Lipstick - A delightful combination of fryer oil and lead

Lead has allegedly been found in a number of popular brands (Cover Girl, L'Oréal and Christian Dior, to name a few) of red lipstick. An advocacy group went on a lipstick shopping spree (good times) and then shipped their purchases off to an independent lab for testing.

Now, if the analysis by the lab was done correctly, this is bad news. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that likes to hang around in people's bones and cause damage to all sorts of body systems: nervous (neurotoxicity and developmental delays in kids), cardiovascular (hypertension and anemia), gastrointestinal (abdominal pain, NVD, anorexia and weight loss), urinary (kidney damage), and reproductive (male infertility). To quote a friend: "Now we know why hot chicks are so dumb and skinny". Lead poisoning!

But let's take a closer look at this all. The Reuters article puts it like this:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said tests on 33 brand-name red lipsticks by the Bodycote Testing Group in Santa Fe Spring, Calif., found 61 per cent had detectable lead levels of 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm).
Okay, first of all, 61 per cent works out to 20 of the 33 lipsticks having detectable levels of lead. Of these, only 11 had levels above the FDA's limit for lead in candy. That's right, in candy. The FDA hasn't set a specific limit for lipstick, and the assumption is made that a considerable portion of the wearer's lipstick (and thus the lead) is eventually ingested. I have no idea how reasonable an assumption this is. Lipstick wearers?

But there's more. The FDA's limit for lead in candy is specific to candy likely to be consumed frequently by small children. Lead poses a greater health risk to kids (relative to adults) because they absorb it more readily and are more susceptible to it's toxic effects. Lipstick use is generally (and hopefully) limited to teenagers and adults, who can tolerate greater levels of lead. It's really not as bad as it all sounds.

Incidentally, the FDA thinks the whole thing is a load of crap. They've said that they'll look into it, but brought up the fact that claims of lead in cosmetics pop up every once in a while but are never confirmed.

In case you were wondering, here are the worst ones they tested:
  • 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

2 chemically inspired comments:

milkshake said...

This really reminds me my science project that I did in the first grade of high school. I wanted to do something related to chemistry and I had access to spectrophotometer and I knew there was this relatively sensitive colorimetric test for lead (pink dithizone complex extraction, to CCl4) so I set out to see if there was increased lead content in fruit picked roadside. (This was 20 years ago, so most cars used leaded gas). Sure enough, if when I looked hard I could find somewhat increased lead content in apples grown on the roadside.

This work did not prove anything we did not know before but if I wanted I could have made big deal out of the my "findings."

In reality, it was a masturbation-like activity, done for me to feel important about my "research".

Chris said...

Hey, sure beats anything I did in high school. Although I did build a pretty cool roller coaster in physics class.