“The problem of lead in lipstick is worse and more widespread than previously reported”

Market Watch reports that a recent study on lead levels in lipstick reveals that levels of lead are up to twice as high as previously reported.  A link to the results of the study is here.

According to the Washington Post, the FDA doesn’t want to set a lead level for lipstick because it believes that lead in lipstick poses no risk to women. Currently, many of the lipsticks tested exceed FDA limits for lead in candy.  The lipsticks with the highest amounts of lead contain more than 70 times the amount permitted in candy.

The FDA says, not so fast — you can’t compare lipstick to candy. The FDA explains:

The FDA-recommended upper limit for lead in candy is 0.1ppm. It is not scientifically valid to equate the risk to consumers presented by lead levels in candy, a product intended for ingestion, with that associated with lead levels in lipstick, a product intended for topical use and ingested in much smaller quantities than candy.

The FDA has a point — lipstick isn’t food.  And women don’t typically go around snacking on their cosmetics.

But, I also know that if I apply lipstick,within a few hours most of it is gone — some on my coffee mug and the rest ingested by me.

So, I guess I don’t really care whether the FDA thinks that lead in lipstick is healthy or not.  If I can find lipsticks that are lead-free, or lipsticks that have lead levels that the FDA has already deemed safe for ingestion, I’ll purchase those.

NPR names a few brands and shades that have the lowest amount of lead of the 400 lipsticks studied.  But I’m not really loving the options.  (except for MAC Satin Red, which has some potential)

What I am realizing is that with the exception of M.A.C. Cosmetics, this study is useless to me.  It doesn’t cover any of the brands I normally wear —  Portland Black Lipstick Company.  Morgana Cryptoria.  Illamasqua.

I’m so confused (probably because of all the lead I’ve been ingesting).


~ by siouxsielaw on February 15, 2012.

7 Responses to ““The problem of lead in lipstick is worse and more widespread than previously reported””

  1. A couple of sites you may want to check out, Siouxsie:





    Excellent article, as usual! Take care!

  2. Am I the only one who’s wondering why they would use lead in lipstick to begin with? Or is it just some kind of unavoidable contaminant?

  3. Any lipstick that has mineral colorants can potentially have lead in them. Lead is in the minerals, it isn’t added by formulators. I mostly only by lippies from indie companies (because they offer vegan lipsticks) but again, any lipstick that has mineral colorants can have variable amounts of lead. The article you posted isn’t scientifically sound. The lead in lipstick isn’t absorbed into the body. To extract the lead various strong chemicals were used as well as a heating process. Clearly these chemicals and heat aren’t in our bodies. For a more scientific understanding of lead in lipstick check out some write ups by cosmetic scientists:

    • I agree that the reporting on this study is sensationalist. But I don’t agree that there is absolutely no reason to worry about lead levels in lipstick. The debate isn’t over whether the body can absorb lead that is ingested — the body can (that is why lead levels in different products are already regulated). The debate, rather, is over what level of lead is acceptable in lipstick. And this appears to be a difficult number to figure out because not all lipstick applied will be ingested.

      As a consumer I am more interested in the varying lead levels in different brands/shades, and how I can find/identify lipstick and other cosmetics with the lowest levels.

      If there are two lipsticks and one has .1 ppm lead and the other has 7ppm lead — I’ll take the one with .1.

  4. i’m totally with you one this…i think doing some thorough research on the internet will allow us each to make the decision we need to. you just can’t let anyone including the fda tell you what is healthy for you. we need to inform ourselves and make our own decisions. i mean i don’t want lead in my body, i just don’t need a certain lipstick that bad.

    that being said, i am really interested in trying morgana cryptoria… she has some amazing shades! i guess i can email her and see if she has any info on the lead content of her products.

    ps i used to wear my hair with a thick row of bobby pins in highschool so i absolutely adored seeing it on the rodarte runway!

  5. Lead content or not, I’m extremely conscious about my lipstick “ingestion”–if I put on lipstick in the morning, there’s a good chance that most of it is still in place by 6PM. And before I eat, I remove it entirely. Obviously, I still get some when I drink and lead can be dangerous just sitting on your skin, but I wasn’t too concerned when I heard about this study. I also wear a lot of indie-brand products–I know some of the owners personally and know their commitment to their ingredient qualities. Morgana Cryptoria has voluntarily recalled products in the past if the owner found out the ingredients were not what she thought they were.

    I’m honestly more disturbed to hear about the lead content in candy…which is actually made for consumption.

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