Lead-Laden Lipstick Count up to 400, FDA Reports


WASHINGTON—Lead in lipsticks—this issue is as old as the 90s, rearing its ugly head periodically and most recently when FDA released its analytical results on the amount of lead in 400 lipsticks, an extension of an earlier analyses on 20 lipsticks. According to its analysis the average amount of lead was 1.11 pm, not too different than its 2007 results—1.07 ppm. A total of 400 shades of lipstick, purchased from retail stores between February and July 2010, contained traces of lead. Biggest offenders? Five L'Oeal lipsticks made the top 10, including two from Maybelline, as did NARS (Shiseido), Cover Girl (P&G) and Stargazer. Surprisingly, Burt's Bees wasn't too far down on the list—number 17 with 2.81 ppm.

"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," FDA said.

Safety industry advocates such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have been fighting this issue for years, pushing the government to set legal levels for lead in lipsticks. They've done it on the food side, as the coalition did its own testing in 2007 on 33 red lipsticks, which two-third of them contained more lead than the amount allowed in candy.

Stacy Malkan, co-founder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, told Inside Cosmeceuticals: "We're glad to see FDA is considering setting an upper limit for lead in lipstick and we urge them to do so as soon as possible. Since there is no safe level of lead exposure, the limit for lipstick should be based on the lowest lead levels that companies can feasibly achieve. This is the same logic FDA used in recommending a limit for lead in candy at 0.1 ppm—not because that level of lead is safe in candy, but because that is the lowest lead levels companies can reasonably achieve with good manufacturing practices (GMPs).

Also it's disturbing to see L'Oreal makes five of the top 10 most lead contaminated brands, including numbers 1 and 2. L'Oreal could obviously be doing a better job keeping the lead out of their lipstick."

FDA said there is no safety concern about the lead levels found in lipsticks: "We have assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in both rounds of testing. 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. The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics, including lipstick."

The chief scientist of the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), Halyna Breslawec, commented: “FDA again has reviewed the lead levels found in lipstick and determined them to be safe. Unfortunately, some activist groups are misconstruing the results of the FDA study posted in December that found current lead levels in lipsticks to be well below limits recommended by international regulatory authorities. In the study, FDA found trace levels of lead in various lipsticks ranging from 0.026 to 7.19 ppm and averaging 1.11 ppm. Using lipstick containing lead at this level would result in exposure 1,000 times less than from daily consumption of water meeting EPA drinking water standards.

“Lead is never used as an intentionally added ingredient in or as an additive to lipstick. However, lead is ubiquitous and found naturally in air, water and soil. It may also be found at extremely low levels as a trace contaminant in the raw ingredients used in formulating cosmetics, such as lipstick, just as it is found in many thousands of other products.

“Cosmetic companies are required by law to substantiate the safety of their products before they are marketed.  Nothing matters more to cosmetic companies than the safety of those products and the well- being of the women who use them.”