60% Of Lipsticks Contain Lead

Well, this explains a lot about children’s beauty pageants: the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 brand-name lipsticks, including brands like Cover Girl, L’Oreal, and Christian Dior, and are reporting that “61 percent had detectable lead levels of 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm).” One-third of the lipsticks tested had levels higher than 0.1 ppm, the FDA’s safety limit for lead in candy.

The FDA has a pretty low limit for lead in candy for obvious reasons, but the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says lipstick should be held to the same standards because it is ingested, and because pregnant women are “particularly vulnerable to lead exposure” and “lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.”

A cosmetic trade group counters that the FDA has already set strict limits for lead in lipsticks, and that experts test the makeup thoroughly, and that the amount of lead a woman can get from lipstick “is hundreds of times less than the amount that she would get from eating, breathing and drinking water.” But according to Dr. Mark Mitchell, president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice,

Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels. The latest studies show there is no safe level of lead exposure.

The following brands make up the study’s “safe” group of less than .02 ppm, which means you can tart yourself up like there’s no tomorrow with these. But the study did not include every brand on the market, so unless your brand shows up elsewhere on the list, there’s no way to know how much lead it contains. To see the other lipsticks and where they fall in the rankings (apparently the “L” in “L’Oreal” stands for “Lead!”), download the report and jump to page 10.

    Lipsticks with less than 0.02 parts per million (ppm) lead

  • Avon Ultra Color Rich Cherry Jubilee
  • Body Shop Lip Colour Garnet
  • Body Shop Lip Colour Garnet
  • Clinique Long Last Lipstick Merlot
  • Dior Replenishing Lipcolor Red Premiere
  • Estee Lauder Maraschino
  • MAC Matte Lipstick Viva Glam 1
  • Revlon Superlustrous Love That Red
  • Revlon Superlustrous Bed of Roses
  • Revlon Colorstay Lipcolor Red Velvet
  • Tarte Inside Out Vitamin Lipstick
  • Wet N Wild Mega Colors Cherry Blossom
  • Wet N Wild Mega Colors Cherry Blossom

“Lipsticks contain lead, consumer group says” [Reuters]

“A Poison Kiss: The Problem of Lead In Lipstick” [Campaign for Safe Cosmetics]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Namilia says:

    Somehow I’m not surprised. I rarely wear lipstick (I prefer gloss over stick, I wonder if this applies to those as well) but the expanse of the lead-related recalls lately just make me sigh in exasperation and shake my head.

  2. @Namilia: I’m tired of writing about them! I think Gawker should consider launching a new site called “Lead-o-rama” or “LeadHead” or something—we can just spin off all the stories there.

  3. Namilia says:

    @Chris Walters: No doubt..LeadHead sounds better, but it is *very* disheartening that companies have even allowed this problem to get this far. It’s a given there is more recalls to come, too. Just a matter of time..

  4. Anonymous says:

    This study has been debunked already at snopes:

  5. girly says:

    I’ve known people who said they used to like to eat lipstick as toddlers.


    So there’s lead in everything…isn’t this what caused the downfall of the Roman Empire (with their lead pipes, cups, etc.)?

    So I guess we didn’t learn from history?!

  6. nXt says:

    Is that picture a picture of that girl that the parents said was supposedly kidnapped but people think they killed her? Dang I forgot their names.
    She was in a lot of little girl pageants and their parents were obsessed with them.

  7. mxx says:

    i’m surprised there’s actually an FDA’s safety limit for lead in candy at all..
    was there ever a problem of candy makers replacing sugar with lead so FDA had to step in?

  8. OnceWasCool says:

    Lipstick was never pretty. Looking plastic is not my idea of hot. I love the natural look, maybe with a little gloss. I think most men do. However, there are a select few men who are attracted to women in whore red lipstick.

    The key to makeup is with a very light foundation. That’s all there is to it. Don’t blacken your eyes with under liner, and don’t pack it on thick. Be yourself.

  9. faust1200 says:

    What we lose in lead toxicity we gain in radiation resistance. So when life gives your lead, you just make lead-aide.

  10. Red_Eye says:

    Very disappointed to see Burts Bees product on the list. So much for good for you…

  11. Sidecutter says:

    I’m currently trying to work out why in the world there would BE a lead allowance for *candy*, myself. Seriously, how is it remotely acceptable to have ANY lead in food products?

  12. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @oncewascool: Thanks for the weirdly judgmental fashion advice. As a woman, I contend that whore-red lipstick and black eyeliner are totally hot if you do it right. I mean, how could you not love the Robert Palmer video look?

  13. bohemian says:

    Burt’s Bees was not one I would expect on the list, or the Body Shop.

    If you want to be really grossed out go look at the toxic chemicals they use in perfume today.

    I now feel much better about not being a makeup diva anymore.

