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Lethal Lipstick?

Three lipsticks on a white background

It might not be quite the proverbial “kiss of death,” but, unfortunately, many conventional lipsticks on the market contain dangerously high levels of aluminum, cadmium, lead and a variety of other toxins, according to a study out of the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) School of Public Health.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, said that women who use these lipsticks and lip gloss products “could be greatly increasing their risk of developing a host of potential health concerns, including gastrointestinal upset, nerve damage and cancer.”

A UCB press release about the study’s findings states, “Lipstick and lip gloss are of special concern because, when they are not being blotted on tissue or left as kiss marks, they are ingested or absorbed, bit by bit, by the individual wearing them. Using acceptable daily intakes derived from this study, average use of some lipsticks and lip glosses would result in excessive exposure to chromium hydroxide green, a carcinogen linked to stomach ulcers."

Additionally, of the products test, 75 percent of them contained lead, which is known to cause brain, cellular and DNA damage.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the dangers of lipstick have been highlighted. Back in 2011, the FDA did its own research into lipsticks and found that every one of the 400 collected lipsticks contained lead.

What’s more is that a whopping 380 of the 400 lipsticks contained levels of lead at more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm), which, incidentally, is higher than the maximum level of lead permitted in candy bars—another reason to skip candy bars. Upon discovering these lead amounts, the FDA stated that the lead levels are “very low and do not pose safety concerns.”

Co-author of the UCB-based study, S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health, disagrees with the FDA's conclusions, and says that some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could pose health problems in the long run. She says, “This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention.’”

And just how much of these toxins could lipstick wearers be getting? When lipstick is not blotted on a tissue or left as “kiss marks,” then it’s ingested and/or absorbed by the wearer—and depends on how much and how often the lipstick is applied. The study says that the average lipstick user applies lipstick 2.3 times daily and ingests 24 milligrams each day, while a heavy user applies it as many times as 14 times and ingests an average of 83 milligrams.

The study indicates that for even an average user, some of the lipsticks could mean excessive exposure to toxins. High usage of lipstick, however, could mean overexposure to those toxins.

Any way you look at it, this news about the possible toxicity of conventional lipsticks will probably not put a smile on your face.

 

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


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