Most of us pull a lipstick tube from our bag and freshen up several times a day, year round. Before we walk out the door in the morning, after lunch, before a meeting, or a hot date, even while driving, we seem to be forever applying. Even if we’re going for a natural look with minimal make-up, a touch of color on our lips makes our faces appear lively, and we feel more pulled together.
Here’s the conundrum: Your favorite lipstick could be poisoning you.
A recent study by the Food and Drug Administration found that over 400 shades of popular lipstick on the market contain trace amounts of lead. Five lipsticks made by L’Oreal and Maybelline ranked among the top 10 worst offenders. Two Cover Girl and two NARS lipsticks landed in the top 10 as well. I strongly urge you to have a look at the list (scroll down the page to “Exapanded Survey”) if you’re a lipstick lover.
This story isn’t a new one, since reports about lipsticks containing lead date back to the 1990s. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 red lipsticks and found that two-thirds of them contained lead — and that one-third had levels above what the FDA allows in candy.
But the FDA asserts that comparing lipstick to lead isn’t quite fair.
“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 said in its online comments.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics disagrees. Per a statement made by the campaign, “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.”
“Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development,” said Sean Palfrey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University and the medical director of Boston’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Most health experts agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for human beings, even as the FDA does allow for small amounts in our food and doesn’t regulate it in beauty products, even those, like lipstick, that are ingested.
This all begs the question: Is wearing potentially toxic lipstick worth the risk? Here are better alternatives for your lips (just in case you decide to throw away that long-lasting, lead lipstick of yours.) I’ve spoken to each of these companies personally to ensure that they are lead-free.
Jane Iredale’s PureMoist LipColours
Gabriel Cosmetics’ ZuZu Luxe Lipstick
ILIA Pure Lip Care from Spirit Beauty Lounge
MUD’s Sheer Lipstick
Lavera’s Beautiful Lips Lipstick
Nvey Eco Advanced Care Lip Colour from Spirity Beauty Lounge