The cosmetic industry has been under fire regarding lead in lipstick and cosmetics for years now.  The debate continues, but it is much to do about nothing.

Lead (Pb) is on the periodic table, is a naturally occurring substance. It occurs extensively in the earth’s crust and is the 36th most common chemical element on earth, so of course it is going to show up in natural ingredients.

FDA limits lead in color additives to maximum specified levels, typically no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) for color additives approved for use in cosmetics. (Source FDA)  Those colors are then diluted into the finished products which explains why levels of lead found in lipstick ranged from .09 ppm to 3.06 ppm and not 20 ppm.

The EPA allows up to 15 ppb of lead in tap water
The FDA allows 5 ppb in bottled water.
The FDA allows .1 ppm of lead in candy.

Lead Levels Assuming Daily Intake

  • Lead from bottled water, assuming 64 ounces of water intake per day = daily lead level intake 0.00000032 ounces.
  • Lead from tap water, assuming 64 ounces of water intake per day = daily lead level intake 0.00000096
  • Lead from candy, assuming 8 ounces of candy per day = daily lead level intake 0.0000008 ounces.
  • Lead from lipstick, 24 to 80 milligrams (.00084 to .00282 ounces) per day applied lipstick = daily lead exposure 0.00000000086 ounces at the highest exposure

Actual Lead Exposure

  • Tap water exposes you to 1116 times more lead than lipstick per day.
  • Bottle water exposes you to 372 times more lead than lipstick per day.
  • Candy exposes you to 930 times more lead than lipstick per day

In addition, studies have shown that skin only absorbs 1% of lead that it comes in contact with.  That means that the actual exposure rate is even lower, but if you argued that 100% of the lipstick applied to the lips is consumed the exposure rates above work.

Just to clarify, lead isn’t sold as a separate ingredient for cosmetic scientists to add to lipstick. It is not being added to lipstick, chocolate, your fruits and vegetables or even the water.

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