I’ve blogged before about the concept of ‘clean’ products and chemicals that can be found in personal care products.  Today I’m diving a bit deeper into lipstick, and specifically, lead. 


Over the last few years this topic has been covered a lot in the news.  First reported in 2007 with a report on lead contamination in lipsticks, “A Poison Kiss,” by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics highlighted the levels of lead (and other metals) in lipstick.  The Food and Drug Administration followed up with a review of lipstick in 2011 and found traces of lead in 400 lipsticks. 

According to the FDA, ‘lead is an unintended contaminant or impurity that can be present at very low levels in some color additives and in other common ingredients, such as water, that are used to produced cosmetics.’  The FDA standpoint is that lead in lipstick is not a safety concern because lipstick is intended for topical use and has limited absorption levels.  The cosmetics industry has supported this argument.

How limited is it though?  If you are wearing lipstick daily – and reapplying frequently – the cumulative exposure over time can add up, so low exposure repeated can add up to a significant level.  Have you ever counted the number of times you apply lipstick each day?

The concerns with lead

Lead poisoning is a big deal.  Lead is a neurotoxin and is linked to learning, language, and behavioral problems; reduced fertility; hormonal changes; and delayed onset of puberty.  Lead poisoning is something that we should all be paying attention to.  The FDA sets a very low safety standard for lead (meaning that they are not concerned about ingesting small amounts of lead) but medical professionals agree that there really isn’t a safe level of lead.

There have now been numerous studies done to study the amounts of lead in lipstick and one of the general themes seems to be that dark colors tend to have higher levels of lead (versus more neutral lip balms).  The findings of lead in lipstick are not brand specific – and even some of the higher-end, expensive brands aren’t completely clean.

Lipstick labels

You won’t find ‘lead’ listed explicitly on a product label.  Lead shows up in lipstick as a contaminant that is present in the pigments and base materials used to make the product.  Cosmetic companies are not required to list contaminants on ingredient labels.  Given that cosmetics are not governed by the FDA, it’s really up to the consumer to do their own research about products.  Safecosmetics.org is my go-to resource for personal care products.  Read ingredient labels and know what you are using.  If your lipstick isn’t 100% lead free then find an alternative.  In the mean-time, cut back on use.  I tend to go without lipstick a lot of the time and prefer to keep my lips shiny with Petroleum jelly instead.  My last, and possibly most important comment on this topic, please don’t let your kids wear lipstick.  Their tiny bodies are more vulnerable to toxic metals and it’s not worth the risk. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!  Have you checked your lipstick ingredients?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *