There’s Lead in My Lipstick?

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Well, it’s official. We’ve long suspected that there could be harmful ingredients in our cosmetics, and research by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has confirmed it. There’s lead in your lipstick (mine, too). For years we’ve worried over our children and lead paint in our homes, then it was (and still is) lead paint on our kid’s toys. Now, to add insult to injury, we have lead in our lipstick! Lead is a potent neurotoxin and is linked to many reproductive and health problems.

There’s an urban legend that says if you rub a gold ring on your lipstick and it produces a brownish mark, there’s lead in it (the lipstick, not the ring). That urban legend is untrue, so the only way to tell if lead is in your particular brand is by testing it. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has found that some lipsticks do have appreciable amounts of lead in them.

What brands are affected?
Not every brand and every shade of lipstick was tested. However, there is a complete list of the lipsticks that were tested along with their results. It is available in PDF by visiting and looking for the report “A Poison Kiss”. Interestingly, price made no difference at all. Some of the most expensive brands tested high for lead while some of the least expensive brands tested low or no lead.

What level of lead in lipstick is considered safe?
Zero. Lead in any amount is not safe. Recent scientific studies show that any exposure to lead is potentially harmful. Lead can lead to learning, language and behavioral problems in children, and infertility and miscarriage in women. Lead does not break down in the body, but builds up over the span of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t limit lead in lipstick, so manufacturers are welcome to use any ingredients they please – even those that may contain lead.

What should you do?
First, check out the list of lipsticks that were tested and use that as a guide to buying zero-lead lipstick.  But more importantly, you can write your Congressmen and women and ask them to help get the laws changed so that manufacturers will be held responsible for making sure that lead is not one of the ingredients in any of your cosmetics. Upon hearing to the test results by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry sent a letter to the FDA demanding that action be taken.

With the recent news of lead paint on children’s toys, we probably shouldn’t be surprised to find it in our cosmetics. This is an unfortunate call to action. We need to be vigilant in protecting our families and ourselves from harm. One of the ways we can do this is to call or write those who can change the laws and push manufacturers to take responsibility for cleaning up the processes that are allowing the products we use everyday to be tainted by lead. It’s sobering to think that that tube of luscious red lipstick that makes you look so hot can also make you sick.

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