You put lipstick on your lips several times a day. Some of it is absorbed through your skin. Some of it is eaten along with your lunch or when you lick your lips. How safe is your lipstick?
Is Your Lipstick Safe?
Who monitors lipstick safety?
The FDA regulates all cosmetics, but rather loosely. Color additives are the only ingredients actually requiring FDA approval before a lipstick goes on the market. Lipstick ingredients are supposed to be listed on the packaging, but you won't see many heavy metals mentioned. That's because they are considered contaminants and not ingredients.
Lipstick, lead and the FDA
Although the FDA does not have limits for lead content in cosmetics, it does have specifications for lead in the color additives used in cosmetics. Because of continuing public concern, in 2007, and again in 2010, the FDA tested lipstick color additives for lead and concluded both times that the amount of lead found was not high enough to cause any safety concerns.
On the other hand—
Dr. Sean Palfrey, medical director of the lead poisoning prevention program at Boston University Medical Center, has noted that lead tends to accumulate in the body, and that no level of lead is really safe. This is significant when you consider a basic fact: Women apply lipstick several times a day, every day, starting at age 13 or 14. After 50 or 60 years, their cumulative exposure to lead may well be significantly greater than FDA tests indicate.
In small doses you need some heavy metals to stay healthy. In large amounts heavy metals can be toxic. Once in your body, these metals don't leave unless specific steps are taken. They may enter your body in small amounts from your daily environment—air, food, pesticides, batteries, toys, cosmetics, etc.—but, because they tend to remain in your body, over time they may cause serious health problems.
In a 2013 study, University of California-Berkeley researchers found the levels of chromium, cadmium, manganese, and aluminum in popular lipsticks and glosses to be high enough to cause health concerns. It was not clear where these contaminants were coming from, though certain metals are known to be used to intensify colors.
Who should be concerned?
All women should be concerned: older women, because of potential effects of long-term exposure to heavy metals; adolescent and pregnant women, because of the additional concerns about developmental and reproductive toxicity.
Natural lipsticks are safer
• Natural, plant- or mineral-based lipsticks tend to have lower levels of heavy metal contamination than lipsticks made from synthetic and petroleum-based ingredients.
• Natural mineral-based lipsticks that are marketed as being "free of nanoparticles" or "non-micronized" are less likely to deliver contaminants that can be absorbed into your body. (Note: "Nanoparticles" or "micronized" ingredients are those which have been reduced to extremely tiny particles.)
• The most common minerals found in natural lipsticks are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (for color and SPF protection), and iron oxide, mica, and silica (for color, shine, and texture). They are not considered dangerous so long as they have not been micronized.
For more information:
• fda.gov - cosmetic ingredients 1
• fda.gov - cosmetic ingredients 2
• prevention.com - heavy metals
• nytimes.com - dangers in lipstick
• goodhousekeeping.com - safe lipsticks
• naturalhealthyconcepts.com - heavy metals
• mindbodygreen.com - heavy metals