Toxic Metals Found in Makeup Cosmetics

17 May
Toxic Metals Found in Makeup Cosmetics

May 17, 2011 – In a report released by Environmental Defence, it was disclosed that 100% of products tested, all tested positive nickel and over 90% tested positive for both lead and beryllium. Environmental Defence is calling on Health Canada to modify their regulating standards and to enforce the laws set forth.

What Toxic Heavy Metals Were Found in Makeup Cosmetics

SGS Canada tested a wide array of mascaras, eye shadows, lip glosses and other cosmetic products that are worn everyday by most women. The results were alarming and outrageous:

  • 100% tested positive for nickel
  • 96% tested positive for lead

    toxic heavy metals in makeup cosmetics

    Heavy metals in cosmetics

  • 90% tested positive for beryllium
  • Products, on average, contained at least 4 of the 8 metals of concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, nickel, selenium and thallium)
  • Highest levels of arsenic (70ppm) cadium (3ppm) and lead (110ppm), found in lip glosses that are often ingested while being worn
  • Highest level of lead was Benefit Benetint lip gloss, 110ppm whichwas 10 times higher than allowable level (Health Canada allows 10ppm maximum on lead in products) The same brand contained 70ppm Arsenic, which is 20x higher than Health Canada limits of 3ppm.

How Toxic Heavy Metals Get Into Makeup and Cosmetics

These metals are not put there intentionally, they are simply impurities in the product and are not required to be listed on the labels, since they are not a directly-added ingredient. Manufacturers could, and should, take care to remove these impurities, but time is money and since guidelines are so laid-back, very few manufacturers remove these heavy metals from the final product.

Neither Health Canada nor the FDA require the manufacturers to supply test results before the market is allowed for sale to the general public. Rather, it is up to the manufacturer to “know” what is allowed and not allowed and to follow the rules. Basically, it’s an honor system and the consumer pay the price for those manufacturers who are not on their best honor.

Toxic Metals of Concern in Makeup Cosmetics

Canada needs to modify their guidelines to not only lower the allowable amount of toxic metals allowed in makeup cosmetics, but also needs to include the whole range of metals that are a concern. They include:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Beryllium
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Thallium

Health Hazards Caused by Toxic Metal Build-Up in Body

Heavy metals accumulate in your body and over time, cause a variety of health concerns including: cancer; reproductive and developmental issues; neurological disorders; loss of memory; mood swings; joint and muscle problems; problems with cardiovascular, skeletal, blood, immune system, kidney and renal systems; headaches; vomiting, nausea, diarrhea; lung damage; dermatitis; brittle hair and hair loss.

Heavy metals are also considered to be endocrine disruptors which disrupt your normal regulation of hormonal levels. They are also suspected to be respiratory toxins and there are no known “safe” blood levels.

How Consumers Can Avoid Heavy Metal Toxins in Makeup Cosmetics

Consumers need to begin reading labels and doing their research before using makeup cosmetic products. Since these heavy metals will not appear on the labels as a direct ingredient, you will need to research the brand and company and get familiar with ingredients that you need to avoid.

As The Vancouver Sun reported May 16, 2011, you wont’ find these metals listed on the ingredient label and will have to do your own research to find out what’s safe and what isn’t. Consumer can pressure Health Canada and ask them to start enforcing the guidelines and making it mandatory that full lists of ingredients are disclosed to consumers, including by-products and contaminants.

The Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents to avoid letting their children use any products that contained lead. Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy lists to read so as to how parents can help their children avoid lead in their products is anyone’s guess.

What the Cosmetic Industry Says About Toxic Metals in Makeup Cosmetics

Now of course, we can guess what the industry says about any concern for toxic metals in cosmetics, but for the sake of argument and to remain unbiased – let’s give a paragraph or so to Darren Praznik, president and CEO of the Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrances Association (CCTFA).

Praznik indicates the Enviornmental Defence’s report was skewed and misleading; designed to only scare the general public. He also indicates that that consumers would have to consume “several pounds of cosmetics every day to get within any amount that was of real risk…”.

