I’ve got a question for you.  Should you give up lipstick, candy or water consumption first? It is a legitimate question based on the newest article from Skin Deep “I’ll take my lipstick unleaded, please” by Jane Houlihan. Below is a chart that takes a close look at the levels of lead (Pb) found by the FDA in lipsticks, the allowed level of lead in drinking water by the EPA and allowed levels of lead in candy.

Lipstick vs. Water vs. Candy

Let’s just say that long before the lipstick is going to kill you the water will have done you in.  Even your favorite candy will kill you before the lipstick does.  I’m sorry to say that if you are going to follow the direction of Skin Deep and throw out your lipstick then you are going to need a very large trash can.  Make sure you clear your home of all water and any other drink that has water in it, chocolate and candies of any kind.

How much lead is too much lead according to the EPA?

“Federal standards initially limited the amount of lead in water to 50 parts per billion (ppb). In light of new health and exposure data, EPA has set an action level of 15 ppb. If tests show that the level of lead in your household water is in the area of 15 ppb or higher, it is advisable – especially if there are young children in the home – to reduce the lead level in your tap water as much as possible. (EPA estimates that more than 40 million U.S. residents use water that can contain lead in excess of 15 ppb.)”  (source: EPA)

Obviously the FDA has a lower threshold limit for lead and yet they are being beat up by Skin Deep once again.  The FDA allows 20 ppm lead in straight undiluted FDA approved colors.  But there is not a lipstick on earth that is 100% color.  Most colors have even lower than 20 ppm lead and every batch of color must be approved by the FDA before it goes to market.

On September 2, 2009 the FDA updated their website: Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers

An important section of the update is included here:

How has the FDA followed up on the latest reports?

FDA scientists developed and validated a highly sensitive method for the analysis of total lead content in lipstick and applied the method to the same selection of lipsticks evaluated by the CSC. FDA found lead in all of the lipsticks tested, ranging from 0.09 ppm to 3.06 ppm with an average value of 1.07 ppm. FDA concludes that the lead levels found are within the range that would be expected from lipsticks formulated with permitted color additives and other ingredients that had been prepared under good manufacturing practice conditions.

An article on FDA’s testing method was published in the July/August 2009 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cosmetic Science.1 The article includes results for lead in all the lipsticks we tested. FDA’s testing method is now available for use by any suitable analytical laboratory for the determination of total lead in lipstick.

Is there a safety concern about the lead found by the FDA in lipsticks?

No. FDA has assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in its testing. Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use, is only ingested incidentally and in very small quantities. FDA does not consider the lead levels that it found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern. FDA also notes that the lead levels that it found are lower than limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics, including lipstick.

It has been reported that levels of lead in certain lipsticks exceed those for candy. Is this a fair comparison?

No. The FDA-recommended upper limit for lead in candy is 0.1 ppm. It is not scientifically valid to equate the risk to consumers presented by lead levels in candy, a product intended for ingestion, with that associated with lead levels in lipstick, a product intended for topical use and which is ingested in much smaller quantities than candy.” (Source: FDA.gov)

The test methods that the FDA used for the most recent study can be found here and are available to the public.

Does the FDA take lead seriously?  Can we trust the FDA to look out for the best interest of consumers?
Yes and yes.  The FDA has been actively involved in setting standards and recalling products based on levels of lead being too high.  Examples are these recalls made by the FDA for lead contamination:

Dagoba Organic Chocolate Recalls “Eclipse 87%,” “Los Rios 68%,” And “Prima Matera 100%” Dark Chocolate Products Because of High Lead Levels

Cost Plus World Market Recalls Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow Speckleware Beverage Containers and Glass Water Tank For Potential Lead Exposure Risk

State Health Department Warns Consumers Not to Eat Chaca Chaca, Lead-Contaminated Candy From Mexico

Speaking of Candy

What about the difference in allowed ppm of lead in candy vs. lipstick.  The Environmental Working Group chose the level of candy to compare to instead of water.  The numbers sure look more shocking when you compare ppm of lead in lipstick vs. candy at first glance.  But a realistic look at consumption of just one piece of candy vs. lipstick exposure takes all the thunder out of the exposure.  (See above chart)

Don’t give up candy yet!  For more information on lead in candy read the FDA’s page: Supporting Document for Recommended Maximum Level for Lead in Candy Likely To Be Consumed Frequently by Small Children and Guidance for Industry: Letter to Manufacturers, Importers, and Distributors of Imported Candy and Candy Wrappers.

