By Dr. Mercola
If you think your favorite lipstick, gloss or eye shadow is "safe" because it doesn't list lead or arsenic on the ingredients label, think again. Virtually every cosmetic product tested in one study contained a potentially dangerous or proven toxic heavy metal.1
Personal care products are a $50 billion industry in the United States, yet the U.S. government doesn't require any mandatory testing for these products before they hit store shelves.
Lipstick, deodorants, shampoos and other personal care products do not usually undergo testing and many times don't contain a complete list of ingredients.
What this means is that women who apply lipstick several times a day could easily be ingesting high amounts of lead2,3 over the course of their lifetime, along with any number of other unknown chemical additives.
Chemicals are not only ingested but also absorbed through your skin, and are not limited to cosmetics.
Latest Senate Bill May Not Be Enough
As an example of just one personal care product problem, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 127 complaints of adverse events along with more than 21,000 grievances sent directly to the manufacturers of WEN hair care for itching, skin irritation and hair loss.4
In April, 2015, a bipartisan bill sponsored by senators from Maine and California was introduced to require FDA participation in cosmetic regulation.5 Senate bill 1014 Personal Care Products Safety Act was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after an initial reading.6 This bill essentially states:7
"The FDA must review the safety of at least five cosmetic ingredients each year, and it may establish conditions for safe use of an ingredient, including a limit on the amount of the ingredient or a requirement for a warning label.
A cosmetic cannot be sold if it contains an ingredient that is not safe, not safe under the recommended conditions of use or not safe in the amount present in the cosmetic.
If the FDA determines that a cosmetic has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences, it may prohibit the cosmetic's distribution by suspending the cosmetic ingredient statement."
However, a single tube of lipstick from one company will typically contain a dozen ingredients.8 While the intention is good, testing just five ingredients a year over all cosmetic products on the market will take many decades.
Companies producing personal care products are able to change their ingredients and names far quicker than the ingredients can be tested. Therefore, it is important that you know your risks when you use your favorite personal care products.
Heavy Metals Are Common in Your Makeup
In the report "Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup,"9 Canada-based Environmental Defence tested 49 different makeup items, including five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows and eight lipsticks or glosses.
Their testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all of the products:
- 96 percent contained lead
- 90 percent contained beryllium
- 61 percent contained thallium
- 51 percent contained cadmium
- 20 percent contained arsenic
Most of the products also contained an average of four of the eight metals tested (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, beryllium, thallium, selenium).
What's worse, each product contained an average of two of the four metals of highest concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury). These metals carry a toxic designation in Canada, as they've been proven to trigger health issues.
Despite the widespread contamination, and the fact that all the metals but nickel are banned as intentional ingredients in Canadian cosmetics, not one of the products listed the heavy metals on the label.
Lipstick May Contain Up to Eight Different Metals
This short news video reveals startling information about lead levels in your favorite lipstick. However, your lipstick likely contains more than just lead.
The U.S. cosmetic industry sales in 2015 reached $56.2 billion, and cosmetics garnered 14.6 percent of those sales.10 The global cosmetics market reached $460 billion and is estimated to reach $675 billion in 2020.11
These large sale numbers come at a cost. An FDA report in 2012 listed 400 different lipsticks that contained trace amounts of lead.12 The report acknowledged there were trace amounts, adding:
"Lead is an unintended contaminant or impurity that can be present at very low levels in some color additives and in other common ingredients, such as water, that are used to produce cosmetics.
. . . Findings showed that the levels of lead found in these lipstick samples were extremely low, and FDA does not believe that any of the products tested pose a safety concern."
The FDA appears to discount the number of times lipstick is applied each day and the potential for buildup of lead, a neurotoxin your body does not metabolize or excrete. Dr. Mark Mitchell, co-chairman of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association, was quoted in The Washington Post saying:13
"Lead builds in the body over time, and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels."
As a result of reapplication throughout the day, women may be ingesting as much as 87 milligrams (mg) of a product every day.14 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not established whether there is a safe level of lead for anyone.
Lead and Other Metals Increase Your Cancer Risk
Lead is not the only metal found in lipstick. In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found traces of seven other metals in 24 lip glosses and eight lipstick brands.15
The women in this study reported reapplying their lipstick up to 24 times each day. So, while the FDA and cosmetic industry claim the amounts are minute in each application, they add up significantly over time. The seven other trace metals found include cadmium, aluminum, chromium, copper, cobalt, titanium and manganese.16
Lead was found in 75 percent of the lip products, including 15 of the samples that had concentrations higher than the current FDA published standards for lead in candy consumed by children.
