According to today’s Washington Post 400 shades of lipstick sold in America have been found by the FDA (USA Government Food & Drug Administration) to contain trace amounts of lead. This is not new news per se, consumer groups have been campaigning about lead in lipstick since the 1990’s. This is just the first time a significant government body has recognised and published the fact.

The 400 named in this FDA study are not off-the-back-of-a-foreign-lorry fakes, they come from much-loved international brands such as: Clinique, Clarins, Maybelline, L’Oreal, Covergirl, MAC and NARS.

There is a long history of lead in make up, in fact Queen Elizabeth I herself used it to attain the alabaster pallor so fashionable in her day. Until the 1980’s it was widely used in household paint. According to the US consumer Product Safety Commission lead poisoning can:

“Cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard foetal development even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.”

The lead is not deliberately added as an element, it comes along for the ride within the mineral-based pigments these companies use in some colours. Plus the amounts are tiny – the highest level, found in Maybeline’s Color Sensation in Pink Petal was 7.19 parts per million. The reason this fact has been known for years – but not addressed – is the FDA has set no upper limits for lead in cosmetics because they are not designed to be ingested. But neither was paint and there are laws about that. Also anyone who thinks we don’t ingest lipstick is kidding themselves, if it is not being ingested where does it go that it needs constant re-application?!

We are subjected to growing levels of toxins in our daily lives, the levels of lead found in these products is small, the FDA concludes:

“Although we do not believe that the lead content found in our recent lipstick analyses poses a safety concern, we are evaluating whether there may be a need to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick in order to further protect the health and welfare of consumers.”

But I would rather not take the chance of it adding to mine. For those who agree with me here is the list from the FDA 400 report.

None of the lipsticks on this list is sold on Cult Beauty… alexia inge