What's the Real Danger of Red Lipstick?

Cosmetics, Skin Care

Gwen Stefani rocks her signature red lips.

Although reports have surfaced that lip gloss may increase your chances of skin cancer somewhat (by reflecting the sun’s damaging UV rays), your lipstick does not seem likely to harm you, even when it does not say lead-free.  According to William I. Manton, professor of geosciences at the University of Texas at Dallas in the December 2007 Allure magazine, “The danger is negligible.”  In fact, even though the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ordered an independent test of 33 lipsticks in 2007 and found that 61% contained lead, according to Manton, “[Even though the lead content of [11 of these] lipsticks is greater than the FDA limit for candy], the amount of candy ingested per week greatly exceeds that of lipstick…[this] contributes a miniscule amount to her total lead exposure…In short, I don’t think women have anything to worry about.”  In addition, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association maintains, “Lead is a naturally occurring element that is found everywhere in the environment. Consumers are exposed daily to lead when they eat, drink water and breathe the air. The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing, and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards.”

Good to know, although many women still want the lead, even in trace amounts, out of their lipsticks.  According to Clinics in Dermatology, internal ingestion of lead has negative effects on the central nervous system, kidney and heart, although it is still notable that these amounts are thousands of times higher than a woman is exposed to from lipstick.  At any rate, as of early February 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has officially requested that the FDA take action and conduct their own government safety tests, which the group hopes will result in the government-mandated removal of lead from lipsticks.  Until then, if you still want to avoid lipsticks with lead, avoid those that are red-colored, and in particular the four listed below, which were found to have the highest lead content of the 33 studied:

  • L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
  • L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
  • Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
  • Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

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  • Christine

    When I read the study in 2007 I imediately returned my “True Red” lipstick. There are so many red lipsticks on the market I can be choosey about what I put on my face.

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