Although lead levels in lipstick have received attention in the past, levels of the trace minerals aluminum, cadmium, cobalt and manganese had higher relative intake indices than lead, according to this study.17
Researchers recommended that these levels of trace metals should also be investigated as the number of times the lipsticks were used represented ingestion or absorption of 20 percent of the acceptable daily amount of aluminum, cadmium, chromium and manganese from drinking water.18
For example, cadmium is a known carcinogenic metal. Previous research has found cadmium in breast cancer biopsies and found it is used by cancer cells to multiply in lab trials.19 The metals are used to give lipstick their pigment. As Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., a scientist at the Breast Cancer Fund, told Mother Jones:20 "Cadmium is a very common contaminant in soil. What's concerning is that consumers don't know they're in the lipstick."
Long-Term Cost of Cosmetics
The study also found consistent daily use of lipstick could lead to dangerous levels of manganese with seven of the products tested, and high levels of chromium exposure in 22 products tested.21 Of particular concern in the use of personal care products like your lipstick are the use of chemicals that don't cause immediate health problems but, over time with consistent use, may increase the risk of cancer, reproductive disorders and other health issues.
Senate bill 1014 Personal Care Products Safety Act is initially slated to evaluate lead acetate, a color additive used in hair dyes and lipsticks.22 The European Union (EU) has banned the use of the additive as it is linked to reproductive problems.23 On the whole, the U.S. lags far behind when it comes to chemical safety. European officials have banned or restricted 1,300 chemicals and groups of chemicals from use in cosmetics; the FDA has prohibited or restricted a mere 11 ingredients.
Lipstick May Boost Self-Confidence
If you aren't ready to get rid of your lipstick, you have a lot of company. You may identify makeup as part of your femininity, as a way to experiment with color and aesthetics, or as a way to boost your self-confidence.
Researchers tested 42 female college students in social situations asking them to either imagine themselves wearing makeup or not wearing makeup. In situations in which they were imagining makeup the students were more sociable and more self-confident.24
People perceive photographs of women wearing makeup as healthier, more likely to be hired, more attractive and more confident.25 Another study found it took as little as 250 milliseconds for participants to rate a woman with makeup as more attractive than those without makeup.26
Women are not the only gender influenced by personal care products. Men who had just sprayed themselves with a scented product were evaluated as more attractive by women who were unable to smell the scent. The men wearing scented body product appeared to act more confidently and were therefore more visually attractive.27
What Are Your Options?
There are brands of lipstick containing more lead than others, and safer alternatives you may consider. Here's a list to help guide your next lipstick purchase.28,29,30
|Avoid These Lipsticks||Safer Lipstick Alternatives|
|Maybelline Color Sensational (#125 Pink Petal)||Coastal Classic Creations Canyon Lipstick|
|L'Oreal Colour Riche (#410 Volcanic)||W3ll People Extreme Lip Gloss|
|NARS Semi Matte (#1005 Red Lizard)||Maia's Mineral Galaxy Lipstick|
|CoverGirl Queen Collection Vibrant Hues (#580 Ruby Remix)||Organic Infused Lip Love Lipstick|
|NARS Semi Matte (#1009 Funny Face)||Bella Mari Pure Mineral Lipstick|
|L'Oreal Colour Riche (#165 Tickled Pink)||Isoi Bulgarian Rose Lip Treatment Balm|
|L'Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor (#748 Heroic)||Rejuva Minerals Pur Lips Lipstick|
|CoverGirl Continuous Color (#025 Warm Brick)|
|Maybelline Color Sensation (#475 Mauve Me)|
|Stargazer Lipstick (#103c)|
|Revlon Matte (#009 Fabulous Fig)|
|Sonia Kashuk Luxury Lip Color (#27 Mauvey)|
|Avon Beyond Color (#558 Mad for Mauve)|
|L'Oreal Endless (#530 Mauve Amour)|
|Revlon ColorStay (#375 Ripened Red)|
|Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer (Toffee)|
|Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#631 Luminous Pink)|
|Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#643 Satin Plum)|