Is lead in lipsticks a concern?

Those lip glossers seem harmles enough, but recent studies show that lead concentrates in lipsticks are found. Lead is a dangerous substance that can harm your health when absorbed in the body. But, what is lead and how does it find its way in our lipsticks? How do we know if the lipsticks we are using are toxic or not?

Is lead dangerous?

  • All about lead

Lead is a chemical substance or element used in various commercial purposes. It is essentially a metal that can easily be shaped and is a ductile material. For this reason, lead is used in making ammunition and pewter products. It is also used as fuel additives and found in car batteries. In the cosmetics industry, lead was first used in kohl pencils by ancient Egyptians to darken their eyelids.

The proportion of lead contamination in the environment also increased with rising consumption. As such, there was a shift to use alternatives for lead such as those found in fuel to mitigate its impact on the planet.

  • Hazards

Lead contamination or poisoning poses a health hazard impairing mental abilities and behavioural changes. It affects the kidneys, liver, blood system, digestive tract, brain, and other body organs. Children are the most vulnerable because their nerve systems are still developing.

  • Lipsticks and lead

A tube of lipstick uses many ingredients to come up with those gorgeous colours and staying power. While it’s true that traces of lead contamination can be found in some popular lipsticks, the intention was not there to put it at all. It’s just that lead is found in a lot of colour additives and they are mineral-based and found in the water and soil.

  • Testing your lipsticks for lead

Commercial testing kits are available if you need to ascertain the presence of lead in your lipsticks. There are also self-tests that you can do at home by smearing your lipstick on metals such as gold, copper, pewter, and silver. If it changes colour, that is, the metal in question turns dark or yellow, then there is a good chance that the lipstick has traces of lead.

To wear or not to wear

Lipsticks are part of the makeup regime and it’s somehow unthinkable for some to go bare from one day to another. True, it is extremely difficult to rely on labels alone to determine if a lipstick is safe for use. But, in a 2011 study by Piccinini et al of 113 lipsticks and lip glosses available in the European market, lead content was found below the target standards of regulatory bodies in the EU or at 1 mg/kg. The normal range for lead content is from 1-2 mg/kg, significantly low amounts compared to allowable levels of 20 mg/kg in Germany or 10 mg/kg in Canada. Although this is no consolation, it is a matter of personal choice whether you accept the possibility of having lead in your lipsticks even if you are not ingesting a lot of it.

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