What's in Your Lipstick?

Lead in lipstick, mercury in face cream, formaldehyde in hair products. Whether these toxic chemicals are a cause to worry about future health issues or not a big problem depends on who you ask.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a collection of consumer and environmental groups, argues that no amount of lead in lipstick is a safe and may pose various health risks. Because lead is a byproduct and not an official ingredient, there is no specific lead limit for any cosmetics in the United States. Color additives are capped at 20 parts per million.

The Federal Drug Administration, on the other hand, disagrees. “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,” according to their website.

The FDA tested 400 lipsticks for lead levels in 2011. The average lead concentration in lipsticks was 1.11 ppm. While the FDA stands by their argument of no safety concern, there is talk of change. “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.”

In the meantime, you can choose to wear one of these low lead-level options

Lipsticks with the least lead

1. Wet ’n’ Wild, Mega Mixers Lip Balm Bahama Mama: Lead < 0.026 ppm

2. L’Oreal, Colour Juice Cherry On Top: Lead < 0.026 ppm

3. Clinique, Almost Black Honey: Lead < 0.026 ppm

4. Lori Anne, Mood Blue: Lead 0.03 ppm

5. M.A.C. Satin M.A.C. Red: Lead 0.03 ppm

Source: FDA, National Public Radio