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Lead in Lipstick: Detox Your Pucker

We know to avoid it in paint, jewelry and even candy, but are we exposed to lead in our cosmetics?  A recent study by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found lead in 400 lipsticks tested from mainstream brands, like L’Oreal and Maybelline.  And it wasn’t just a little lead either.  Take a look at this chart from the FDA website.

Lead is a known neurotoxin, linked to brain damage, miscarriage and other health issues.  This contaminant has been associated with lowered IQ, increased aggression and learning disabilities.  Pregnant women and small children are especially vulnerable to damage from lead, but it’s unhealthy for everyone.

So why are researchers finding lead in lipstick?

Lead contaminates many chemical color additives, like those used in conventionally produced lipstick.  The FDA has not set limits for lead in cosmetics, but has set “specifications for lead in color additives used in cosmetics.” The safety limit for lead in candy is less than .1 parts per million (ppm). This most recent study shows lead levels in lipstick reaching up to 7 ppm.  Maybelline (an arm of the L’Oreal USA company) Color Sensational 125 Pink Petal lipstick contained 7.19.

Considering lipstick wearers usually apply the product several times each day, lead in lipstick is a very big concern for those wearing mainstream brands. While the FDA states that a product like lipstick is “intended for topical use and ingested in much smaller quantities”, lead builds up in the system over time.  And since you apply lipstick to your lips, some of it has to be ingested. One study shows that women who wear lipstick typically consume around 4 to 6 pounds of the product each year.  That kind of exposure to lead-contaminated lipstick is going to add up.

Personally, I don’t want any lead in my lipstick, candy or whatever.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has formed a petition urging L’Oreal to create a lead-free lipstick.  This would be great, and I signed the petition. Any step in the right direction is a good thing.  But what about all of the other toxic ingredients companies like L’Oreal are using in their makeup, skin care and so on?

There are many safe and healthy brands who make gorgeous lipsticks and other nontoxic beauty products, and I feel like promoting them.  Here are just a few of my personal favorites:

Any of the lipsticks from the above brands look great, feel good, are healthy, and contain no toxic ingredients…including lead.  True beauties.

[Image from bignosetw at, Creative Commons license]

Written by Liz Thompson

I am an organic beauty expert, writer, and mom of two young environmentalists who can already spot a toxic product when they see one. Read more about me at Organic Beauty, and find me on , Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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