Lead Levels in Lipstick Much Higher Than Previously Reported, Says FDA

Woman applying lipstick photo

Photo credit: daniellerose

It took two years, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally made good on its promise to conduct its own analysis of lead in lipstick. The results, suffice to say, ain't pretty. The FDA, which published its analysis in the July/August 2009 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, found lead in all 20 of the lipsticks it tested, with levels ranging fro 0.01 parts per million (ppm) to 3.06ppm—more than four times the highest level of 0.65ppm reported in the groundbreaking 2007 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), which uncovered lead in more than 60 percent of 33 popular lipsticks. The dramatic difference, it seems, is due to the FDA's use of more powerful acids to extract lead from the pigments that give a lipstick its color, along with lead-contaminated minerals (such as mica) that impart that sought-after sheen to your pout.

Although the FDA stated that three manufacturers had the highest levels of lead, it did not disclose any names. (The 2007 CSC report also found a few brands with consistently higher lead levels, including L'Oreal, Maybelline, and Cover Girl.)

Effects of lead
A proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language, and behavioral problems, lead in lipstick—in any amount—is a health concern, says the CSC, especially because lipstick is applied several times a day, every day. The heavy metal can build up in the body over time, adding to significant exposure levels. For pregnant women, the effects of trace levels of lead are even more pernicious. Lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain, where it can interfere with normal development.

Is a lead-free lipstick possible?
But is lead-free lipstick even a possibility? Despite protestations from cosmetics firms that eliminating lead would be too difficult and expensive, Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the CSC and author of the award-winning Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, says lead-free lipstick already exists. You can even find it in the aisle of your neighborhood drugstore.

In a live Webinar held last week, Malkan noted that 39 percent of the lipsticks the nonprofit tested had no lead, including a $1.99 tube by Wet 'N Wild. (In contrast, a $24 lipstick from Dior had among the higher levels of lead.) "Of course it can be done," Malkan said. "Companies already know how to make lipstick without lead and that's what they all should be doing."

[Via Campaign for Safe Cosmetics]

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