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Lead found in 400 lipstick shades

L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl have highest concentrations

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Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat Lipstick Photo Illustration

Students have a reason to be suspicious of their favorite makeup products, after a study by the Food and Drug Administration founds traces of lead in 400 shades of popular lipsticks.

Commonly known cosmetic companies listed with the highest amount of lead concentration found in their lipsticks include L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl. Color Sensation lipstick in Pink Petal by Maybelline contains the highest amount, with 7.19 parts per million, or .0007 percent. The average of all 400 shades found to contain lead in the study was 1.11 parts per million.

“I feel that a lot of girls use makeup and if they found out what was inside the stuff they are using, they might back up and think about what they put on their face,” said Sylvia Yakoo, a biochemistry freshman.

Rules for cosmetic safety are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Cosmetic products have to be pre-approved by the FDA if they are using any color additives like those found in lipsticks. Though the FDA has set specifications for lead in color additives to no more than 20 parts per million, or .002 percent in a single product, there is no set limit for the amount of lead that can be found in cosmetics.

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“It’s kind of surprising to me they still put lead in lipstick,” said Ronald Wysocki, an assistant staff scientist for chemistry and biochemistry labs. “The FDA must have to keep close tabs on these products.”

Reports finding lead in lipstick are nothing new. Commercial labratory testing in the 1990s suggested lead found in lipstick might be a health concern, and in 2007, the FDA tested a small selection of 33 popular lipsticks, concluding that 61 percent contained lead.

When Kitty Martinez, customer service supervisor for the UofA Bookstore and buyer for the store’s Clinique counter, found out about the FDA’s study, she contacted the office of global communications for Estée Lauder Companies to see if any of the products available at the bookstore have lead. The company confirmed that none of Clinique’s current products contain lead.

“Clinique provides training tools for their counter representatives to speak intelligently about the products they sell,” Martinez said in a statement.

In addition to training cosmetic counter employees about the products they carry in the bookstore, Clinique also provides them with extra training where they explain the components of each of their products.

“I think it is the responsibility of companies to let people know what they put in their products,” said Jessica Haap, a psychology sophomore. “Especially if there are reported side effects, there needs to be some type of warning at least.”

Exposure to lead over months or years can cause lead poisoning, which affects a person’s nervous system and organ function. High lead exposure can especially be harmful to children and pregnant women due to potential effects on brain development, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not identified a safe lead level in blood. Because of this, the center recommends that people should avoid places and products that contain high concentrations of lead, such as lead-based paints, which were discontinued in the 1970s.

After the lipstick study was released, FDA researchers said none of the amounts of lead detected posed a safety risk to consumers.

“I think the FDA had made a pretty good case that it is safe,” Wysocki said. “They tend to be very conservative in these decisions and because of that, I feel pretty comfortable.”

Since the study, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said the FDA should set a limit to the amount of lead found in cosmetics. But until a lead limit can be decided and approved by the FDA, it will be up to the makeup companies to decide if they will continue carrying these products.


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Updated December 8, 2021