of relying on government agencies and regulations. That’s because overall, with the exception of coal-tar hair dyes, your cosmetics don’t need FDA approval to hit the shelves.

Many consumers have turned into ingredient label sleuths, scanning the fine print for red flags, trying to pick the best products for a reasonable price that won’t harm their health. However, the color additives that are used in cosmetics (such as lipsticks) do require pre-market approval. So the FDA has on several occasions tested some popular brands, and unfortunately, this is where the concerns over lead arise.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a 2010 FDA study found lead in 400 lipsticks (at levels up to 7+ parts per million). Five of the top 10 most lead-contaminated lipsticks were made by L’Oreal USA, parent company of L’Oreal and Maybelline. (You can view the FDA’s findings in this table.)

Some health concerns with lead exposure, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says, include:

  • Neurotoxicity: Lead has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems.

  • Reduced fertility in both men and women.

  • Hormonal changes and menstrual irregularities.

  • Delayed onset of puberty in girls and development of testes in boys.

Are we eating our lipstick?

While the CDC and other medical experts say unequivocally that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, is it really safe for adults to be exposed? The FDA currently maintains that the levels of lead in lipstick are fine, since lipstick is intended for “topical use with limited absorption.” But let’s be honest, ladies. Some gets ingested when we eat or drink something. It might not be a big deal once, but what the FDA is missing, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics points out, is the repeated exposure. It adds up!

A University of California study found that women applied lipstick 2 to 14 times per day, which means ingesting and absorbing as much as 87 milligrams of product per day. And that’s done day after day, over years. This cumulative exposure is where you may run into some health issues.

Other metals to be wary of

Researchers have also pointed out that there are other metals in lipsticks that need to be investigated, including aluminum, cadmium, chromium and manganese. The safety of lipsticks should be assessed not only by flagging harmful ingredients, but by comparing estimated exposures of these ingredients against health standards, they concluded. And women who apply their lipstick 14 times a day may be surpassing the daily recommended exposure to chromium, aluminum and manganese, an article in Mother Jones points out.

Lead-free: the future of all lipstick?

Many agree -- safer lipsticks are in everyone’s best interest. The Environmental Working Group believes all companies should make lead-free lipstick.

“Millions of women get a little bit of toxic lead on their lips each day with every swipe of their lipstick,” said Jane Houlihan, senior VP for research at Environmental Working Group. “There is no safe level of lead exposure. The biggest concern is for pregnant women – lead is a potent neurotoxin and the fetus and very young children are most at risk. Some companies make lead-free lipsticks, and we think all companies should.”

Until then, here are 4 of our favorite lead-free lipsticks you can pucker up to:

Clinique Long Last Lipstick - Merlot

Dior Replenishing Lip Color Red Premiere

Mac Viva Glam #1

Wet n Wild Mega Colors Cherry Blossom

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here. 


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