Your cosmetics can hurt you! Heavy metals in lip gloss! - Aspire Natural Health

Your cosmetics can hurt you! Heavy metals in lip gloss!

A recent study by a Canadian environmental group called Environmental Defence – get the study HERE – highlights a big problem with conventional cosmetics.

And that is that the cosmetics industry exists in a gray zone as far as laws go – they aren’t drugs and they aren’t foods, so there is basically little in the way of laws controlling what goes into cosmetics.

There is no requirement to list ingredients like in food, and the cosmetics companies are mostly accountable to themselves with (at least in the US) a voluntary trade association that ‘holds them accountable’ to good practices.

Unfortunately, as we all know, companies left to their own devices don’t tend to place safety high on their list.

From the paper, “An Environmental Working Group analysis found that at least 146 cosmetic ingredients may contain harmful impurities linked to cancer and other serious health impacts and that 80 per cent of the 9,747 personal care products studied contain these potentially contaminated ingredients, including more than 80 per cent of all lip balms.”

So the group Environmental Defence asked six women of varying ages to list off 5 pieces and brands of makeup that they used regularly. To this they added 5 more pieces of makeup, and because some makeups come with different pieces this came to 49 pieces of makeup tested .

The makeup included: five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses.

The group purchased these items and sent them off to an accredited lab which tested them for heavy metals.

The metals they looked for were: arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, nickel, selenium, and thallium. Of these four were considered metals of most concern and were: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

None of these metals are nice, and all can cause significant health problems.

The results

  • Seven of the eight metals of concern were found in 49 different face makeup items. On average, products contained two of the four metals of most concern and four of the eight metals of concern.
  • Only one product, Annabelle Mineral Pigment Dust (Solar), was found to not contain a single metal of most concern. All products contained at least two metals of concern.
  • Benefit Benetint Pocket Pal (Red Tint) contained the most metals of concern with seven of the eight metals detected.
  • The Benefit Benetint lip gloss also contained the highest level of lead at 110ppm, over 10 times higher than the 10ppm limit set out in the Health Canada Draft Guidance on Heavy Metal Impurities in Cosmetics.
  • Five products – one foundation, two mascaras, and two lipsticks/tints/glosses – contained the second-most metals of concern as six of the eight metals were found.
  • None of the heavy metals were listed on the product label.

And in chart form:

Heavy metal           % of items containing

Arsenic                                20%

Cadmium                             51%

Lead                                   96%

Mercury                                 0%

Nickel                                 100%

Beryllium                              90%

Thallium                               61%

Selenium                              14%


So, the good news. Of the 49 items tested none contained mercury.

That’s pretty much it for good news.

On the not so good news, 20% contained arsenic, 51% cadmium, 96% contained lead, and all contained nickel. None of the 49 products contained undetectable amounts of the 8 metals tested for.

Two qualifiers

  1. The actual amounts of metals in each product varied. While all were detectable, some were at the bottom of the range and others at the top. The study report doesn’t list exact amounts.
  2. We honestly don’t know how well absorbed these metals are on the skin. To the best of my knowledge good research has not been done. Most likely some are better absorbed than others. So the threat of having various metals in the makeup will vary. Lip balms and lipsticks of course would be the most dangerous as they come in contact with your saliva which means you could easily absorb and swallow them.


How dangerous is this? Is this something we should get worked up about?

I don’t know. We don’t have the studies to know how well absorbed they are by the skin, and we don’t really have the best idea how dangerous these low levels of metals might be.

However, given the precautionary principle here (better safe than sorry), I think it’s cause for concern.

All of these metals have been shown in toxicology testing to be dangerous. And if there is a good reason for them to be included in makeup, I don’t know what it is.

Given that, I think it’s just prudent to avoid putting toxic compounds on your face and body.


Clinical stories

It’s important to remember that this study ONLY looked for 8 heavy metals. In my clinical practice and those of my colleagues we’ve seen a lot of other stuff turn up in makeup. One of the most heinous is estrogen. At least some wrinkle creams, contain estrogen because it makes your skin plump and youthful looking. Yes it’s illegal, and yes it’s still done.

It’s something we often forget to look at when we see a woman come in with high estrogen – her cosmetics. But my colleagues and I have case histories of women with no other reason that we could find for high estrogen. Finally we sent some of their makeup to a lab for testing and found high levels of estrogen. When they stopped the makeup and we helped them detox, things returned to normal.

Unfortunately, many labs now refuse to test cosmetics because a couple had big cosmetic companies come in and sue them into bankruptcy.


What you can do?

  1. Cut down on the amount of makeup you use. What’s really best for you? Would a few products strategically placed still give you the results you’re looking for. If you’re not sure how to use makeup to best effect, consider having a session with a professional to teach you what works best for your face and how to use it.
  2. Healthy skin needs less makeup. Take care of underlying health issues so you are healthier AND have nicer skin.
  3. Do your best to try and distance yourself from the cult of beauty in our society. Beauty is nice, everyone likes to look good, but your value as a human being is not based on how you look.
  4. Purchase ‘natural’ cosmetics. They might not be perfect either, but they’re less likely to contain the 146 potentially carcinogenic compounds found in conventional makeup.
  5. Start by going to and get informed.

For a full look at Environmental Defence’s study, click HERE


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Another Interesting post:

What Does Natural Mean? – Part I