Study: Lead found in several brands of lipstick

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DENVER — It’s the little pick-me-up every woman loves, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a frightening new report out about your favorite lipsticks.

They’ve listed 400 lip colors, from brands low to high, all containing levels of lead.  Women we spoke with say lipstick is an easy, go-to cosmetic.

“I think it just kind of defines you, makes you feel a little more dressed up,” said Rica Froelicher.

Most women have a drawer full of lipsticks, which makes this report even more frightening.  At the top of the FDA’s list is Maybelline Color Sensational lipstick in Pink Petal.  It contains 7.19 lead parts per million.

University of Colorado hospital toxicologist, Dr. Kennon Heard, said lead can cause a lot of health complications.

“Lead really has no normal role in the human body,” he said.  “It can cause problems with anemia and abdominal pain, and it can also cause some coma and seizures.”

Also in the top 20 are L’oreal’s Colour Riche in Volcanic and Revlon’s Color Stay in Ripened Red.  But it’s not just drugstore brands.  At number three on the list is a NARS semi-matte lipstick in Red Lizard.  It retails for $24.

“I feel deceived,” said Froelicher.  “It seems like a very bad place for lead.”

Thankfully, not all the levels are so high.  In last place is Wet’n’Wild’s Mega Mixers lip balm in Bahama Mama; it has less than .026 lead parts per million.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to make products lead-free.

“Completely eliminating lead from anything is essentially impossible, unless you’re talking about making the cost outrageous,” Heard said.

At these levels, however, he said it’s unlikely your lipstick will make you gravely ill.

“Realistically, the chance that anyone is going to have any short or long term effects from this amount of exposure is really, really very small,” said Heard.

But, this doctor questions why there’s lead in your lipstick at all.

“It’s not something that really needs to be there, so why would we want to take any health risk when we’re talking about something that really doesn’t add any benefit to the product?”

Despite this study, the FDA doesn’t set limits for lead in cosmetics.  What they do regulate is the amount of lead in color additives, and that’s 20 parts per million, much more than the highest lipstick on this list.  You can find the full FDA study and list of lipsticks here.

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