What does the FDA say on Lead Poisoning from Cosmetics? Read their web page dedicated to  Kohl, Kajal, Al-Kahal, or Surma: By Any Name, a Source of Lead Poisoning.

Last Thoughts and Bottom Lines

Here is the bottom line – not one single case in U.S. medical literature of anyone getting lead poisoning or cancer from lipstick!  For more information on why lead is found in food and lipstick read my blog post The Real Story on Lead and Cosmetics.

In her article Skin Deep activist Jane Houlihan says, “If it’s made for the lips and contains lead at levels that mandate a warning under California’s Proposition 65, why doesn’t the manufacturer take steps to reduce the lead in this “Made in China” lip gloss?” This question just goes to show how little Jane Houlihan and the Environmental Working Groups knows about cosmetics.  California’s Proposition 65 requires that any product containing any one of 783 ingredients that trigger this warning statement put that warning statement on their label in order to sell cosmetics in California.  The ingredients in the Wink Strawberry Sangria Shimmer Lip Gloss that triggered the warning statement are:  Mineral Oil and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA).  The colorants used are NOT the trigger that required this company to put the Proposition 65 warning on their label even though she is trying to make you think that is the cause.

Please, please, Skin Deep a.k.a. Environmental Working Group, educate yourselves on the cosmetic industry before declaring yourself the authority on the industry.  Stop misleading consumers with your poor science and alarmist methods.

Why am I spending all this time sharing my insider knowledge?  Because everyone deserves to know the truth and make educated decisions.  I could stop making lipstick tomorrow and it wouldn’t even make a dent in our annual revenue.  But good companies are being harmed all over the nation by these twisted reports.  During bad economic times the last thing these companies need to do is to lose sales over the misrepresentation of their products by Skin Deep and the Environmental Working Group.  You need to educate your customers with the truth about this organization and their regular misinformation propaganda.

What about you?  Are you going to quit wearing lipstick?  Quit drinking water?  Quit eating candy?  Or quit listening to Skin Deep?


Katherine Corkill is the founder and creative director of Sterling Minerals Cosmetics. She became inspired to create products that would assist men and women in restoring the radiant healthy skin of their youth. It is her philosophy as an advocate of all things natural and organic when possible, to keep all skin looking young and healthy through protection from the suns’ harmful UV Rays, along with free radicals and environmental pollutants we are exposed to daily. Due diligence in knowing what goes into and on our bodies, and how it effects us long term has been a lifestyle for her and her family for more than 25 years. Holistic and wholesome nutrition combined with natural and organic ingredients in skincare products are key to keeping us healthy and beautiful inside and out. Katherine has over 20 years in Holistic and Homeopathic remedies with the use of Health Care through Ayurveda, and has been an Entrepreneur for more than 25 years. She has provided extensive research in Beauty and Cosmetic Industry Standards, and pursued studies in Chemistry, Aesthetics and Color Theory. She’s also the Master Formulator of her own personal line of mineral makeup for Sterling Minerals Cosmetics. She recently introduced her new line of ONATI Skin Care, where she believes in combining science with nature for the ultimate skincare regimen, keeping skin healthy while avoiding potential problems. Her commitment is to continue her never-ending research and provide truth, integrity, ethics, and education to anyone who seeks it. She will always continue to strive to offer result-driven formulas to those who will accept nothing less

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