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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.


How much metal do you like in your lipstick?

Lead, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel and titanium. No, this is not a refresher course on the Periodic Table. It's a list of metals that were found in lipsticks and lip glosses worn by girls 14 to 19 years old living in Oakland, California. A recent study tested eight lipsticks and 24 lip glosses sold by seven companies based on which products the girls reported using. There are several published papers documenting metal concentrations in lip products and other cosmetics. So what's the big deal?

The authors of Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products wrote that they strove not just to report on the presence of metals, but to compare estimated exposure (i.e., how much of the lipstick the girls likely applied and accidentally ingested) to health-based standards. What sets this paper apart is that the researchers tried to relate the levels of metals they found to potential health risks. This is not an easy thing to do since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate metals in cosmetics.

What did they find? All 32 products contained manganese, titanium and aluminum, the later two in high concentrations. Lead was found in 75 percent of the products, and 47 percent of them contained concentrations higher than the FDA-recommended maximum for candy likely to be consumed by small children. Cadmium and chromium were also found at high levels in three of the products. The authors pointed out that both are known to be human carcinogens. What they didn't find were clear patterns between the amount of metals found and specific brands. Color, cost or type of product (gloss vs. lipstick) were not predictors of high metal concentrations either. Highlighting the need for all those lipstick wearers out there to do your homework before buying your favorite products.

S. Liu, K. Hammond, and A. Rosa-Cheatham. 2013. Concentrations and potential health risks of metals in lip products. Environmental Health Perspectives 121(6):705-710.

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Posted by Laura Kammin at 12:44PM on 10/15/2013
Categories: Latest Research