Toxic Lipstick?


Every so often, the question of the safety of our perhaps-too-trusty lipstick rises again. This morning, The New York Times reintroduced the debate. We are yet again left to wonder if there is really lead in our lipsticks, and if so, how much? Should we be concerned?

As of now there are no FDA standards limiting lead and other toxins in lipstick. Manufacturers currently determine which types of safety tests to perform on their products. In 2007, an independent analysis found that 11 of 33 lipsticks tested had lead in excess of 0.1 parts per million, the federal limit for lead in candy.

Unfortunately for those of us concerned with lead levels, cosmetics companies are only required to list their “intended” ingredients on labels. Lead, a neurotoxin that may cause behavioral, learning, and other problems, is considered an “unintended” byproduct of the manufacturing process and doesn’t make the labeling cut. However not all experts agree that the presence of lead in lipstick should be a concern.

Some advocacy groups and doctors report that we are at risk of absorbing lead and that “no level of lead exposure appears to be ‘safe.'” Others, however, argue that trace amounts of lead are too minute to cause harm and that “lead hasn’t been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer or other cancers.”

What do you think? Will you purse your lips in disgust or pucker up for another coat?

Concerned? Visit the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that runs a consumer database listing the ingredients in over 42,000 products. Or stick to organic makeup.

Not Concerned? Check out some fabulous new lipsticks at Sephora.