A recent study found that some lipstick may contain carcinogens. In other words, some of the ingredients, namely metals, could be found in some brands at levels that are potentially harmful. The study suggests that lipstick, especially when applied and reapplied, may not be that good for you.
The study, done by University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, tested 32 of the most popular brands of lipstick and lip gloss on the market and found that they contained levels of chromium, lead, aluminum and cadmium, as well as five more types of metals. Some of these levels were so high that they were potentially dangerous.
In the past, research has shown that there was lead in lipsticks, in fact, in December of 2011; a study was done on 400 brands of lipsticks by the FDA that found levels that were low enough that they did not raise a safety concern. The study at US looked for a wider range of metals and estimated the risks based on how strong the formulas were, as well as the way a person typically uses lipstick.
The study’s co-author, S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health said, “Just finding these metals isn’t the issue. It’s the levels that matter.” According to Hammond, some toxic metals are found at levels that have the potential to cause health issues with long term use.
She is asking that the FDA take a second look at the lipsticks and re-assess their safety.
Here’s how it can be dangerous. According to the study, if lipstick is not blotted on a tissue, lip gloss and lipstick can be absorbed or ingested by the wearer. The effects to the health will depend in part on how heavily the lipstick is applied, and how often the lipstick is used. Since the average person applies lipstick a little over two times a day, they will likely ingest about 24 mg a day, but heavy users might apply their product as often as 14 times daily, and can ingest as much as 83 mg.
However, even the average user of certain types of lipsticks may be exposed to too much chromium, which is a carcinogen that has been linked to tumors in the stomach and using a lot of the products can also lead to too much exposure to manganese, cadmium and aluminum.
Hammond says that lead isn’t even the most concerning ingredient. She says that it was found in 24 of the lipsticks tested but that it was in levels that were, in most cases, lower than the acceptable daily amounts. However, she notes that no lead exposure, no matter how minimal is okay for children, so it’s best not to let kids play with lipsticks or use them in beauty contests.
She also states that people shouldn’t panic. Not all lipstick should be tossed, but if it’s something that is used many times a day, every single day, it might be advisable to use it less or switch to products that don’t contain these metals in the ingredients.
The chief toxicologist of Personal Care Products Council, Linda Loretz suggests that trace amounts of metals found in lipsticks should be kept in context, given that they are naturally found in water, air and soil. According to Loretz, “Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison.” In fact, trace amounts of cadmium and chromium that comes from lip sticks and lip glosses, as they are measured in the UC research, are less than one percent of the exposure that many get in their diets.