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Jan 6, 2014

Lead in Your Lipstick? FDA Analysis Identifies Lead in 400 Popular Lipstick Products

After reviewing 400 popular lipsticks, the FDA found that ALL contained at least some amount of the dangerous heavy metal known as lead.

After reviewing data for 400 popular lipstick products available on the market, the FDA found that ALL of them contained at least some amount of the dangerous heavy metal known as lead.  In ninety-five percent of these products, the lead content was over the maximum 0.1 parts per million (ppm) allowed in candy bars.  Some of these lipstick products contained as much as 70 times this amount.  Nonetheless, the FDA is not expressing concern over the matter simply based on the claim that lipstick is not intended to be ingested.  Quoted from the FDA’s website, “Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities.”  The question is then, what constitutes small quantities?  Daily activities of living make it obviously impossible for lipstick-wearers to avoid ingesting some amount of it regularly through eating, drinking, kissing, and even the occasional lick of one’s own lips.  The truth is that a small daily dose could really add up over years of use!       

It may not only be probable to accidently ingest lipstick (and therefore any contaminants contained within it), but also to absorb it transdermally (across the skin).  Many types of substances can be effectively absorbed into the body via the skin, which is why numerous medications are delivered this way (i.e. hormone creams and nicotine patches). 

Although the FDA is not expressing concern over potential dangers of lead contamination in lipsticks sold throughout the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has asserted that “no safe blood lead level has been identified.”  Dr. Sean Palfrey, professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University as well as medical director of Boston’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, stated some of his insight regarding lead:  “Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression.  Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain, where it can interfere with normal development.”

Results of the most recent lipstick analysis are expected to be published in the May-June 2012 issue of Journal of Cosmetic Science.  The analysis was performed by the private laboratory known as Frontier Global Sciences, Inc.  To view the full list of lipstick products tested, check out

While the FDA is not currently acknowledging possible dangers attributable to the lead-containing lipstick products, a statement on its website reads, "Although we do not believe that the lead content found in our recent lipstick analyses poses a safety concern, we are evaluating whether there may be a need to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick in order to further protect the health and welfare of consumers."

Dr. Shana McQueen