Lipstick Is a Host for Potentially Toxic Metals

No one would choose to consume toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and chromium, but millions of women unknowingly do it every day. According to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, 32 brands of lipsticks and lip glosses sold throughout the U.S. contain nine metals, some of them at potentially toxic levels.

Previous research of 400 kinds of lipstick, noted a story on, also found lead-containing lipstick, although the FDA said those low levels were not risky. But the more recent study, by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, studied more metals and how women typically used lipstick.

The danger occurs when lipstick is ingested, so the more often it’s applied, the greater the risk. The study said average user applied it 2.4 times a day and ingests 24 milligrams; heavy users apply it as often as 14 times a day, ingesting 83 milligrams.

Although lead typically gets the most notice when it comes to dangerous metals, chromium is the primary problem in lipstick. It’s a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors. No level of lead is safe, but other metals pose bigger problems in lipstick-cadmium, aluminum and manganese.

The researchers called their results preliminary, and said more research is necessary because the U.S. has no standards for metal content in cosmetics. The European Union says that cadmium, chromium and lead are unacceptable in cosmetics at any level.

The researchers advise people who use lipstick and lip gloss to use it less frequently. Said one co-author of the study, “This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention.'”

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