Kiss Me Lead: Leading Lipstick Brands Contain High Levels of Lead


Beauty can come at a cost, but toxic lead in lipstick may be taking it too far.

According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers and published in a recent issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, high levels of toxic heavy metals, including lead, were found in some of the leading brands of lipstick ingredients.

The study comes after a 2012 FDA review of 400 major lipstick products in which the agency declared the levels of lead posed no serious threats because there is “limited absorption.” But, in a statement, lead study author Sa Liu, a UC Berkeley researcher in environmental health sciences, says “I believe that the Food and Drug Administration should pay attention to this,” adding, “Our study was small, using lip products that had been identified by young Asian women in Oakland, CA. But, the lipsticks and lip glosses in our study are common brands available in stores everywhere. Based upon our findings, a larger, more thorough survey of lip products—and cosmetics in general—is warranted.”

The Berkeley study found that women who are frequent lipstick users risk overexposure of lead as well as exposure to chromium, aluminum, cadmium, and manganese—all of which have toxic implications for women, particularly if they’re pregnant or nursing.

Among the top 20 offenders, according to the study, are some of the leading brands: Cover Girl, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Revlon, Avon, and Sonia Kashuk. Burt’s Bees, a long-time natural brand favorite, which is now owned by Clorox, also appeared on the list with its lip shimmer.

Want to avoid toxic heavy metals in your lipstick? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database for safe alternatives. Or, make your own.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.