• Fri, Feb 17 2012

Natural Lipsticks Like Burt’s Bees Can Still Contain Lead

Yesterday, I mistakenly told you that Burt’s Bees made lead-free lipstick. Um, psych? Some of its lip shimmers were among the highest in lead of the 400 lipsticks tested by the FDA, but assuming the brand is safe is an easy mistake: It’s known for being all-natural and associated with an eco-friendly, organic lifestyle. Why would we worry? But it’s not the only natural or organic brand on the FDA’s lead list.

I fell for the natural = nontoxic fallacy. But being labeled natural doesn’t necessarily make makeup free of lead or carcinogens. Naturally occurring chemical compounds can still produce potentially-toxic nanoparticles, like iron and zinc oxides. Lead may be a neurotoxin, but it’s also a naturally occurring metal—and one that’s surprisingly common in cosmetics.

In the FDA’s study, it wasn’t just your common drugstore lipsticks like Cover Girl and L’Oreal that contained lead. Natural or organic brands like Burts Bees, PeaceKeeper CauseMetics and Colorganics also tested lead-positive. So did higher-end brands, like Clinique, Estee Lauder, Dior, M.A.C., Avon, BeneFit, NARS, Lancome, Mary Kay, Victoria’s Secret, Chanel and Dior.

The three Burt’s Bees lip shimmers tested contained between .43 and 2.24 parts per million lead. The average of the 400 lipsticks the FDA tested was 1.11 ppm.

So how much lead in lipstick is acceptable? No one’s sure. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says no amount of lead exposure is safe. The FDA concluded from its study that “the lead levels found are within the range that would be expected.” Because lipstick is only used in small quantities, the agency doesn’t consider these lead levels a safety concern. For more on metals in makeup, check out this report from Canadian organization Environmental Defense.

 

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  • blue

    SO THEY HAVE LEAD IN LIPSTICK. THERE ARE PROBABLY DEAD RODENTS AND ROACHES IN OUR CANNED GOODS. I DONT THINK NOBODY’S GOING TO DIE FROM ALITTLE BIT OF LEAD INSOME LIPSTICK. YOU’D PROBABLY HAVE TO CONSUME IT FOR IT TO BE FATALLY HARMFUL. REALLY CAN WE MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE. AND PLEASE DONT WASTE ANY MORE FUNDING ON THIS.

    • Sandra Cort

      By blue, I hope you do not have a daughter that could possibly pick up your lipstick and use it. Tere is not safe level of lead. Lead is being implicated in neuro impacts for adults later in life.

  • Barbara

    Maybe it would be simpler to give us a list of cosmetics not containing lead than to tell us whose products do contain lead. It’s one thing to be told what to avoid, but not being on that list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ok. I want to know what is ok to buy.

  • sockhop blog

    I’m shocked

  • Leah

    Thanks for spreading the message about this important issue. I’ve recently thrown out all the burts bees lipgloss I had because I realized it had carmine in it. Lead and crushed bugs…no thanks!

  • Desiree

    What about the “Yes To…” lipglosses & chapsticks? Were those tested to have lead? What about the ones certified USDA organic?

  • Desiree

    What about the “Yes To…” line of lipglosses/ chapsticks (some are USDA certified organic)? Did those test positive for lead too?

  • Amber

    The list of lipsticks that are dangerous is helpful, however it would be even more helpful if you gave us a list of lipsticks that are SAFE!

  • PureBeautyGal

    I’ve heard a pretty interesting statistic that a woman will consume about 4lbs of lipstick/gloss in her lifetime. Most of the time one doesn’t think about “where” what you put on your lips goes once it disappears and you have to reapply. Where it goes- it’s absorbed into the skin and/or licked off… so even small trace amounts over a lifetime (or several years) can add up.

  • Sue Apito

    I find it curious that you are recommending brands in your links that are untested and claiming to be free from lead. The FDA tested 400. That is all they tested. This is not a list of brands that failed and somewhere there are others that passed. The brands currently claiming “no lead” are trying to “turn lead into gold” by making sales based on…well…nothing! The other brands you are recommending are were not tested and found to be free from lead…they were not tested. AND they use the same pigments as the brands with lead, so naturally…they are going to test positive for lead, too. Even the companies who are breaking FDA regulations by using colorants that are NOT FDA approved – such as beet powder – can have lead, natural colorants can contain lead, too. http://sueapitolikes.com/2012/beet-powder-contains-lead/ This is not a secret. The companies selling colorants disclose this information to manufacturers – it is simply the reality of the planet we live on — lead is everywhere.