The Toxic Truth: Lead and Other Trace Metals in Lipstick Are Carcinogenic

Yes, it’s true. There may be lead in your lipstick that you put on every morning. Actually, there is a high possibly that your lipstick is one of the 400 lipsticks that the FDA revealed as containing lead, a known neurotoxin and hormone disruptor. Need I say more?

The Toxic Truth
In December 2011 the FDA released a study showing that 400 lipsticks contained lead. (Source) Doesn't sound pretty, does it?

The fact is that a large percentage of the ingredients that you put on your skin “travel further through the skin, reaching your circulatory system” (Michalun). You may be thinking how can my skin, which is a “barrier” that protects me, be susceptible to chemicals from cosmetic ingredients? Our skin is made to absorb through its pores and sweat glands. While some ingredients applied do not readily penetrate the skin, the percentage that does can remain there. What’s more, our face and scalp have an absorption rate that is 5 to 10 times higher than other parts of our bodies (Michalun). That includes your lips!

The Adverse Effects of Lead in Your Body
Up close look at the metal lead
Although the FDA concluded their studying by saying the levels of lead in lipstick were not a “safety concern,” think about how often you apply your lipstick. Lead found in lipsticks can stay in your body over time. Don’t just take my word for it. According to Dr. Mark Mitchell, co-chair of the environmental health task force for the National Medical Association, "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." (Source)

Since lead is a “proven neurotoxin,” a lead build up in the body can cause “learning, language and behavioral problems,” says Sean Palfrey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University and the medical director of Boston's Lead Poisoning Prevention. He adds that, "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.”

No Lead … but what about other Metals?
Since the FDA exposed the beauty industry’s lead in lipstick issue, some companies have released lipstick without lead. But there are other trace metals which are damaging to the body that lipsticks can contain.

Trace metals like cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper and nickel are also found in lipsticks (Source). Although common metals, once in your body these metals can “mimic estrogen and interfere with hormone function in the body;” they are called Metalloestrogens (Source).

According to Stephanie Greenwood of Chemical of the Day, if the concentration of metals like chromium, cobalt, copper, and nickel becomes too high “they can interfere with your body’s enzymes, or even cause cancer. Chromium and nickel are known carcinogens” (Source). Other metals like lead, aluminum, and cadmium “have no function in the body and end up blocking the function of essential metals and hormone receptors, leading to disease” (Source).

What’s a Girl to Do?

1. Read your ingredient label and research the words that you don’t understand. Using apps like the Think Dirty app can help you decipher ingredients while you browse products in the store.

2. Do it yourself (DIY) and make your own products. There are several places to find helpful recipes like the ones on this blog, Love Natural Sunshine or Hello Natural Co.

3. Buy USDA approved or natural products, like my Hello Beautiful Lipstick that are free of chemicals. I also wrote this post that has a list of natural body products for your skin: All Natural & Organic Body Products. The Choosy Chick or Goodebox delivers green beauty products to your door monthly. (I have not tried either of these services, but I have read reviews where they are recommended).


Lead Found in 400 Types of Lipstick via CBS News

Michalun, Natalia, and M. Varinia Michalun. Milady's Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary. Australia: Milady Thomson Learning, 2001. Print

Is There Danger Lurking in Your Lipstick? via New York Times

Chemical of the Day: Metalloestrogens

Lead in Lipstick via Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Carcinogens in Cosmetics via Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

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