Lead in Lipstick?

To be honest, before I started working for Environmental Working Group, (EWG) I really didn’t think much of the makeup that I put on my face every day. I believed that the products were safe because I was able to buy them in stores. I had no idea that $50 billion personal care industry regulates itself and there are almost no guidelines or testing requirements by the government.

After over a year at EWG, I didn’t think anything else could surprise me. Until a few days ago, that is, when the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (EWG is a founding member of the Campaign) released its new study of lead in lipstick. The Campaign tested 33 red, brand-name lipsticks (like L’Oreal, Cover Girl, and Dior) and found that more than half of 33 brand-name lipsticks tested (61 percent) contained detectable levels of lead. None of these lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient.

One-third of the tested lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s limit for lead in candy — a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body. Nevertheless, the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick, which makes sense when one considers the disturbing absence of FDA regulatory oversight and enforcement capacity for the personal care products industry.

We all know lead is bad; it’s a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral disabilities. No amount of exposure is without harm. Pregnant women and young children are most vulnerable since it can cross the placenta and interfere with the normal development of the fetus. Lead has been removed from paint and gasoline — why do we need it in lipstick?

Actually, we don’t. The test done by the Campaign also shows that it is possible to make lipsticks without it. No detectable levels were found in 39% lipsticks tested.

It’s 2007 and the US FDA still lacks important, obvious regulations on cosmetics. Until we see that change, you may want to check out these safer lipstick alternatives.

Cosmetic Safety Guide