The urban legend is true: many conventional lipsticks contain lead. Yes, that chemical that we thought was a thing of the past after the US banned it from household paint in 1978.
In 2009, the FDA conducted a study that found lead in all samples of lipstick tested. Despite its findings, the FDA has failed to take action to protect consumers. Even more offensive, on the FDA’s question and answer page regarding the study, the agency answers the question “Is there a safety concern about the lead levels FDA found in lipsticks?” with an affirmative “No.”
Hold on just a second… we’re putting this stuff on our mouths! You’re telling me it’s safe!? “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.” Oh, please.
Let’s just be clear here: the lead we are all (the FDA, me and you) referring to here is the same lead that is a known neurotoxin and is known to cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women must particularly be wary of lead exposure because lead, when absorbed through the skin, can cross the placenta and enter the fetal brain where it can interfere with the development of the unborn child. Additionally, since lead bioaccumulates (continues to build up in the body rather than being flushed out), even if pregnant women do not wear lipstick while they are pregnant, previous lead exposure can still impact the fetus’ development. Hmm, sounds like a little bit more serious of an issue than the happy picture the FDA is painting.
Let’s also remember that the FDA has only banned 11 chemicals for use in cosmetics in comparison to the EU which has banned over 1,300. Can you guess one one of the 1,300 chemicals? Let me give you a hint, this article is dedicated to it. Yes, the EU has banned lead from use in cosmetics!
Before you purchase a lipstick, be sure to check the ingredients in the Skin Deep cosmetic database to avoid purchasing the always unflattering shade – lead.
For more information, see the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.