Lead in Lipstick

14th July 2015
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17th August 2015
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Gillian Deacon exposes some uncomfortable facts in her book; including…when you use lipstick you could be ingesting lead.  [If you would like to buy the book click here]

In 2007, the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics found lead in over 50% of the 33 brands tested.    Testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the evidence was even higher with lead in all 20 of the brands they tested.

Unfortunately the FDA still hasn’t set limits for lead in cosmetics. It has only set specifications for lead in colour additives used in cosmetics.

In the UK manufacturers cannot sell a new product to the public before it has been safety tested.  The Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) provides information about the regulation of cosmetics & it abides by regulations set out by the EU.  The list of banned chemicals are in my free book ‘Banned’ – do let me know if you would like a copy.   Lead is banned from all cosmetics, apart from hair dyes.

Lead is known to be a neurotoxin i.e. a substance that is poisonous or destructive to nerve tissue.  Lead can cause neuro-developmental problems in children & has also been linked to miscarriages and infertility.

Lead is not on the ingredient list of a product as it is a contaminant i.e. it gets into lipsticks through tainted raw materials or through the pigments used in them.   There is no “safe” level of lead exposure.

You can check out your lipstick brand to see if you are being unnecessarily exposed to lead, in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) database here

A quote from this article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/fashion/28skin.html

“Among the worst offenders were L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” lipstick (with a lead content of 0.65 parts per million) and Cover Girl’s Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” (0.56 p.p.m.). Price had nothing to do with lead levels: less expensive brands, like a $1.99 tube of Wet and Wild Mega Colors “Cherry Blossom,” contained no lead, whereas a $24 tube of Dior Addict “Positive Red” contained 0.21 p.p.m.”

This is the FDA official view:  http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm137224.htm

Lead isn’t just in lipstick!  It can be found in many cosmetics including mascara.  The Good Guide is making a stab at listing & grading products but I think it is a bit tame.

Medical Daily states the four main hazardous ingredients in mascara are parabens, aluminium powder, propylene glycol & retinyl acetate.  This article is informative but more about promoting a ‘natural’ mascara so I was interested.  The links in the article were broken but I eventually located the mascara & this is what they claim:

“Finally, a natural mascara you can feel good about putting on your lashes! It is naturally paraben-free, gluten-free, and mercury-free.

Aqua (Water), Oryza Sativa Wax (Rice Bran Wax), Olea Europea fruit oil (Olive Oil), Vegetable Source Cetyl Alcohol (Coconut), Coernica Cerifera (Carnauba Wax), Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla Wax), Vegetable Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Acacia Gum, Black Iron oxide (CI 77499),  Aminomethyl Popandiol (Ph Adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative).”

Great stuff, all good until you get down to the preservative… Phenoxyethanol is listed as not for oral consumption, irritant, high doses cause vomiting & diahorrea. Central nervous system depressant.

You might think oral consumption & mascara in the same sentence a bit odd so for an explanation please read my blog post on skin – it is not a barrier!

Ahh well I will find a good mascara one day – I’ve given up with lipstick

What do you think?



  1. Fascinating. I had only ever heard of controversy about lead in children’s toys and wall paints. It never occurred to me that it could be in lipstick.

  2. Sacha says:

    O h wow, I wasn’t even aware of this, Thanks for sharing. I will be reading the ingredients of the lipsticks I buy from now on.

  3. lottie says:

    Great to see a post highlighting this – let me know if you ever find a mascara that fits the bill 🙂

  4. Robyn says:

    I’m wondering, only because I typically don’t use lipstick but Lip Gloss. Is there lead also in the glosses? Something for me to search and find out about!

    I love all the information you share!

  5. Sarah says:

    So worrying, the content of many of the products we use. I’ve been on a mission to clear them all up from my collection. Not there yet. It’s hard to source really good stuff. That’s a whole new story! Am getting there though. No hair dye. Organic soap, shampoo, perfume, skin cream. The list goes on!

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