Earlier this month, Sharima Rasanayagam, the Director of Science for the Breast Cancer Fund, published an article at CNN.com lamenting the unregulated presence of lead in lipsticks. Citing the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ (CFSC) 2007 study “A Poison Kiss”, where 61% of lipsticks tested positively for lead, she describes a cosmetics industry that continues to be unregulated and dangerous for women who are frequent users of this loved beauty product.
So, what’s the truth? Is lipstick use as dangerous as Rasanayagam argues?
Yes, other authors write. Articles at CBSnews.com, the NYTimes.com and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ website all argue that the presence of any lead, which has been linked to breast cancer, impaired neurological development, miscarriages and other health concerns for women and children, is a danger to users and should either be removed from cosmetics or, at the very least, more carefully controlled. There is also some concern over a high number of other toxic chemicals in lipstick, including the presence of aluminum, cobalt, manganese, and cadmium.
FDA Stance? If you’re looking for the FDA to take a firm stance on the presence of toxic chemicals in lipsticks, though, don’t hold your breath. Although a 2011 study by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found lead to be present in over 400 lipsticks sold by major retailers, including CoverGirl, Revlon, NARS and L’Oreal, the FDA still states that the level of lead and other chemicals present in lipsticks is not significant enough to be a danger to lipstick-wearers (for their official position on lead in lipsticks, read more here).
Whatever the FDA states officially or what other authors argue, the facts are this: the presence of lead or other toxic chemicals in any product you use can be frightening, and medical experts say that any exposure to lead is risky.
So what can you do? Although these findings are concerning, that doesn’t mean you can’t control and/or limit your exposure. For instance, a high frequency of use will dramatically increase your risks; so, if you have a few lipstick shades you can’t bear let go of, then try limiting how frequently you apply them. Once or twice a day is unlikely to be harmful, while 10+ applications a day significantly heightens your exposure to toxic chemicals.
Recent studies have also indicated that darker shades contain much higher levels of lead than lighter colored lipsticks and neutral balms; so, if you’re thinking about grabbing a bronze shade for the day, think about reaching for a lighter pink, or a more neutral balm to complement the rest of your look.
Want to avoid the lead in lipsticks entirely? Try shopping natural cosmetic lines, like the lipsticks at Real Purity, that celebrate the use of only natural and non-toxic ingredients. And now, not only can you feel good about what you’re smoothing on your lips, but you can get any shade shipped free to your door!