Article Review · Beauty · Beauty/Cosmetics · Science

Lead in lipstick, a continued controversy…should we worry?


I’m sure that by now you are all familiar with the dangers surrounding lead-based paint, especially for families with small children. But did you know that some very unexpected household items, like your favorite lipstick, are also likely to have measurable amounts of lead, as well as other harmful metal contaminants?

Deborah Blum of New York Time’s health section recently outlined several scary findings regarding recent research surrounding the lead lipstick controversy:

  1. Traces of lead have been found in over 400 different lipstick varieties. (Check here to see how your fav stick ranks.)
  2. The F.D.A. ensures that most lipsticks, on average, contain only 1 parts per million (ppm) of lead, which “poses no real or unusual health risks”.
  3. However, to prevent childhood lead exposure, the F.D.A. sets a 0.1 ppm safety standard level for lead in candy. That’s 10-fold lower than for lipsticks.
  4. Some metals, like lead, are not readily flushed from your body, and therefore, can accumulate over time. (Think of this in the same way that we are advised against eating sushi everyday for fear of mercury poisoning.)
  5. Besides lead, traces of cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper and nickel were also found in a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives.
  6. In this same study, girls reported to apply these specific lipsticks up to 24 times a day.

Does color affect the metal load?

In a recent study done by the F.D.A. in 2011, it was reported that the highest levels of lead are found in deeper pinks and browns, while more neutral lip balms have somewhat lower lead concentrations (ranging from 8.9 ppm in dark colors to 0.37 ppm in lighter colors). In addition, more glittery lip glosses often contain mica, a naturally occurring mineral that is likely to contain lead, manganese and other metals.


Should we be worried?

Scientists are quoted as saying:

“We’re not saying that anyone needs to panic. We’re saying let’s not be complacent, that these are metals known to affect health.” Katharine Hammond, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, University of California Berkeley

However, it’s important to remember that some metals can be absorbed into the skin and that a certain amount of lipstick is likely to be swallowed throughout the day and kissed away on a loved one’s cheek.

You do the math…what are you comfortable wearing?


  • Did you know prior to this post that traces of lead are found in your lipstick?
  • Do you think that the F.D.A. should place stricter restrictions regarding lead and other metal contaminants in cosmetic products?
  • Would your willingness to buy a specific shade of lipstick change if the amount of lead was placed on the label?
  • How much lead is in your signature shade? And are you willing to try a safer alternative? My fav is Alima Pure in Rhubarb
  • Are you less likely to let your child play dress-up with lipstick after reading this article?

Great websites for more info:

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