While that might sound hard to believe, it's more common than you think. In a recent study, 75 percent of lipsticks tested contained lead! In a study by the FDA in 2010, 400 lipsticks were found to contain lead, and other metals frequently detected in cosmetics include aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese—chemicals that we know (even in small amounts) can seriously affect our health and the health of our children.
The chemicals in cosmetics (especially lipstick) can cause serious health problems.
Common health concerns due to heavy metal exposure include reduced fertility, hormonal changes, and menstrual irregularities, delayed onset puberty in boys and girls, and neurotoxicity with possible delays in learning and behavior. The heart and blood vessels are particularly vulnerable, and toxicity is one cause of high blood pressure.
According to scientists, lipstick can be especially dangerous because lead is often hiding in color additives and bright hues. And so, in order to protect our health, it's important to learn as much as we can about toxic cosmetics, what the current rules and regulations are, and what we can do to limit our exposure as much as we can.
People are working tirelessly to establish regulations for toxins in our cosmetics.
Earlier this year, the FDA made an announcement that recommends cosmetic producers adhere to a limit of 10 parts per million (ppm) on heavy metals in lip products and cosmetics such as eye shadows, blushes, shampoos, and body lotions marketed in the United States. The FDA has indicated that this level is consistent with other countries' guidelines, that the risk to health at that level is very low, and that 99 percent of commercially available products are already below this limit.
However, we also know that lead builds up in the body and accumulates, and organizations like the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association argue that there is really no safe level of exposure, especially for children and pregnant women. In addition, this FDA document is really only a recommendation that would not be binding for manufacturers—so essentially, the current regulations on heavy metals in America are just a suggestion to manufacturers.
And while this can be frustrating, don't despair. There are some amazing organizations and politicians working to pass new laws like the Consumer Product Safety Act that will make beauty products safer for everyone. Progress may be slow, but it's moving in the right direction!
Take matters into your own hands and you can protect your health.
The good news is, you don't have to rely on the FDA, laws, or manufacturers to successfully reduce your exposure to heavy metals. In a recent study, the potential to sucesffully reduce exposure to BPA (an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can affect fertility and is linked to other health problems) was examined. The study included 24 women in California who were provided BPA-free cosmetics products, hygiene products, and glass food and water containers for three weeks. By the end of the study period, urinary BPA levels fell significantly and the women also lost weight.
Here's how to eliminate heavy metals from your life—and your lips.
This topic highlights the ever increasing environmental exposure to chemicals we face as humans and how it can affect health—particularly our endocrine health. Legislation and policing by the FDA may encourage companies to voluntarily eliminate toxic chemicals from personal use products in the future, but in the meantime, take matters into your own hands and educate yourself on what is in your favorite products.
Consumer guides are available that provide recommendations for products free of heavy metals like mercury and lead. There Environmental Working Group also has an entire cosmetics database that will rate the toxicity of your products for you. And while it is impossible to avoid all exposures to potentially toxic chemicals, it is worth the effort to learn new strategies for health, especially when it comes to beauty products that are meant to be joyful, colorful, and beautiful—not toxic.
Here are some clean, green, safe lipsticks that mbg's beauty editor recommends!
Ilia: Each product is filled with up to 85 percent bioactive organic ingredients and is gluten- and dairy-free. Try Strike It Up ($26), a classic true red.
RMS: Each Lip2Cheek is coconut-oil based and brimming with fruit oils and herbal extracts. I love Spell ($36), a modern nude dusty rose hue that works with everything!
Vapour: With a whopping 26 shades to choose from, Vapour comes in more colors than any other eco-conscious line. Siren Lipstick in Torrid ($25) is a 70 percent organic and 30 percent mineral pigment, and some of the ingredients are wildcrafted or eco-cert as well.