Dangerous Metals in Lip Products
Kiss your lipstick goodbye! The beauty-enhancing cosmetic may make you look sexy on the outside, but it could be poisoning you on the inside, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health evaluated more than 30 common brands of lipstick and lip gloss, and found that most of them contained high levels ofheavy metals — lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum, and manganese — that could put women at risk for health issues including stomach tumors or nervous system problems. Kids who experiment with makeup could also be at risk.
Cosmetics generally contain trace amounts of metals, but the Berkeley researchers say some lipsticks may contain dangerously high concentrations of these metals and are therefore potentially toxic.
“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter,” said study principal investigator S. Katharine Hammond, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkley, in a press release. “Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term.”
“We did not find a pattern in which brands or types of lipsticks or lip gloss contained toxic metals at levels of health concern,” said study lead author Sa Liu, MS, MPH, a UC Berkeley researcher and doctoral candidate in exposure assessment, in an email. “But there are hundreds of products out there and they are constantly changing.”
Concern over heavy metal exposure from lipstick and lip gloss is greater than that for other cosmetics because small amounts of these products can be ingested when you’re drinking, eating, kissing, or blotting — all daily activities of women wearing lipstick or lip gloss.
Based on a previous study, the UC researchers noted that the average lipstick or lip gloss user consumes 24 milligrams daily, while heavier users — defined as those who constantly reapply or administer lip products thickly — consumed an average of 87 milligrams per day. But how much is too much?
“It depends on many factors such as how much one uses, what the metal concentrations are in the products one uses,” Lui added. “It also depends on one’s per-existing health conditions.”
“For a woman with renal disease or diabetes, we may have more concern about exposure of cadmium which deposits in the kidney and causes damages there,” said Lui. “Additionally, a metal may cause more than one adverse health effect at different levels, so it also depends on what health effects one is concerned about.”
The researchers believe their findings are cause for more stringent surveillance of metals in cosmetics, which are all currently unregulated in the United States aside from lead impurity in color additives. “I believe that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should pay attention to this,” Liu said in the press release.
“[T]he lipsticks and lip glosses in our study are common brands available in stores everywhere. Based upon our findings, a larger, more thorough survey of lip products and cosmetics in general is warranted,” Liu added.