Home / Makeup / UPDATE 2013: UC Berkley & FDA Release Reports: High Levels Of Lead Found In Lipsticks And Makeup Products

UPDATE 2013: UC Berkley & FDA Release Reports: High Levels Of Lead Found In Lipsticks And Makeup Products

FDA Releases A New Report: High Levels Of Lead Found In Lipsticks And Makeup Products

UPDATE: Scientists at UC Berkley School of Public Health tested 32 lipsticks bought at stores in the San Francisco Bay area and found that they contain lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other metals — some at potentially toxic levels. The report did not mention exactly what lipsticks were tested but it was noted that they can be commonly purchased at retail stores. Read more news below from the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced some startling news about highly dangerous levels of lead found in many lipstick products. Maybelline’s Color Sensational Lipstick in Pink Petal came in first for having the most lead of those tested by the FDA. It was followed by a long list of four-hundred lipsticks found to have some level of lead in the formulation. (Check out the Top 10 lipstick brands and shades with high levels of lead here!)

The FDA analyzed hundreds of lipsticks and found varying levels of lead in each one. The FDA does not have an official limit regarding lead in cosmetics, but does limit the amount of lead in additives.


Why is lead found in lipstick in the first place?

Lead is never an intended ingredient when formulating lipstick; lipstick can get contaminated with lead by the following ways:

– Raw materials used in making the lipstick may be contaminated with lead

– Lead may be introduced as a by-product from ingredients mined or obtained from other raw materials such as ozokerite; petroleum-based ingredients are other sources of lead

– Pigments used in formulating the lipstick may contain lead


Are these levels of lead harmful to my health?

There is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children under 6 and pregnant women. Lead builds up in the body over time and lipstick containing lead, when applied several times a day, everyday, can add significant exposure levels Average lead concentration in lipstick is around 1.11ppm (range is 0.09ppm- 3.06ppm). Concentrations as high as 7.19 ppm are also found in some lipstick, which is approximately seventy times higher than the FDA‘s limit for lead in candy which is 0.1ppm.


As a lipstick wearer, what should I do?

Reading labels or spending more money on expensive brands won’t guarantee that you are protected from lead exposure. It is possible for cosmetic manufacturers to formulate lipstick without lead or with undetectable lead levels by incorporating good manufacturing practices. Lipstick wearers must insist that companies reformulate their products to get the lead out of lipstick:

– Email, call or write to the companies that make your favorite lipstick shades and tell them lead-free products are important and demand the company to get the lead out of their products

– Write a letter to the editor of your local paper expressing concern over the findings of lead in lipstick and the lack of the FDA’s oversight about the issue

– Contact your governor, state legislators and ask them to support efforts to replace lead and other hazardous ingredients in personal care products

– Make your friends, family and colleagues aware of this pressing issue


There is one at-home test which you could give a try, but, please note that I am not aware of its level of accuracy:

– Put some lipstick on your hand.

-Use 24K-14K gold ring and rub on the lipstick.

– If the lipstick color changes to a black color, it means this lipstick has lead.


Please be aware and safe when purchasing your next lipstick. As always, ask questions and do your research. Tell us, how do you all feel about the FDA‘s findings in their lead-based lipstick analysis?

–  Upasana Sahu, cosmetic chemist

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  1. I did hear a news report regarding this matter and even though I don’t use lipstick everyday it is concerning! Makeup companies should be held responsible for the health of many people using their products. Thanks

  2. Unfortunately, much of what has been quoted in this article is false science and scare tactics perpetuated by the lobbiest group “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics”. This is the FDA’s second study regarding lead in lipsticks, and despite what this article says, the FDA clearly and unequivocally states that there is NO danger from the levels of lead found in lipsticks- in fact, drinking water with the maximum safe level of lead would expose you to 400 times the amount you’d find in the highest rated lipstick.

    There are several other fallacies in this article also. The comparison to lead safety levels in candy is referred to as “scientifically invalid” by the FDA and just about every other chemist or scientist I’ve heard speak on the subject agrees. I’ve also seen nothing to support your claims that the origin of the lead in lipsticks is anything BUT a trace impurity from certain minerals used to make pigments. Since color additives are regulated and the same, limited number are available to manufacturers, all manufacturers using certain pigments will have trace lead impurities (which, again, are not considered dangerous by governing health agencies). The idea that such lipsticks could be reformulated without lead is not accurate- companies would have to use a different combination of pigments, which would of course, alter the color.

    It’s sad to see a trusted site like this reprint what essentially is sensationalist journalism with little basis in fact. I encourage everyone who has concerns to check out the FDA website for the true facts on the matter before gutting their makeup stash!

  3. Thank you Jessica for your intelligent and well informed response. The lead issue comes up every second year when someone is looking for a story. I would have thought that everyone would have seen this “urban hoax” but it appears not.
    Obviously if this were a story, it would be on the front page of the NY times.
    I am disapointed also…

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