The research was conducted by experts from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health who analyzed 32 different lipsticks and glosses commonly sold in drugstores and department stores.
Although studies in the past have detected metals in cosmetics, the new report estimated the risk by analyzing the concentration of the metals found and users’ possible daily intake of the metals.
This intake was then compared with current health guidelines. The scientists published their results in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
S. Katharine Hammond, study author and professor of environmental health sciences, said:
“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter. Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term.”
Special concern is given to lipstick and lip gloss because the products are gradually ingested or absorbed by the person wearing them, the authors explained.
Based on usage data reported in a prior report, the scientists in the new study developed definitions for average and high use of lip makeup.
Average use was defined as an ingestion of 24 milligrams of lip makeup each day, while high use was defined as 87 milligrams ingested per day. People who “slather on” lipstick and reapply it multiple times throughout the day are more likely to fall under the high use group.
Using acceptable daily intakes obtained from this report, average use of some lipsticks and glosses would lead to excessive exposure to chromium – a carcinogen associated with stomach tumors.
High use of these cosmetics could lead to overexposure to cadmium, aluminum, and manganese as well, and exposure to high concentrations of manganese over time has been associated with toxicity in the nervous system.
Twenty-four products analyzed contained lead, but at a level that was generally lower than the acceptable daily intake. However, the lead levels are still concerning for young kids, who sometimes like to play with makeup, because it is not safe for them to be exposed to lead at all.
A study conducted by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 showed that more than 400 popular lipstick brands contain twice as much lead as previously thought.
For the majority of adults, there is no reason to throw lip glosses and lipsticks away, the authors explained. However, the amount of metals detected do indicate that health regulators need to have more oversight of the products.
Currently, there are no standards for metal content in cosmetics sold in the U.S. Cadmium, chromium, and lead are considered unacceptable ingredients, at any level, in cosmetic products sold in Europe, according to the European Union.
Leading author Sa Liu, a UC Berkeley researcher in environmental health sciences, concluded:
“I believe that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should pay attention to this. Our study was small, using lip products that had been identified by young Asian women in Oakland, Calif. But, the lipsticks and lip glosses in our study are common brands available in stores everywhere. Based upon our findings, a larger, more thorough survey of lip products – and cosmetics in general – is warranted.”
Written by Sarah Glynn