Is there really any truth to the claims that parabens are linked to cancer or our lipsticks have lead in them? All this talk about our beauty products and the sulfates, parabens, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and other toxins they contain can be quite confusing! Very few of you many know that I lead a double life—I am a makeup artist and a mathematician. While serving up brides with flawless airbrushed finishes, I’m also an Epidemiologist for our nation’s lead federal agency charged to protect and serve our nation’s public health. I know, I’m on my James Bond, double07 lifestyle—all for the benefit of you! Thus, the gals at Love Over Logic would like to share our new blog series entitled “But Will It Kill Me?: The Truth About What’s In Our Health and Beauty Products”. We also welcome the newest member of our family, Ezinne Ndukwe, who penned the first entry in the series, “A Toxic Kiss.”
Fall is here, and besides the fact that the Midwest seemed a bit too eager to transition, it’s by far my favorite season. I love the automatic incorporations of any and everything pumpkin related. The fact that I can eat soups without looking foolish, the layering and bundling, the color of the trees. With every new season comes a change in women’s fashion, accessories and makeup techniques.
Realbeauty.com proclaimed bold lips to be one of the makeup trends for this fall, highlighting some popular colors from New York Fashion Week. However, due to recent research publicizing the presence of lead in lipstick, some women may be thinking twice before reaching into their purses to touch up their new fall colors. Some people think of lead exposure and immediately relate it to lead poisoning. Studies have shown that lead poisoning can have significant health effects by disrupting the normal functioning of organs. Particularly important is the fact that high amounts of lead can also affect the nervous system, which is especially of concern in children where elevated lead levels have been linked to the development of learning disabilities.
So with that in mind, can using a shade of tangerine lipstick (which Allure.com has deemed a must have color for Fall 2012) result in some of these harsh side effects? Judge rules: no. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested the lead concentration of 400 lipsticks sold in the US. Published in 2011, the results found that on average, lipstick contained a lead concentration of 1.11 parts per million (ppm), with the highest value reaching 7.19 ppm. The report went on to specify that although the FDA does not officially regulate the amount of lead in cosmetics, they do regulate the concentration of lead in the color additives used in cosmetic production. The maximum lead concentration allowed for color additives is around 20ppm. To put this in perspective, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 established the maximum accepted lead concentration for children’s toys to be 100ppm.
As a result of their findings, the FDA maintains the position that,
“Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipstick to be a safety concern.”
However, despite the low lead concentrations found in lipstick, some maintain the argument that any lead in lipstick is too much lead. My view? Everything in moderation. Personally, I don’t wear a lot of lipstick (I don’t like it getting in the way of my soup consumption). But knowing that lipstick does contain trace amounts of lead, I might consider other ways to incorporate the “it” colors for this fall into my wardrobe. Starting with scarves…
About the Author
Ezinne, is a 2nd year Health Behavior and Health Education graduate student at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. You can read more on beauty and science from Ezinne here.