What’s more adorable than little girls playing dress-up and putting on mom’s or grandma’s make-up?
Well, I think after you hear what may be in that lipstick (among other things), you’re going to want to put it under lock and key.
Along with foods and drugs, the FDA also regulates cosmetics, but it might as well be in “name only.” Because while it’s fully aware of contaminants such as lead and other dangerous compounds in things like lipstick, eye shadow and lotions, it’s doing next to nothing about it.
Finally, however, the agency shuffled into action and issued its “current thinking” about the problem.
And it amounts to… actually not very much!
The FDA still won’t be routinely testing or even regulating how much can be in the finished product.
In other words, it’s pretty much the Wild West out there where cosmetics are concerned — making it doubly important that you know how to make safer choices.
Getting the lead out
If you think that the FDA doesn’t do much to protect us where drugs are concerned, the way it handles cosmetics is even worse.
Back 10 years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted independent testing on a big range of popular lipstick brands and found lead in over 60 percent of them.
Several years after that, the FDA finally did some testing of its own – and not only were the results no better, they were actually worse. I’m talking about common, drug store brands such as L’Oreal, Cover Girl, Revlon and Maybelline.
So, instead of demanding that these companies do whatever it takes to get the lead out, the FDA just sat on its hands.
But finally at the end of December, it made a big announcement.
It issued a non-binding, practically meaningless “suggestion” to the cosmetics industry: Keep lead levels below 10 ppm (parts per million) in lipstick and other cosmetics.
Lead, and other toxic contaminates such as aluminum, cadmium and chromium aren’t deliberately added to cosmetics, but they hitchhike along with the pigments that color them.
To make things even crazier, while the agency does appear to regulate how much lead (and other toxic metals) can be in the actual coloring agent, there’s nothing saying how much can be in the final lipstick tube.
Even the testing of the pigments or colors (which are regulated) leaves something to be desired. That job was actually outsourced to a cosmetics industry trade group many years ago.
Here’s the thing: Despite the fact that the FDA somehow believes that 10 ppm is okay, no amount of lead exposure is safe, especially where kids are concerned.
Your body can easily absorb anything that’s applied on the skin’s surface, and certainly lipstick transfers to food and can be ingested when you lick your lips – especially when you apply it many times throughout the day.
And the amounts can add up. One study found that simply by routinely applying certain lipsticks, a woman could be exposed to a significant amount of these chemicals.
Plus that, lead can build up in the body over time, causing numerous health issues. For adults, these can include memory problems and damage to the heart, kidneys and brain. For kids, the results of lead exposure can include permanent brain damage.
That’s why lead has been legislated out of things like gasoline, paint and pipes.
But, unbelievably, not cosmetics.
And as far as even regulating this 10 ppm guideline, don’t bet on that happening, either. It’s not a rule… merely a “suggestion.”
There are, however, some steps you can take to lower the risk:
- Go light on colors. Research has found that dark reds and brown shades of lipstick often contain more lead and other contaminants.
- Let your personality sparkle, not your lips. Sparkly lip glosses typically contain mica, which contains lead and other metals.
- Go natural. Cosmetics and makeup with plant-based colors, coconut, shea butter and other more natural ingredients aren’t just for tree-hugging hipsters but a good way to stay away from lead and other toxins.
For more information, the Environmental Working Group maintains a database on a wide range of cosmetics and risky ingredients and even a product lookup, which you can find at www.ewg.org/skindeep/.
“FDA suggests limit on lead in lipstick and other cosmetics” Susan Scutti, December 23, 2016, CNN, cnn.com