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Lipsticks contain metals at levels that could cause health concerns

How to keep your lips luscious and healthy

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The things we do for love have been immortalised in too many songs to mention. While we do undoubtedly turn ourselves inside out for the sake of romance, there is another subject that receives far less attention from lyricists — the things we do for beauty. As the thriving practice of any cosmetic surgeon will tell you, people are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to present a beautiful facade to the world. Long before we consider medical level intervention though, there is much primping, priming, and adorning that goes on. You might feel that makeup and so forth is less of an intervention than surgery but even cosmetics can contain dangerous substances, as has been shown in a new analysis of lipstick from the United States.

For the study, researchers from the University of California analysed 32 different lipsticks and lip glosses sold in pharmacies, department stores and supermarkets. This report went a step further than previous research by not only analysing for the presence of heavy metals in lipstick but also estimating how much of the metals a person using the lipsticks could be expected to swallow.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined average usage as leading to ingestion of 24mg of lipstick daily, while high use would lead to 87mg being swallowed daily. To be in this high-use group, you would be applying thick levels of lipstick and reapplying it several times during the day.

The analysis showed that people using high levels of lipstick could have an overexposure to chromium, cadmium, manganese and aluminium. Twenty-four of the products analysed also contained lead but at levels that are technically considered safe. However, the researchers did comment that the lead levels were a concern for young children who, as any parent can attest, love to play with makeup.

This was a small study of 32 brands available in the US and you can’t denigrate the whole industry based on this alone. It is a reminder, however, that cosmetics are not innocuous. They can contain some health nasties and, because they are products that are applied so regularly, the effects can accumulate. You should make careful choices with your beauty products and go natural, ethical and organic wherever possible. Beauty might be desirable but it is not worth getting sick for and, in the end, the most attractive thing (and the studies support this) is health.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.