Most women don’t think too much about the ingredients in their makeup. Besides, if you did stop to read the label on your favorite tube of lipstick or compact of eye shadow you’re never going to find lead or arsenic listed on them. But that doesn’t mean they, or other dangerous or toxic heavy metals, aren’t in there.
In fact, essentially every single cosmetic product researchers tested in one troubling study contained a dangerous heavy metal.1 Surprised? Don’t be. Because despite the fact that that personal care products are a $50 BILLION dollar industry here in the United States alone our government doesn’t require any sort of mandatory testing before they hit your local drugstore or high-end makeup store’s shelves.
Personal care products such as lipsticks, antiperspirant or shampoos aren’t typically subjected to any testing and they often have incomplete ingredient lists. In other words if you’re applying your lipstick a couple of times a day—as most women do—you may be unknowingly ingesting (and absorbing) high levels of lead, and other dangerous chemicals, over time.2,3
Take WEN hair care products for example. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got 127 complaints of adverse events and the manufacturer of WEN received more than 21,000 grievances for itching, skin irritation and hair loss.4
Well intended Senate bill falls short
In April, 2015 senators from Maine and California sponsored a bipartisan bill that would require the FDA’s participation in cosmetic regulation.5 Senate bill 1014 Personal Care Products Safety Act was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after an initial reading.6
This bill states, in part…7
“The FDA must review the safety of at least five cosmetic ingredients each year, and it may establish conditions for safe use of an ingredient, including a limit on the amount of the ingredient or a requirement for a warning label.
“A cosmetic cannot be sold if it contains an ingredient that is not safe, not safe under the recommended conditions of use or not safe in the amount present in the cosmetic.
If the FDA determines that a cosmetic has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences, it may prohibit the cosmetic’s distribution by suspending the cosmetic ingredient statement.”
The trouble is a single tube of lipstick from one company will typically contain a dozen ingredients.8 While the intention is good, testing just five ingredients a year over all cosmetic products on the market will take many decades.
The fact is the companies producing personal care products will be able to change their ingredients and names far quicker than the ingredients can be tested. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and know your risks when you use your favorite personal care products.
Your makeup may be swimming in heavy metals
In the report “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup,”9 Canada-based Environmental Defence tested 49 different makeup items, including five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows and eight lipsticks or glosses.
Their testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all of the products:
- 96 percent contained lead
- 90 percent contained beryllium
- 61 percent contained thallium
- 51 percent contained cadmium
- 20 percent contained arsenic
Most of the products contained an average of four of the eight metals tested (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, beryllium, thallium, selenium).
What’s worse, each product contained an average of two of the four metals of highest concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury). These metals carry a toxic designation in Canada, as they’ve been proven to trigger health issues.
Despite the widespread contamination, and the fact that all the metals but nickel are banned as intentional ingredients in Canadian cosmetics, not one of the products listed the heavy metals on the label.
Your lipstick could contain 8 different metals!
The U.S. cosmetic industry reached $56.2 billion in sales in 2015, and cosmetics alone made up 14.6 percent of those sales.10 The global cosmetics market reached $460 billion and is estimated to reach $675 billion in 2020.11
But those huge sales numbers come at a big cost for our health. A 2012 FDA report listed 400 different lipsticks that contained trace amounts of lead.12
“Lead is an unintended contaminant or impurity that can be present at very low levels in some color additives and in other common ingredients, such as water, that are used to produce cosmetics.
“. . . Findings showed that the levels of lead found in these lipstick samples were extremely low, and FDA does not believe that any of the products tested pose a safety concern.”
The FDA appears to simply dismiss the number of times lipstick is applied each day and the potential for buildup of lead over time since the metal is a neurotoxin that your body doesn’t metabolize or excrete. According to Dr. Mark Mitchell, co-chairman of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association, who was interviewed by The Washington Post…13
“Lead builds in the body over time, and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels.”
When you reapply your lipstick throughout the day you may be ingesting as much as 87 milligrams (mg) of that product every day.14 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t established whether there’s a safe level of lead for anyone.
Metals like lead can increase your cancer risk
Lead isn’t the only metal found in lipstick, of course. In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found traces of seven other metals in 24 lip glosses and eight lipstick brands.15
The women in this study reported reapplying their lipstick up to 24 times each day! So, while the FDA and cosmetic industry claim the amounts are tiny in each application, it’s easy to see how quickly that can add up over time. The seven other trace metals found include cadmium, aluminum, chromium, copper, cobalt, titanium and manganese.16
Lead was found in 75 percent of the lip products, including 15 of the samples that had concentrations higher than the current FDA published standards for lead in candy consumed by children.
