Robert Tisserand


I just discovered a facebook page called “There’s lead in your lipstick”. Maybe I should start one called “There’s even more lead in your drinking water”. Heavy metal poisoning should not be taken lightly, it’s a serious issue, but the lead in lipstick fiasco no longer has any traction. Trace levels of lead are ubiquitous in our environment – in the soil, the plants that grow in it, the water that passes through it. We should be vigilant. But when you realize that you ingest more lead by drinking water every day, than you would if you consumed a whole tube of lipstick with your conflakes, this puts the matter into true perspective.


Why should I worry anyway, I don’t wear lipstick. And, since men have higher lead levels than women (because we shoot each other more often?) the lipstick factor isn’t making a huge difference. Average lead levels in US lipstick: 1 ppm (0.0001%). Found in one Chinese brand (not sold in the US): 3,760 ppm (0.37%). Two other Chinese-made lipsticks had over 2,000 ppm. If you live in China, don’t buy the lipstick. If you live in the US, this is one thing you don’t need to worry about. But if you enjoy worrying, there’s a facebook page called “There’s lead in your lipstick”.

A question came up recently on TheBeautyBrains forum: Lavender oil in cosmetics – does it cause skin cell death, and is that a problem? This was in response to the description of “lavender extract and oil” on Paula Begoun’s Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary. Paula is known for her belief that fragrances, natural or synthetic, have no place in cosmetic products. Here are some random examples from her website: “Cedarwood oil: there is evidence that cedarwood oil is allergenic and can cause skin irritation. Rose oil: Fragrant, volatile oil that can be a skin irritant and sensitizer. Tangerine oil: Fragrant, volatile citrus oil that can be a skin irritant.” And so on. In her profile of lavender oil, she goes out of her way to find negative information, but is hard pressed to find anything positive to say:

“In 1910 French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the virtues of the essential oil of lavender. Gattefossé badly burned his hand during an experiment in a perfumery plant and plunged his hand into the nearest tub of liquid, which just happened to be a lavender essential oil. He was later amazed at how quickly his burn healed and with very little scarring. This started a fascination with essential oils and inspired him to experiment with them during the First World War on soldiers in the military hospitals.”

It’s hard to tell how many essential oils are covered in Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s database, because if you put “essential oil” their search box, the results are pretty hit-and-miss. When I tried it, only 16 of the first 50 items listed were essential oils. Lemon oil, interestingly, was listed twice: CITRUS MEDICA LIMONUM (LEMON) OIL (hazard rating 0) and CITRUS MEDICA LIMONUM (LEMON) PEEL OIL (hazard rating 2).

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