Is wearing lipstick bad for you?

Millions of women report putting on lipstick up to 20 times a day. Lipstick, like other cosmetics, has become a growing concern that it may contain harmful levels of toxic substances, one of which is lead.

Lead is found nearly everywhere in our environment including soil, water and air, however, a majority of human exposure is derived from things such as gasoline, industry, paint, ceramics, batteries and cosmetics.

The US National Library of Medicine says a study of 32 lipstick products revealed not only levels of lead, but also of aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, and titanium.

They say three-quarters of the lipsticks sampled contained detectable amounts of lead, and in nearly half, lead levels were higher than the FDA standard of 0.1 ppm.

Researchers clarified that neither price nor type of product, a lipstick versus a lip gloss, affected the metal concentrations they found. They added that assuming lipstick wearers ingest all the product they apply each day, which is an average of 24 mg and reaching 87 mg per day in the 95th percentile, people who wear lipstick could be ingesting potentially hazardous amounts of toxins.

Lead is a concern, even in small amounts. The National Toxicology Program concludes that there is sufficient evidence for adverse health effects in children and adults at BLL <5 μg/dL. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because they absorb more of it than adults, but adults also suffer from lead exposure.

What are the side effects of using lipstick? Lead, regardless of the source, can affect nearly every organ and system in your body. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, children under the age of six are most susceptible to the effects of lead, which can include behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia.

In adults, lead side effects can include cardiovascular issues, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems in both men and women.