To Mr. Praznik I would say, ” since these toxic heavy metals are known to accumulate in our bodies over time, how can you tell me that consuming even ‘acceptable’ levels of lead and arsenic will not cause me serious health issues after a decade or two?” The body does not rid itself of these metals and with so many products containing these metals, you are likely ingesting much more than you think.

I would also note that Mr. Praznik indicated that “skin wouldn’t absorb any heavy metals because it acts as a strong shield,” but I wonder if Mr. Praznik has heard of propylene glycol and other cosmetic ingredients that increase absorption rates and allow these toxic chemicals to penetrate the skin easier? Sure the skin is strong, but it’s not made of teflon and what goes ON your body, goes IN your body.

One last note as to why Mr. Praznik hold his viewpoint: It’s his job! He represents 160 companies that are members of the CCTFA including: L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Chanel and Procter & Gamble Beauty, so there is really no surprise which side of the fence he’s on. Imagine how long a president could hold onto his position if he starting saying ” These cosmetic companies are poisoning the general public and don’t want to spend the extra money to ensure the heavy metals are removed from the final product!”

Finding Products Without Harmful Ingredients

You can check out the Environmental Working Groups Cosmetic Database and look up the products you use. The database shows what ingredients are present as well as which ingredients are likely to be contaminated with unwanted ingredients.

Consumers can also find natural products stores that strictly avoid toxic chemical ingredients. Just because a product is in a “natural” section does not mean it is the safest out there. A few boutiques, especially online, are offering only toxic-free products that do not contain questionable ingredients. Stores like Natural e GREEN offer a variety of personal care and cleaning products for the whole family and keep their customers informed with the latest information.

You may also wish to read books on these subjects and get familiar with ingredients you should avoid. “The Cosmetic Chemicals Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Buy”, is a great book that outlines the various common chemicals and alternate names it goes under. It is a thinner style handbook that can fit in your purse and serve as a great reference.


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6 responses to “Toxic Metals Found in Makeup Cosmetics


    February 27, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I have to say that it is true, that there are toxic metals in lipgloss and makeup. Fact or fiction, please.


    April 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    It is fact!

  3. dene62

    April 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    There is no doubt that the vast majority of lipsticks contain lead in extremely low concentrations due to the naturally-occuring lead in the pigments used to give the lipstick its colour. However, what is often ignored when people are making scary claims about lead in lipstick is that the lead is bound up in the pigment and is not available for absorption by the body – it is excreted along with the pigment itself. The amount of lead ingested daily in lipsticks is less than you will find in a glass of drinking water so, even if it could be retained in the body, it would be better to avoid drinking water than to worry about the lead in lipstick!

    • tamaralaschinsky

      April 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Dene, haven’t heard from you in awhile! Hope all has been good with you. I agree that the concentrations in many lipsticks may be harmless but again, there is no way we can know for sure. If you’ve ever seen a teenager put on lipstick or lipgloss, they are re-applying often, so it’s hard to say exactly how much is being consumed. In this day and age, consumers want the truth and when they hear about lead in something, especially around the mouth and likely ingested, it is bound to cause fear for sure.

      I agree though, there are extremists on both sides of the fence battling their views of safe and unsafe but what we need is more concrete evidence on both points of views to help ease the fear. Increases in mental illness and physical illnesses is obviously causing concern and parents want to avoid anything that may be remotely linked to causing these health risks. We cant’ live our lives in bubbles mind you, but most consumers just want to at least know what they may be exposed to.

      When Forbes writes an article like this: it is bound to raise questions.

      As quoted in that article:

      …the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report asserting that there is no safe level of lead for children and stressing the importance of preventing lead exposure for children and pregnant women. While lipstick is not sold to children, any mother will tell you it’s hard to keep them away from it, and pregnant women are often not appropriately cautioned about lead levels in lipstick.

      So we certainly need more education, awareness and disclosure when it comes to these items.

