Is your lipwear hazardous to your health?
by Adeeba Folami
In recent weeks, the discovery of hazardous levels of lead in children’s toys manufactured in China caused a series of recalls of the tainted products and now an advocacy group is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to earnestly look into claims that similar levels of the metal are found in the lipsticks some women use daily.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CFSC) is committed to raising awareness of the harmful chemicals found not only in some lipsticks but in other beauty products. In September, the group commissioned tests on red lipsticks purchased in four major cities and results released last month found that 61% of the brand names tested contained lead but failed to list it as an ingredient. Also, one-third of the products contained lead levels up to six times the amount allowed in candy by the FDA.
“There’s no excuse. Our tests prove it’s possible to make lead-free lipstick,” CFSC co-founder Stacy Malkan said in an October news release. “Lipstick is used by children, pregnant women; is reapplied frequently and is ingested into our bodies when it gets into our mouths or onto foods.”
Currently, the FDA does not regulate lead levels in beauty products which is why some find little reason for alarm. “To my knowledge, there have been no substantial findings or anything corroborated by the FDA,” said Buffy Hurst, a Beauty Advisor for an upscale department store in Denver. With more than 30 years experience in the industry she went on to say that the verdict is still out on whether long term, daily use of lip products is harmful and that any threat would vary from person to person depending on how much ingestion was taking place.
Although no solid conclusions have been arrived at, the 54 year old suggests there may be something to CFSC’s findings regarding red lipsticks. “Even as a manicurist, I can tell you that red or darker polishes tend to stain the nail,” she said. “So if it goes hand in hand, there might be something to that.” Regardless, she is in love with her chosen profession and making women look their best, especially Black women who make up 50% of her client base. Many of them are drawn to cosmetic lines which have brands specifically for women of color – whether Fashion Fair, Iman, or her favorite, Lancome, which she said is all botanical in that products are made only with natural ingredients. Most manufacturers, she shared, are beginning to follow the trend of using ingredients derived from plant based sources rather than those made synthetically or with animal by-products. She believes this is a positive for the industry and is the wave of the future.
CFSC’s findings seem to agree and show that 39% of tested products were lead free, including some produced by Revlon, an industry giant. On the other end of the spectrum, however, were brands like L’oreal, Cover Girl and the more expensive Dior Addict products which contained the highest lead levels.
The advocacy group is demanding that the FDA more carefully and responsibly monitor lipsticks for the health’s sake of consumers – in the same way the federal agency has set standards for lead levels in the toys children play with everyday. For more information, visit CFSC’s website at safecosmetics.org.
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