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Do You Need To Worry About Lead in Lipstick?

A few of you have written me today, concerned about the claim that lipsticks are laced with lead. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested many lipsticks to detect the presence of lead, which can cause learning, language and behavioral problems as well as infertility. The story's findings:

  • More than half of 33 brand-name lipsticks tested (61 percent) contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). None of these lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient.
  • One-third of the tested lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy – a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead.

Lipsticks with the highest amounts of detectable lead included L’Oreal Colour Riche in True Red and Classic Wine; Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor in Maximum Red; and Christian Dior Addict in Positive Red. For more on the story, and what you can do about lead in lipstick,

To understand what the amount of lead means, it's important to understand how lead works in your body. It accumulates over time, and small amounts of lipstick are ingested through wearing it (for instance, when you bite into a sandwich, lipstick rubs off, and you digest it). As I wrote earlier this week, the FDA does not approve or review the safety of finished cosmetics, only the colorants that go into them. Because lead is a byproduct of the manufacturing process, it doesn't show up on the packaging.

So what can you do to protect yourself? The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is encouraging people to write L'Oreal and insist that it create lead-free lipstick. (Consumers in Europe, where cosmetic regulations are tighter, already have lead-free options. Sucks to be North American, huh?)

Before you go into full-blown panic, though, consider this: Toxic substances surround us every day, and simply living has some risk. Wall paint, for example, is allowed to have 600 parts per million, which is thousands of times higher than the lipstick lead levels. Or consider this: If you eat fish, you're digesting similar levels of another poison, mercury—and since you're actively eating fish, you're ingesting more of it. But it doesn't hurt to be an informed consumer. Some brands, such as Josie Maran Cosmetics, are lead- and paraben-free. On Monday, I'll post my review of the line, so you can see how well natural cosmetics work.


Join The Conversation
jJuliet jJuliet 9 years
Thanks for posting this story. I would still be concerned about the lipstick -- I wear lipstick every day! I think that comparing it to paint and fish is a little like comparing apples to oranges. Paint isn't meant to be ingested, and lipstick is. I don't eat fish because I am a vegetarian, but I know that even if I weren't, I wouldn't eat fish because of the mercury levels. I think that it is necessary to be an informed consumer. Just because something is available on the market doesn't mean that it is completely safe. I found this out the hard way last year, when I got salmonella poisoning from peanut butter that was later recalled -- and I had to spend my 21st birthday in the hospital.
rosyrose rosyrose 9 years
Where would I find a full list of the lipsticks?
RachB424 RachB424 9 years
Shouldn't be worried about this at all. There is lead content in candy and drinking water too. If it was going to pose a huge threat to your health it would be taken off the market.
Punk-Glam-Queen Punk-Glam-Queen 9 years
carioca says: "Sorry, Bella Sugar, it does not suck to be North American! It is a tremendous priviledge to live in a country which affords it's citizens the freedoms and opportunities that the US does." You seem to be under the impression that the US is the only country in North America. Remember Canada and Mexico? They are also in N.A. In addition, just as its your right as a *US* citizen (not N.A. citizen as you would have to hold multiple passports) to state your feelings, its BellaSugar's right as a US citizen to state hers. IMO, you took her meaning out of context.
creepupmytee creepupmytee 9 years
gah. Dior! :(
artfashionmusic7 artfashionmusic7 9 years
pfft..watever im not worried or scared. :)
kat61890 kat61890 9 years
Yeah I've been trying to use more natural and organic skin care and makeup. It's crazy the kind of toxins that are in lipstick. So instead of using ingredients that I can't read I try to find makeup with ingredients like shea butter and healthy oils. If you want to try some lipsticks that is safer I can recommend this company:
diorbaby diorbaby 9 years
I am enjoying using my red lipstick as an excuse for my ditzy behavior today. Sorry that fax didn't get sent-it must be my toxic lipstick.
JessNess JessNess 9 years
Bella was not discounting the privilege of freedoms in this country but its lack of regulations on products. With all of the lead problems we have been dealing with from tons of toys to now possibly lipstick the U.S needs to seriously look at its regulations or lack thereof specially with these companies that out- source
carioca carioca 9 years
Sorry, Bella Sugar, it does not suck to be North American! It is a tremendous priviledge to live in a country which affords it's citizens the freedoms and opportunities that the US does. Stop wearing Dior and L'Oreal and buy Revlon. Strange that two French companies would use lead in the lipstick that they sell on the US market and not in the product that is sold in Europe.
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
Thank goodness there's now an explanation for my behavioral problems! :kiss:
purrtykitty purrtykitty 9 years
i've heard this one before, and i'm not too worried...besides it seems like reds and wines are the culprits and i don't wear those colors very often.
glam-sugar glam-sugar 9 years
MAC had one listed if I remember right.
rubialala rubialala 9 years
I guess I'm glad that I only wear lip gloss these days.
tati33 tati33 9 years
thanks! i know everything around you is bad :( Does MAC have any lipsticks listed?
SummerBaby SummerBaby 9 years
well im happy that i dont wear the stuff.. cant stand it!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Meh, everything now a days is bad for you!
diorbaby diorbaby 9 years
I wear Maximum Red all the time-it is my signature color, and I have tried almost 200 red lipsticks to find the right one. I have 2 full drawers of lipcolors/gloss/tint/stain etc, and I have never had any problems. I also agree with otispidoti. This is nothing new and I don't worry about it.
otispidoti otispidoti 9 years
This is nothing new, they're just claiming it is to scare people. It's the same issue this organization raised before that's already been discounted. They're trying to make these extremely low levels looked significant, when they're not. The EPA allows 0.5 ppm lead in drinking water. There is no credible scientific justification for their claims that lipstick is dangerous. Lead is everywhere in nature and these levels are not anything to be concerned about.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
Thanks for this!
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