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Beauty Secrets Mean Lead in Lipstick, Arsenic in Eyeliner

Beauty secrets can be dangerous

Do you have beauty secrets? Apparently cosmetic makers do, as suggested by the results of a new report about the high levels of lead in lipstick. But lead is found in other cosmetics as well, as are additional toxins, such as arsenic in eyeliner and cadmium in mascara.

Beauty secrets should not be dangerous ones

Your mother may have had a secret ingredient in her favorite cake recipe that made the dessert extra special, but the secret ingredients in lipsticks and other cosmetics can be dangerous. They are secret because cosmetic manufacturers do not reveal them to consumers, nor do they have to.

The high levels of lead found in more than 400 lipstick brands, as reported in the recent study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, may have women scrambling to read the ingredient panels on their lipstick, but they won’t see “lead” on the package.

Nor will they see cadmium on their eyeliner or concealers, arsenic on their mascara and foundations, nickel in their powders and blushes, or beryllium in their bronzes and eye shadow. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Let’s return to the lipstick study for a moment. The FDA posted the results of their findings on its website back in December 2011, and those findings showed that lead levels in the tested lipsticks were more than twice the levels the agency had reported in a previous study.

Shortly thereafter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there is no safe level of lead for children and emphasized it was important for pregnant women to avoid the toxin as well.

Following the release of the latest lead in lipstick results from the FDA, the Campaign for Safety in Cosmetics requested that the FDA correct misleading information on its website about the “supposed safety of lead in lipstick.” The Campaign is also asking L’Oreal to reformulate its lipsticks so they contain the lowest possible levels of lead.

One of L’Oreal’s lipsticks, Maybelline Color Sensation, was found to contain more than 275 times the amount of lead discovered in the least contaminated (and least costly) brand of lipstick, Web & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm. L’Oreal also had four other lipsticks in the top 10 most lead-tainted brands in the FDA study.

Toxins in other cosmetics
What about the secret ingredients in other face makeup? Environmental Defence of Ontario, Canada, issued a report in May 2011 entitled “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup” in which the investigators analyzed 49 face makeup products, including four concealers, five foundations, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses.

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All the products were tested at an independent lab for heavy metals. The four metals of most concern were arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which are designated as “toxic” in Canada because of health concerns. The other four metals tested for—beryllium, nickel, selenium, and thallium—are also of concern and are banned in Canada as intentional ingredients in cosmetics.

The report noted that:

  • Seven of the eight heavy metals were found in all the makeup items. Mercury was the only metal not found
  • On average, the makeup items contained two of the four metals of most concern and four of the eight metals of concern
  • None of the heavy metals were listed on the package labels

Among the items tested in the study were:

  • Clinique Stay True makeup (Stay Ivory), found to contain arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead, and thallium
  • Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus (eye liner), found to contain beryllium, cadmium, nickel, and lead
  • L’Oreal Bare Naturale (mascara), found to contain arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead, and thallium

What’s so bad about heavy metals? Over time, they can accumulate in the body and are known to cause or contribute to hormone disruption and health problems, including cancer, neurological problems, memory loss, mood swings, reproductive and developmental disorders, kidney problems, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, lung damage, dermatitis, and hair loss.

The toxins can be absorbed by the skin, and it can be especially dangerous if the skin is broken or cracked.

Ingredients or impurities?
Toxic heavy metals in cosmetics are not in the products because they are added intentionally. Rather they are considered product impurities, and impurities are either byproducts of the manufacturing process, the result of the breakdown of ingredients, or an environmental contaminant of raw ingredients.

Therefore, these toxins are actually part of the natural ingredients used to make the cosmetics, even though they can have a negative impact on the people who use the products.

What can consumers do? Stop using makeup would be the best solution, yet that isn’t likely to happen. Other options include choosing products found to contain the least amount of toxins, using less makeup, and petitioning cosmetic makers to change their formulations.

When you use lipstick that contains lead and eyeliner that contains arsenic, you could be jeopardizing your health. And beauty secrets should not be hazardous.

Environmental Defence
Food and Drug Administration
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons



Where can one find how the makeup one uses ranks in these tests?
Check out the main web pages for The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, and the Environmental Defence link in this article.
How does Melaleuca factor in with their makeup??
You can check many Melaleuca products on the Environmental Working Group's website: click on their EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and search for "Melaleuca" and you'll get a list of products. You can check each products for any hazardous ingredients.