Just when you thought it was safe to pucker up and look pretty, Katharine Hammond, a professor of environmental health sciences with the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health published a study this week indicating that lipstick and glosses contain potentially dangerous levels of metals.
The new government-funded study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, points to popular lip products with ingredients like cadmium, chromium, aluminum, and other metals at levels potentially high enough to cause health risks.
They determined the estimated chromium intake from 10 products tested exceeded acceptable daily intake levels. Chromium is a known human carcinogen, according to the researchers, that has been linked to lung cancer and stomach tumors through inhaling the metal or swallowing it.
The researchers looked at eight different lipsticks and 24 lip glosses, bought at drug stores, department stores, and chain specialty stores. All contained measurable levels of the metals.
“Chronic, low level exposure to cadmium, for example, has been linked to serious kidney problems. Glosses and lipsticks are of particular concern because of the potential for ingestion,” Hammond said.
When used at what researchers called an average rate — around twice a day — the estimated intake exceeded acceptable daily levels for those metals, as established in prior public health efforts.
“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter,” Hammond says. “Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term,” Hammond said.
Dr. Linda Loretz, chief toxicologist for the Personal Care Products Council, said in a statement, “The report does not provide any new meaningful information. The finding of trace levels of metals in lip products is not unexpected given their natural presence in air, soil and water.Trace amounts of metals in lip products need to be put into context,” she added. “Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison.”
The authors say it may be premature to throw out your favorite cosmetics, but they do hope their study, and the discovery of metals in the makeup will prompt more oversight by health regulators. There are currently no U.S. standards for metal content in cosmetics. The authors note that the European Union considers cadmium, chromium and lead to be unacceptable ingredients – at any level – in cosmetic products.
From DYI to larger name brands, here’s a list of a few “metal free” lip stains:
- Coastal Classic Creations Canyon Lipstick
- W3LL People Nudist Lipshine Stick
- Johnny Concert Narcissistic Lipstick in Redrum
- Hemp Organics Lipstick in Rose Petal
- Jane Iredale Lip Fixation Lip Stains