  14. Raanne says:

    call me crazy, but i woudl expect the lead tolerance for candy to be much lower than for something that you are not expected to eat large quantities of. yes, lipstick gets ingested, but lets look rationally at this. if its safe to have that amount in candy (and you would eat maybe a couple pieces in a day) – the same mass in lipstick would be over the course of what – 6 months?

    And for those of you bemoaning certain brands being on the list – read the article again! that is the safe list! that is the “less than .02ppm” list. zero is les than .02. if it has zero lead, it would make the list.

    geez – this blog is getting worse than the fake-scare stories you see on local “news” programs.

  15. gorckat says:

    However, there are a select few men who are attracted to women in whore red lipstick.

    Everything has its time and place :p I generally prefer earthy colors myself.

  16. girly says:

    You’d think the candy limits, though, were made assuming you wouldn’t get lead from a million other places.

    And although this is the ‘safe list’, Body Shop and Burt’s Bees are also on the detectable level of lead list.

  17. timmus says:

    Where is lipstick usually “made in”?

  18. miburo says:

    Regardless of Amount.. Wouldn’t you rather it not be made of a poisonous substance at all if it was possible? Or because its a small amount its ok?

  19. satoru says:

    The ‘lead in lipstick’ thing has been beaten to death! Why does it keep coming up for god sakes!


    The 0.1ppm limit on candy is under the assumption you’d actually eat the entire candy thus requiring the lower limit. It also assumes a certain daily intake, to even reach such levels.

    Unless your kid is eating lipstick EVERYDAY, the toxicity contained in lipstick is extremely minimal. Also while lead is toxic, the role of the FDA is to MINIMIZE EXPOSURE. There are levels of lead that can be consumed that are not harmful, so the idea is to minimize exposure from multiple sources so the cumulative effect is minimal.

  20. satoru says:

    @miburo: Toxicity is a spectrum. Even water is technically toxic if you take in too much. In the same way things such as lead and arsenic can be used in small enough quantities to be beneficial, but not harmful to humans.

    Lead has lots of useful properties, which is why it is used so commonly in many products. Often times there either no substitutes for using lead (the recent tin splinters caused by lead-free solder), or alternatives are more expensive in comparison. But we do recognize that lead has potential health hazards. That’s why the FDA allows for certain levels of lead in products at different levels.

  21. Gopher bond says:

    I was going to say that everything is poisonous at a specified level but I think SATORU said it best.

    So get the the sand out of your panties (silica is toxic as it causes inflammation of the lung lining dontcha know)

  22. infinitysnake says:

    @janiejane: Hardly. The article is mainly a debunking of a silly “gold ring test” and does not dispute the study results, just expresses skepticism that lipstick lead will be eaten in significant quantity.

  23. OnceWasCool says:

    The lead in candy doesn’t bother me as much as the allowed amount of rodent dropping in flour. Don’t even get me started on the allowed amount of insects/parts.

    I grew up with lead toys, lead paint, lead soldered pipes, tin cans with lead solder, and Lord knows what else. I turned out ok…. Nevermind

  24. amoeba says:

    Walters, you made me cry, I am skeptical now!
    I wear lipstick all the time; however, I don’t see Chanel brand in the list. So that’s a relief. But considering this now, no guy will kiss me again.

  25. BugMeNot2 says:

    As for me…either i prefer hippy earth mother chick or complete whore/goth chick look… either way … meh…but i dont want to be sucking lead off thier lips… guess that just wone more question we gotta ask before gettin down in the alley way…meh…sometimes its almost not worth it to try not to die

  26. HystErica says:

    Think of all the everyday sources from which we’re getting “miniscule” and “acceptable” levels of what would otherwise be considered highly toxic/possible fatal chemicals…Air fresheners, home and auto cleaning supplies, processed foods and soft drinks, toiletries and cosmetics, our kids’ toys (pretty outraged about that one), and just about anything new w/fabric (clothing, furniture, bedding, the seats/floor of a new car – all filling your home and your body with formaldehyde!)…I could go on and on, and that’s just the stuff we know about!

    My point is, is it any wonder so many people are suffering from such a wide spectrum of mental and physical illnesses when everything we touch is slowly poisoning us?

  27. RConsumer says:

    Studies done by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown that there are no safe blood levels of lead. Now, how that translates to lipstick, I simply do not know. I DO know, that it is plain silly to say that FDA regulated safety levels in candy is a bad rubric to measure against. Lead, like most other heavy metals, builds up over time, staying in the body forever (barring specialized medical treatment) and it has been shown that bone levels (i.e. long-term exposure, or past exposure) of lead can be introduced into maternal and fetal blood streams during pregnancy. Can we at least all agree that toxic exposure levels are far lower in a fetus than in an adult or even a child? This study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, and you can find it here – [aje.oxfordjournals.org]

    The bottom line here? There are no safe levels of lead exposure for ANYONE, especially women of pre- or peri- childbearing age. It IS possible to make red lipstick with little to no lead in it, so why expose yourself to more heavy metal contamination than necessary?