Could Your Lipstick Be Making You Sick?

Woman Applying Lipstick

Most of us probably believe that any beauty product on the market has undergone testing to verify its contents are safe. But unlike pharmaceuticals or pesticides, chemical ingredients in cosmetics do NOT have to be tested or approved before they are put on the market.

According to the FDA’s own website, “Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval, with the exception of color additives.”

And the main law we have that attempts to monitor safety, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), does not regulate cosmetics either.

This is very concerning, as heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron have been found in numerous personal care products ranging from teeth whiteners and skin creams to eyeliners and lipsticks that millions use everyday.

                  Let’s Take A Look At Lead In Lipstick

Studies have repeatedly shown that lead, a heavy metal that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns humans should avoid exposure to entirely, has been found in lipstick for years. The first serious investigation of lead in lipstick was conducted in 2007 when the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested a range of products and found traces of lead in 61% of name brand lipsticks. The list of toxic lip care products also included a tinted chap stick made by Burt’s Bees, a company (now owned by Clorox) that states “truly natural products that have a positive effect on both you and the world you live in. “

Elevated lead levels in adults can lead to many health problems, including:

  • Learning, Language, and Behavioral Problems
  • Hormonal Disturbances
  • Miscarriages
  • Seizures
  • Delayed Puberty in Girls and Development of Testes in Boys

Under pressure from consumers, the FDA released a follow-up study in 2010 that found unsafe lead levels in all 400 samples of lipstick tested. Researchers found levels four times higher than those found in the 2007 Campaign study.

Lipstick Close Up

                   What Other Toxins Are In Lipstick?

A study by University of California researchers found nine toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, manganese, aluminum and other toxins considered hazardous by the CDC in a sampling of 32 lip products used by young women aged 14-19 years old. Toxin levels varied widely depending on the brand. The research revealed that women who applied lipstick from two to fourteen times a day were ingesting at least 20% or more of the daily amount considered safe in drinking water (and I don’t believe that level is safe!).

Heavy metals are often used in mineral dyes, which give lipstick its pigment. They are also found in soil and groundwater.  What begins as very dilute is often concentrated during the manufacturing process.

Cadmium, a carcinogen, has been shown in breast cancer biopsies and in lab experiments to cause cancer cells to multiply.

Mercury, another toxic heavy metal, is frequently found in high levels in imported skin care products.  It frequently builds up in body tissues causing many potential symptoms including memory loss, vision/hearing problems, tremors, headaches, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and depression.

                     There Is No Safe Dose Of Lead!

Lead accumulates in the body’s tissues over time, so there is no safe level of lead exposure.  Particularly concerning is that, according to many experts, the average woman EATS 10 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime! This makes lipstick a leading cause of lead toxicity for women (FDA, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics).  Also remember:

  • Skin is not the most efficient filter of toxins. It absorbs up to 60% of what we put on it.
  • Heavy metals bio-accumulate over time, taking their toll.
  • Babies are born “prepolluted” with hundreds of measurable toxins in their bloodstream.

     How Much Heavy Metal Do You Have In Your Body?

There are several methods to determine your body’s heavy metal “burden” or “load” as it is often called. For many of my patients, I recommend Doctor’s Data Hair Toxic Element Exposure Kit. I have found this test kit to be very helpful in measuring levels of heavy metals in the body’s tissues. Hair is a body tissue, so it also accumulates heavy metals over time.   What is found in the hair is representative of what is found in the body.

Avoiding exposure to heavy metals that don’t show up in ingredient labels can be a challenge. It is important to do your research and find safer alternatives.  For women in particular, that may mean parting with your favorite lipstick and finding a better alternative.

Based on a patient’s type and amount of heavy metals found to be present, I have developed several specific, natural detoxification protocols that are quite helpful in eliminating heavy metals. These are tailored to each patient’s specific needs. If you have questions or concerns regarding heavy metal bioaccumulation, please feel free to call or email me.  I look forward to addressing your healthcare needs with you!


  1. I am getting ready to have my murcery filling removed slowly they are making me sick now my mouth taste like metal and I have some bad root canals also it’s been a mess I was wondering how I can get rid of my heavy metals and do I have to wait until they are all removed before I start to try and rid my body of the awful medals or can I start now I just started taking your bowel formula and ordered your probiotic do I take those together Thank you

    • Hello Michele,
      I am glad you are having your mercury filling removed.

      Both products you mention should really help you.

      If you would like, I would be glad to schedule a phone consultation with you, or see you at our Integrative Medical Center.
      This would include a complete review of your medical history, any test results, and consultations. Further testing, such as hair analysis for
      heavy metals, could be ordered. A targeted, natural heavy metal detoxification program would then be implemented.

      Please feel free to call my nurse, Debra, at 513-741-8653. She will be glad to assist you and answer any questions you may have.

      Warmest regards,

      Dr. M

    • Hi Michele,
      Glad to hear you are getting rid of the mercury! Please contact me through my Q & A forum on this site.
      I can recommend a test to evaluate your body burden of heavy metals. I would also be able to schedule a telemedicine
      consultation or consultation at our Integrative Medical Center with you to design a targeted, natural heavy metal detox program.
      Dr. Maxwell


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