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Lead in Lipstick: How Concerned Should We Be?

By HERWriter
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For years there has been rumors about lead in lipstick and recently increased concern has prompted the FDA to do further testing. In 2007, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 lipsticks for lead with an independent lab and found that 61% of lipsticks tested positive for lead with: Loreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl testing the highest.

In 2009, the FDA did a follow up study and tested 20 lipsticks and found they had lead amounts ranging from .09-3.06 ppm (parts per a million) which is much higher than the .65 ppm maximum found in the 2007 testing.

Why is there lead in some lipsticks and not others? Some pigments apparently have lead in them which become part of the lipstick or the lead comes from contamination during the manufacturing process. There are brands of lipstick with little or no lead based on both studies so clearly it is possible to make low lead lipstick.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “no safe lead level has been identified” and pregnant women and children under 6 are most at risk. Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause birth defects and has been linked to cancer. The levels of lead are cumulative and can build up over time with repeated exposure.

Surprisingly, cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA the ways drugs are. According to the FDA website “Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA pre-market approval authority, with the exception of color additives.”

The FDA allows up to 20 ppm of lead in the colorant of cosmetic products so the 3.06 ppm is well below that but there is a big difference between colorant that is in a product you use once a month like hair dye compared to lipstick which is used repeatedly by women every day.

The FDA allows lead levels in candy to be up to .1 ppm but some lipsticks have lead levels over 10 times that level. The FDA states that is an unfair comparison since we don’t eat lipstick however I read an article where a young girl came home from a party with a goody bag containing sparkly lip gloss flavored with saccharin.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.