Shine On

Is there too much lead in your lipstick?

Is there lead in your lipstick? (ThinkStock photo)

Here's something to put a damper on those lipstick stocking stuffers.

A new study conducted by ABC's Good Morning America has found trace amounts of lead in 55 per cent of the 22 lipstick samples they tested.

See more: What your hair says about your health

Lead in lipstick is not a new issue.

In Canada and Europe, the legal limit is 10 parts per million (ppm). An American study conducted by the FDA in 2010 found that 400 different shades of popular lipstick contained small amounts of lead, with an average of 1.11ppm. A Canadian study conducted a few years earlier in 2008 found levels as high as 6.3ppm.

ABC's investigation found that lead levels ranged from no detectable level to 3.22 ppm, which is well below the levels found in the FDA's study and the Canadian study. They compared drug store to department store brands, colours, Asian made to American made, and yet there was no discernable pattern to predict which lipsticks would be higher in lead.

See more: Where to store your fragrances

The FDA and Health Canada say that trace levels of lead like the ones found in the ABC study are acceptable, but there are many who question why there is lead in lipstick at all, when many brands are clearly able to produce a product that is lead free.

"There is no safe level of exposure to lead, period," says Janet Nudelman. As the director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund and coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Nudelman has been watching the debate over lead in lipstick for years. "The fact that this study found half of the lipsticks tested positive for lead is a real problem," says Nudelman.

She explains that because companies aren't required to label products, there is no way of easily knowing which lipsticks are lead free, and which contain the 3.22ppm that the ABC study uncovered. Nudelman thinks that both Canada and the United States should issue standards that demand companies test lipstick to ensure it contains non-detectable levels of lead before releasing them for public sale.

See more: Six rules of red lipstick

"Consumers shouldn't have to be organic chemists to feel they can shop safely for cosmetics," says Nudelman. "We need a government that protects us from harmful chemicals in the products we use every day."

However, the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association sees things differently. In a statement on the topic sent to Yahoo, the organization explained that Health Canada had found that "at the acceptable limit of 10 ppm, an individual would have to actually eat more than five tubes of lipstick a day, every day to be at a level of concern."

Chances are good you won't be eating five tubes of lipstick this Christmas, but if you're still concerned about heavy metals in your cosmetics, you can get more information from Health Canada,, or the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.


Where Does Lead In Lipstick Come From?WPBF 25 News' Cathleen O'Toole talks to a local dermatologist, a makeup artist and an environmental chemist about a recent FDA study that shows there is lead in several popular lipstick brands.

Poll Choice Options