Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lead in Lipsticks:
Is Biting the (Lipstick) Bullet Harming You?

You may have heard it on your local nightly news, or spied the article on CBS News or in the Washington Post. Lead found in 400 shades from popular lipstick brands! "Poisonous Puckers" they scream, leading millions of people to wonder: "Am I killing myself in the interest of a perfect pout?" Well, unless you've recently been featured on the show "My Strange Addiction", probably not.

The lead on lead is a typical "scare tactic" story that has been going around for years. In the 1980s and 90s, news was made when a supposed copy of a lab test was leaked, revealing the presence of lead in a commercial lipstick. The issue cropped up again in 2007 when a report from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics prompted an FDA investigation. Stories like this make great headlines and nice teaser stories to get people to tune in to the nightly news cast, but sadly, they only hold a kernel of real journalism.

In fact, FDA findings show that trace levels of lead found in the tested lipsticks "do not show levels of lead in lipstick that would pose a safety concern." It's important to note: no one is adding lead to their lipstick formulations. The lead detected in the samples are trace impurities from some of the minerals used to make pigments (these pigments, by the way, are the exact same ones used by mineral, natural and indie formulators. Thus, these companies are just as likely to contain traces of lead as the larger brands tested).

The truth is, the lead levels in lipsticks are FAR below safe levels. The average of the lipsticks tested contained 1.11 parts per million (ppm). The sample that tested the highest (Maybelline Color Sensational in Pink Petal, in case you're wondering) rang in at 7.19 ppm. To put this in perspective, children’s products in the U.S. are allowed to contain up to 100 ppm of lead. Anyone who has had a toddler knows how often their toys are in their mouths! Even more telling? According to cosmetic scientist Dene Godfrey, drinking just under one cup of water could expose you to over 400 times more lead than your lipstick!

Of course, it would seem like any exposure to a dangerous chemical should be avoided, but we are talking about an element that occurs naturally in our ecosystem; exposure is simply unavoidable. I can't say it any more clearly than the FDA:

"Is there a safety concern about the lead levels FDA found in lipsticks? 

No. We have assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in both rounds of testing. Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern. The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics, including lipstick."


Dene Godfrey said...

Thanks for the link to my article, Jessica. We need to get the message spread far and wide that the truth is that lead levels in lipstick are not the subject for concern that certain pressure groups would have us believe.

Lisa M. Rodgers said...

Jessica -

Many thanks for providing a link back to Dene's article on Personal Care Truth. We greatly appreciate you sharing logic and truth with your readers!

Have a fabulous evening!

Lisa M. Rodgers
Personal Care Truth

Doug Schoon said...

Well said! It's nice to see someone speaking rationally about this issue. This latest round of nonsense just goes to show that fear-based advocacy groups like the EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can't be trusted to provide factual information, largely because the facts don't matter to them. They just want your donations! IMO, you should never give money to groups like this.

femputer said...

OH DEAR GOD THANK YOU for saying this. I've been wanting to tear my hair out with all the freak out going around about this.

Julie said...

And, most of the 11 lipsticks that do not contain lead are made by companies that DO NOT test on animals. Hmmmm..... makes you question, what is all this animal testing about anyway!? We all have to make an effort to use products that are not tested on animals.

shelly said...

@Julie: That would be a virtually impossible task because every ingredient in cosmetics has been tested on an animal at some point over the years... even if they're being used by a company who says they don't test or use ingredients from manufacturers who don't.

The only surefire way to go completely cruelty-free would be to stop wearing makeup.

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