Although lead levels in lipstick have received the most attention in the past, levels of the trace minerals aluminum, cadmium, cobalt and manganese were even than lead, according to this study.17
Researchers recommended that these levels of trace metals should also be investigated as the number of times the lipsticks were used represented ingestion or absorption of 20 percent of the acceptable daily amount of aluminum, cadmium, chromium and manganese from drinking water.18
For example, cadmium is a known carcinogenic metal. Previous research has uncovered the metal in breast cancer biopsies and found it’s used by cancer cells to multiply in lab trials.19 The metals are used to give lipstick their pigment. As Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., a scientist at the Breast Cancer Fund, told Mother Jones, “Cadmium is a very common contaminant in soil. What’s concerning is that consumers don’t know they’re in the lipstick.”20
The long-term health consequences of cosmetics
The study also found consistent daily use of lipstick could lead to dangerous levels of manganese with seven of the products tested, and high levels of chromium exposure in 22 products tested.21 Of particular concern are the chemicals that don’t cause immediate health problems but, over time with consistent use, could increase your risk of cancer, reproductive disorders and other health issues.
Senate bill 1014 Personal Care Products Safety Act is initially slated to evaluate lead acetate, a color additive used in hair dyes and lipsticks.22 The European Union (EU) has already banned the use of the additive which is linked to reproductive problems.23 On the whole, the U.S. lags far behind when it comes to chemical safety. European officials have banned or restricted 1,300 chemicals and groups of chemicals from use in cosmetics; the FDA has prohibited or restricted a mere 11 ingredients.
Safer lipstick options do exist
There are brands of lipstick containing more lead than others, and safer alternatives you may consider.
Here’s a list to help guide your next lipstick purchase.24,25,30
|Lipsticks to Avoid|
|Maybelline Color Sensational (#125 Pink Petal)||Coastal Classic Creations Canyon Lipstick|
|L’Oreal Colour Riche (#410 Volcanic)||W3ll People Extreme Lip Gloss|
|NARS Semi Matte (#1005 Red Lizard))||Maia’s Mineral Galaxy Lipstick|
|CoverGirl Queen Collection Vibrant Hues (#580 Ruby Remix)||Organic Infused Lip Love Lipstick|
|NARS Semi Matte (#1009 Funny Face)||Bella Mari Pure Mineral Lipstick|
|L’Oreal Colour Riche (#165 Tickled Pink)||Isoi Bulgarian Rose Lip Treatment Balm|
|L’Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor (#748 Heroic)||Rejuva Minerals Pur Lips Lipstick|
|CoverGirl Continuous Color (#025 Warm Brick)||—|
|Maybelline Color Sensation (#475 Mauve Me)||—|
|Stargazer Lipstick (#103c)||—|
|Revlon Matte (#009 Fabulous Fig)||—|
|Avon Beyond Color (#558 Mad for Mauve)||—|
|Revlon ColorStay (#375 Ripened Red)||—|
|Sonia Kashuk Luxury Lip Color (#27 Mauvey)||—|
|L’Oreal Endless (#530 Mauve Amour)||—|
|Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer (Toffee)||—|
|Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#631 Luminous Pink)||—|
|Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#643 Satin Plum)||—|
1,9 Report: Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup – Environmental Defence. (2016). Environmental Defence
2 Zhao Di, Li Jie, Juhasz AL, et al. Lead Relative Bioavailability in Lip Products and Their Potential Hralth Risk to Women.
3 Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. 2012
4 WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners: FDA Statement – Investigation of Adverse Event Reports. (2016).
5,6,7 S.1014 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): Personal Care Products Safety Act. (2016). Congress.gov. Retrieved 20 August 2016
8 Color Sensational Lip Color – Lipstick – Maybelline. (2016). Maybelline.com. Retrieved 20 August 2016
10 Beauty Industry Analysis 2016 – Cost & Trends. (2016). Franchisehelp.com. Retrieved 20 August 2016
11 WIRE, B. (2015). Businesswire.com. Retrieved 20 August 2016
12, 13 400 lipsticks found to contain lead, FDA says. (2012). Washington Post. Retrieved 20 August 2016
14 Rasanayagam, S. (2016). Opinion: Are lipsticks dangerous? – CNN.com. CNN. Retrieved 21 August 2016
15, 17 EHP – Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products. (2016). Ehp.niehs.nih.gov. Retrieved 21 August 2016
16, 25 EWG Skin Deep, HAPPILY TOXIN-FREE. (2016). Happilytoxinfree.com. Retrieved 21 August 2016
18, 20, 24 Which 20 Lipsticks Contain the Most Lead? (2013). Mother Jones. Retrieved 21 August 2016
19 Cadmium and Other Metals. (2016)
21 Toxic metals and cancer risks found in lipsticks, lip glosses. (2013). Cbsnews.com
22 Lead And Other Heavy Metals – Safe Cosmetics. (2016). Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved 21 August 2016
23 Lead Acetate. (2004). Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food products. Retrieved 21 August 2016
30 Lipstick Products || Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | EWG. (2016). Ewg.org. Retrieved 21 August 2016
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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