      • dene62

        April 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm

        Hi Tamara – I have been keeping a low profile, and intend to continue to do so, but I chanced upon this article and decided to comment. Yes, the article by Amy Westervelt raises questions, and one of them is “how did this article get to be published”? I have already commented on that article several times on the Forbes site, so I won’t repeat my points here. The quote from the CDCP is out of context and, as I have already stated, the lead in lipstick is bound to the pigment, so the exposure is very different as it is not bioavailable. Also, only around 50% of bioavailable lead is retained by the body, so it is not totally accumulative, although I do agree that exposure to bioavailable lead SHOULD be minimised (hence my comment about drinking less water!).

        The CDCP claim that there is no safe level of lead (for children) is not scientifically correct; hence my comment about the context. If there is no safe level, then exposure to a single lead atom would have measurable health effects. This is clearly not the case. It would have been more accurate to state that a safe level has not been established for children. Safe levels of exposure HAVE been established in, for example, drinking water (15 parts per billion in the USA). To claim that there is no safe exposure level without further qualification is scaremongering. The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics frequently make this very claim!

        For your interest (?), here is a link to an article I wrote that goes into some detail on the actual risk from lead in lipstick, and this supports may comments about drinking a cup of water:

        I hope you find it interesting 🙂

      • tamaralaschinsky

        June 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        Thanks Dene, that was a great article and I do agree with the fact that many companies do ‘scaremonger’. Shock advertising and actions is what drives people to form up and demand change and companies like PETA and the anti-abortion groups know this all too well! “Let’s scare the crap out of consumers and see how much change we can push”.

        I do agree with consumer safety and more education and love how many people are starting to ask questions and demand change. It is hard for companies and in times of poor economy, I do feel bad for companies that have to re-vamp their products to satisfy consumers, though on the other hand, there has been too little done in recent years to ensure products are safe.

        As I said before, the gov’t is totally inefficient in governing all that should be and has pretty much left it up to manufactures to ensure the products are safe. Now they are even extending that ‘honor system’ to farmers re: their livestock. And the penalty for putting out products that contain something they shouldn’t? A letter from the FDA written in a firm voice asking them to fix it. Not nearly enough to keep manufacturers in check.

        However, as you said re: lead, what is safe and what isn’t? There are so many products that contain toxins due to environmental reasons and can be out of the control of the manufacturer. Can we avoid these toxins? Of course not! We breathe the same polluted air, swim in the same polluted oceans and eat so many tainted foods. But here’s the thing, our bodies are great filtering systems! We are designed to filter out the junk and remove toxins from our bodies to ensure we function properly. But too many toxins and especially those that build up, will over-run our body and it will simply not be able to keep up.

        Do I think we can avoid all toxins in our products, not a chance! But do I do my best to avoid common chemicals – Yup! Why? Because I have found safer products that do not contain synthetic fragrance, parabens, phthalates, 1,4 Dioxane, MIT, BHA, BHT, Oxybenzone etc. Have I found a lipstick and lipgloss that is safer than L’Oreal, Revlon and the other brands -Yup and it looks awesome too! Do I let my daughter or son use crappy products on store shelves? Not often, but if there is something they want so bad (Like a Dora the Explorer) toothpaste, I will let them relish in the innocent joy once or twice. Of course, I also help educate them so they can make safer choices as adults.

        You have to admit, there has been much change in recent years including P&G reformulating their Herbal Essences because it was determined that their levels of 1,4 Dixoane exceed the allowable levels. Brazilian Blowout received nasty press and had to remove their products from our shelves due to WAY high levels of formaldehyde. Regardless that raw products contained lower levels, the heated product was off the charge (thus the need for true testing of the products and their intended uses and full regulation.) BPA has been banned in many products and continues to be removed from product. Toxic trio has been exposed and removed from many nail polishes – etc.

        Consumers are getting educated and driving change which is good. Advocates will continue to scaremonger while manufacturers will continue to downplay and somewhere in the middle, will be the truth! 🙂

        As always though, I do appreciate your feedback and sense of reason. I like my readers seeing both sides of the debate so they know that neither side is perfect and we can only do the best that we can do!

        Hope all is well with you, have a great summer!




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