Lead in Lipstick: 10 Worst Brands, Better Alternatives

Hazardous to your health?
Hazardous to your health?

Could a pretty pucker be the kiss of death? According to Reuters, about 400 lipsticks recently tested by the FDA contain traces of lead. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ran its own tests on 33 red lipsticks and found that one-third exceeded the FDA's limit for lead in candy. Lead levels have gone up since then.

Related: Safe Skincare Guide

The FDA pushed back in its latest report stating that: "Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern." However, Stacy Malkan, of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics disagrees. "We know that ingestion of lipstick happens," she told Reuters. She also points out that lead accumulates in the body over time.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is particularly concerned about lead exposure for children and pregnant women. The CDC's Advisory Committee for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention recently stated that there is no safe lead level for children. Lead poisoning causes a wide range of problems from low IQ and slowed grown in children to memory loss, mood disorders, and miscarriage in adults.

The FDA found the highest levels in lipsticks made by Procter & Gamble (Cover Girl brand), L'Oreal (L'Oreal, Body Shop and Maybelline brands), and Revlon. The lipsticks containing the most lead (measured in parts per million) are:

1. Maybelline Color Sensational, Pink Petal (7.9 ppm)

2. L'Oreal Colour Riche, Volcanic, (7.0 ppm)

3. NARS Semi-Matte, Red Lizard (4.93 ppm)

4. Cover Girl Queen Collection, Ruby Remix, (4.92 ppm)

5. Nars Semi-Matte, Funny Face (4.89 ppm)

6. L'Oreal Colour Riche, Tickled Pink (4.45 ppm)

7. L'Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor, Heroic (4.41 ppm)

8. Cover Girl Continuous Color, Warm Brick (4.28 ppm)

9. Maybelline Color Sensational, Mauve Me (4.23 ppm)

10. Stargazer Lipstick, #103 (4.12 ppm)

California, which has the nation's most stringent laws about lead in consumer products, has imposed a safety limit of 5.0 ppm for lipstick. If you are concerned about contaminants in your lipstick or other cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group rates over 1000 cosmetic lip products on its searchable database. Because there are thousands of lipsticks on the market, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says its impossible to test every one and the best thing you can do is support an outright ban on lead. However, here are 11 products they have found to be lead-free.

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