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Keeping Lead Out Of Cosmetic Products

— December 28, 2016

As if women didn’t have enough on their plates, now they have to be wary about lead levels in their cosmetic products, particularly their lipsticks, eyeshadows, blush, and body lotions. Recently, the FDA released a draft of new guidelines to help regulate lead levels in cosmetic products, with lipstick being the big one. Wait a minute. Isn’t lead a dangerous neurotoxin that poses health risks even in small doses? In fact, medical experts across the country, as well as the CDC, agree that any level of lead exposure is unhealthy and can result in learning deficits, reduced fertility, hormonal changes, behavioral problems, and a slew of other medical conditions. So why the push for new guidelines now? Better yet, why is there lead in our cosmetics to begin with? Don’t we already have safety guidelines and regulations in place?

Well, not really. While we have the FDA Cosmetics Safety Act, it hasn’t been updated since 1938, and because the FDA lacks the jurisdiction to regulate cosmetics as they do drugs, which are tested vehemently before being sold, it’s a bit more difficult to actually know what’s going into our favorite red lipsticks and moonlight glitter eyeshadows, among other things. In fact, as it stands right now, the FDA is only able to regulate cosmetics after they’re manufactured and packaged up to sell.

Beauty Products; Image Courtesy of NewBeauty,
Beauty Products; Image Courtesy of NewBeauty,

The new guidelines issued by the FDA recommend that cosmetic manufacturers in the United States keep the maximum lead level of 10 parts per million in cosmetics like lipstick, lip gloss, eyeshadow, and other products. However, the recommendations fail to cover “topically applied products” like hair dyes. And that 10 parts per million recommendation is not just a random number. It is actually the maximum amount allowed that will not result in detectable levels of lead in the body if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Apparently, the FDA is comfortable with a small dose of lead in our cosmetic products. But wait, what was that again about medical experts agreeing that any level of lead exposure is unhealthy?

Fortunately, measures are being taken by members of Congress to update our outdated rules when it comes to cosmetics and other personal care products to keep consumers safe. For example, Dianne Feinstein, a senator in California, is leading the charge to revise outdated policies through a piece of legislation known as the Personal Care Products Safety Act. The new guidelines issued by the FDA are also a great step in the right direction, but more can be done.

Until further measures are taken to keep makeup enthusiasts safe, there are steps consumers can take to ensure they’re buying the safest products possible. According to Ginger King, a New Jersey-based cosmetic chemist, you should always take a peek at the ingredient lists of any cosmetic products you plan on buying. If you see lead acetate listed, put it back. Also, try to avoid products with high pigmentation and mica. Instead, stick to light matte colors and others that have less pigment because they have a lower chance of containing lead and other impurities.


FDA Aims to Limit Lead Levels in Lipstick, Other Cosmetics

FDA Suggests a Limit on Lead in Cosmetics (Or, a Friendly Reminder Not to Eat Your Lipstick)

Lead Toxicity: What Are the Physiologic Effects of Lead Exposure?

Personal Care Products Safety Act

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

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