By The Editors
Cosmetics are all around us. They have been used for thousands of years. Are they safe? Without discussing the general/global issue of cosmetics safety, we want to bring up something about one of the most used cosmetics worldwide: lipsticks. Although in the last century lipstick use was most prevalent in the Western world, its use is now a global phenomenon. And now, it seems lipsticks contain a potentially unhealthy dose of toxic heavy metals.
What are heavy metals? They are high atomic weight elements that exhibit, at room temperature, the properties of a metallic substance. Minute amounts of some heavy metals, including cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, strontium, and zinc, are required by living organisms. However, excessive levels can be detrimental. In contrast, other heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium, have no known vital or beneficial effect on organisms, and can cause serious negative health effects, including carcinogenic or toxic effects that involve, among others, the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, skin, bones and teeth.
A recent study published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Liu S, et al. Concentrations and potential health risks of metals in lip products, 121:705–710, 2013), which examined 32 lip products used by young women, indicates that lipsticks contain lead, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, and titanium. The authors of the study assumed, on the basis of usage data reported by the Personal Care Products Council, that the women in their study ingested all the lip products they applied each day and concluded that they could be ingesting potentially hazardous amounts of aluminum, chromium, and manganese.
Although in 2007 the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported the presence of lead in lipsticks and lip glosses (A poison kiss: the problem of lead in lipstick), and in 2009 and 2011 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its own findings on lead in lipsticks, the Environmental Health Perspective study is the first to call attention on the presence of a wide range of heavy metals in lipsticks.