Toxic Lipsticks Prevalent, Contain ‘Heavy Metals’ Like Cadmium

New research reveals that toxic lipsticks are common in drug stores and at high-end beauty counters, and pigments in lipcolors may be posing a risk to makeup wearers.

The toxic lipsticks were uncovered by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, and trace amounts of nine metals were discovered in dozens of lipcolors tested in the course of the study.

S. Katharine Hammond, an environmental scientist at UC Berkeley, coauthored the research on toxic lipsticks, and she says that while the trace amounts in and of themselves likely present no huge risk, the cumulative effects of multiple applications coupled with standard environmental exposure to the metals detected, such as cadmium, can be worrisome:

“If this were the only exposure it wouldn’t be a problem, but when you add it to other exposures it is a problem.”

Among the heavy metals found in the toxic lipsticks study were cadmium, chromium, and titanium, and study researchers speculated that much of the lipstick applied and reapplied throughout the day is ingested by wearers.

Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, was not involved in the research. But Spaeth explains that the findings are cause for concern, as the levels of heavy metals to which wearers are exposed is difficult to measure:

“These findings are extremely concerning … There really is no such thing as a safe level of lead.”

In response to the research, cosmetic industry spokespeople contend that the assumption most applied lipstick is consumed is not necessarily accurate, and that basing a conclusion on that premise may cause more concern than is warranted.

The toxic lipsticks research was published in the May 2 edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.