While we find it more than a little concerning that “lead-free lipstick” is even something that has to be addressed at all, it is nonetheless an issue that remains in the beauty industry and one we want to ensure our readers understand.
We’ve already explained the harmful effects of parabens, sulfates, and aluminum in beauty products. Unfortunately lead is yet another chemical we have to consciously avoid.
Fortunately, with expanding studies on the subject and more and more beauty brands adopting an all-natural attitude, it’s becoming easier to stock your make-up bag with safe lipstick that WORKS!
A Poison Kiss
In 2007, the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics released an in-depth study that tested 33 brands and 400 specific tubes of popular lipstick for lead content. A shocking 61% of the lipsticks tested contained lead. The products were from popular brands like Cover Girl, L’Oreal and Dior.
The Food and Drug Administration conducted its own independent test in 2009. They found even more lipstick with lead in it. Cover Girl, Revlon, and Maybelline came in with the highest amounts in the highest number of individual lipsticks.
Then, in 2013, the University of California conducted its own study and found lead in 24 of the 32 lipsticks they tested. In addition to the lead levels, the researchers also found levels of chromium, which is a suspected carcinogen, as well as levels of manganese, which has been linked to nervous system damage.
Health Concerns from Lead Exposure
Even trace amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Lead is a neurotoxin, which means it is destructive to nerve tissue and can cause learning, language, and behavioral problems.
Additionally, lead has been shown to reduce fertility in both men and women and also causes hormonal and menstrual changes in women. It has also been known to delay puberty in young children.
Low exposure to lead can also lead to increased blood pressure, hypertension and decreased kidney function.
Is Lead in Lipstick Dangerous?
Like we mentioned above, even being exposed to small amounts of lead can be hazardous to your health.
A University of California study found that women reapply lipstick from 2 to 14 times a day. This translates to about 87 milligrams of the product being “ingested” every day.
This adds up to a significant amount over an adult’s lifetime.
Now, there are varying levels of lead in different lipstick ranges and brands, with the lead being measured in parts per million (PPM). For many of the lipsticks where lead was found, it was less than 1 PPM which renders the lead found in those particular lipsticks negligible and around the same amount of lead you ingest unknowingly from water, food or the air around you.
Additionally, while the FDA and other health organizations say that lead in very low doses won’t adversely affect adults, they say that any level of lead could pose health problems to children, who often play with lipstick.
How You Can Tell If Your Lipstick Is Safe
Unfortunately, lead isn’t an ingredient that is listed on your lippy label. That’s because the lead doesn’t come straight from the lipstick manufacturer, but is instead found in the dyes and additives the manufacturer buys to put into their lipstick.
We recommend the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to see if the brands/lipsticks you have or are considering buying are safe lipsticks.
Lead-Free Natural Lipstick Brands
The list below is not exhaustive. Each range is 100% lead-free (with many also cruelty-free, paraben-free and vegan).
- W3ll People
- 100% Pure
- RMS Beauty
Many popular brands like Revlon and Avon have multiple lipsticks ranges with some of those ranges containing lead and others not. Make sure you research the ingredients of specific lipsticks you’re interested in before purchasing.
Best Lead-Free Lipsticks
The natural beauty industry as a whole has made great strides in both its formulation and color offerings of products. There are some organic lipstick brands that definitely rise up above the others. We think some are particularly noteworthy. Below, you’ll find three of our top favorites in the natural lipstick game right now!
Burt’s Bees - #501 Blush Basin
Burt’s Bees is a trusted organic lipstick brand that’s been around forever and has a sterling reputation in the beauty industry. Their lead-free lipsticks (like all their beauty products) are safe, natural and hard-working. You can stock up on all your favorite shades for your purse, make-up bag, office desk drawer, and travel bag.
100% Pure - Fruit Pigmented Pomegranate Oil Anti-Aging Lipstick in Poppy
Formulated with pomegranate oil and shea butter, this lead-free lipstick is packed full of antioxidants and moisture that gives a deep berry stain to your lips. It is one of the best organic lipstick brands, with a huge cult following and awesome reviews.
Bite - Pink Kashmir
Yet another of our favorite organic lead-free lipstick brands that provide a superior product in a rainbow of colors, like this pop of bright pink.
What You Can Do To Help
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics suggests you write your favorite beauty brands whose lead-free lipsticks do contain lead and explain your position: that you enjoy their product but cannot continue to buy it as long as they contain such harmful ingredients.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot put a federal ban on the use of certain chemicals and toxins until they are introduced into the public market and are then proven to cause serious health problems— and proving those serious health risks is not easy.
With that said, if you are passionate about the safety of your beauty products, it is always helpful for you to contact your local legislators and tell them your concerns.
The Bottom Line
It can feel overwhelming to constantly review and police every beauty product that you put into your body. We hope that our list of safe brands, lead-free lipstick suggestions, and resource guide will help you navigate the natural ingredient lists so you can feel confident and happy in your choices.