A red poison kiss

Photo: istockphoto.com/Stuart Miles
Ruby red lips are icons of power, passion and danger. Donning red lips is probably the most dramatic statement a woman can make. It's also become the most deadly. Lead has been found in 20 brand-lipsticks during a product test commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a nonprofit coalition. The tests were conducted by an independent laboratory on red lipsticks bought in Boston, Hartford, Connecticut, San Francisco and Minneapolis. No cosmetic limits Eleven of the tested lipsticks actually exceeded the 0.1 ppm limit created by the FDA to protect children from directly ingesting lead. There is no limit for lead in lipstick despite the known dangers. According to the report, women eat about 1.81 kilograms (about four pounds) of lipstick in their lifetime through eating, drinking, or kissing. That add up to a significant amount of lead being consumed. Silent symptoms Lead poisoning usually doesn't show until levels are very high. At first symptoms can be very vague: irritability, mood changes, weight loss, lack of energy, muscle weakness, headaches, vomiting, constipation, or stomach pain. Young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Lead easily crosses the placenta where it can interfere with normal development. "Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels. The latest studies show there is no safe level of lead exposure," said Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. Price makes no difference The report found pricing has nothing to do with the amount of lead present. Expensive brands are not necessarily safer. One of the most contaminated samples, Dior Addict, sells for $24.50 a tube, while the $7.49 Revlon lipstick contained no detectable lead. Brands to avoid According to the tests, six of the 11 lipsticks with the highest lead content were made by L'Oreal under the brands L'Oreal and Maybelline NY. Among the top brands testing positive for lead were:
  • L'Oreal Colour Riche "True Red": 0.65 ppm
  • L'Oreal Colour Riche "Classic Wine": 0.58 ppm
  • Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor "Maximum Red": 0.56 ppm
  • Dior Addict "Positive Red": 0.21 ppm
  • Cover Girl Continuous Color "CherryBrandy": 0.28 ppm.
  • In a statement, L'Oreal said it "proudly stands behind" its products. Safe alternatives The report also found several lipsticks with negligible (less than 0.02 parts per million) amounts of lead:
  • Avon: Ultra Color Rich Cherry Jubilee
  • Body Shop Lip Colour Garnet (parent company L'Oreal)
  • Estee Lauder Clinique Long Last Lipstick Merlot
  • Dior/LVMH Replenishing Lipcolor Red Premiere
  • Estee Lauder - Maraschino
  • MAC - Matte Lipstick Viva Glam 1 (parent company Estee Lauder)
  • Revlon - Superlustrous Love That Red
  • Revlon - Superlustrous Bed of Roses
  • Revlon - Colorstay Lipcolor Red Velvet
  • Tarte - Inside Out Vitamin Lipstick
  • Wet N Wild - Mega Colors Cherry Blossom (parent company Markwins)
  • Check your lipstick brand at Skin Deep Cosmetic base. The full report, "A Poison Kiss: The Problem of Lead in Lipstick," including complete test results, is online at www.SafeCosmetics.org.