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Lead in Makeup – How to Test for Lead in Makeup

Lead in Makeup – How to Test for Lead in Makeup


What is Lead?

Lead is a harmful heavy metal commonly used in construction, weights, bullets, batteries, fusible alloys and many more. After a certain point of contact, it becomes poisonous to both humans and animals. It causes a variety of disorders and diseases relate to the blood, brain and nervous system. Out of all the stable elements, lead has the highest atomic number.

Exposure to this heavy metal is possible through dermal contact, ingestion and inhalation. Note that if there is lead in your makeup, you can get poisoned by applying it on your skin, inhaling particles of it or by ingesting lipstick through licking or eating. Ingestion is the most common form of exposure, as it can enter the body through hand-to-mouth contact, or through use of lead-contaminated lip products.

Lead may not necessarily be added directly to cosmetics. The problem is in the color additives. These color additives may be mineral-based and thus, contain lead found in water, air and soil.

What the FDA Says

“We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern,” the FDA said on its website. “The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics.” However, if you take into account how many times we apply makeup on daily, over the number of days a year we use lipstick, it may amount to significantly higher levels of lead ingestion. Another problem is that lead is not only found in lipsticks. Foundations, blushes, bronzers, powders, concealers and even primers may contain lead as well, making the risk of exposure from ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact much higher. Also, if we were to take into account the exposure to lead from other sources such as water and fragrances, the possibility of someone getting poisoned by lead doesn’t seem too farfetched.

Watch Out For

In their most recent analysis of 400 lipsticks, Maybelline’s Color Sensational “Pink Petal” lipstick was found to have the highest amount of lead at 7.19 parts per million. That’s about seven times the average, 1.11 parts per million, based on the results of the study. The FDA’s limit for lead in candy is 0.1 parts per million, although the same standards are not set for cosmetics because candy is ingested whereas cosmetics are ingested in much smaller quantities.

Out of 400 tested products, these were found to contain the lowest levels of lead:

1. M.A.C’s Red – 0.03
2. Lori Anne’s Blue – 0.03
3. Clinique’s Black Honey – <0.026
4. L’Oreal’s Cherry On Top – <0.026
5. Wet’n’ Wild’s Bahama Mama – <0.026

The good news is that you can easily perform a test of your own! Before purchasing any makeup products, test if for lead.

What you’ll need to test for lead:

1. Gold (24 carats)
2. Makeup product/s

What you’ll need to do:

1. Swipe a generous amount of product on your skin. You can also do this on a piece of clean paper to avoid exposure to it, should this test reveal traces of lead in the product.

2. Take your gold jewelry and rub it against the swatch about twenty times. You need to watch out for grayish/blackish tinges showing up on the swatch. That’s the lead reacting to gold. That’s it!

Results

The results are devastating to me as I use these two products almost everyday. I’ll test the rest of my cosmetics in a few days just to see how badly I’ll be set back. Whether you believe in this test or not is up to you; what’s important is that you are now more aware of how certain brands contain higher levels of lead than others. Note that the products with the lowers levels of lead were not the most expensive ones in the list, so just because it’s by NARS or Estee Lauder, doesn’t mean it’s safe to use.

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos loves all things beauty and make-up. She’s always on the lookout for the newest tips, techniques and trends, and is always eager to learn more. Her motto for beauty products is: “A hefty price tag is not synonymous with quality.”

Patricia Ramos

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6 Comments

  1. Sue Lin
    Sue Lin
    July 28, 2012, 11:45 am

    That’s a really neat trick! Nasty heavy metals should be the last thing applied or worse, being ingested as lipstick. It’s like slow poisoning, isn’t it?

    So abhorred by how much lead is hidden in makeup, but it’s sorta hard parting with old favorites. I hope my mom isn’t pissed that I used my heirloom gold chain to test for lead hehe….

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  2. Claire
    August 11, 2012, 11:01 pm

    You might find this interesting reading: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/lipstick.asp Namely, the section that reads “The streaks that supposedly herald the presence of lead in one’s lipstick are in reality dark marks produced by the testing agents themselves. Gold, silver, copper, and pewter leave these trails no matter what they’re rubbed against, in the same way that pencils make marks on whatever surfaces they are trailed along. “

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  3. Juna Oh
    April 14, 2013, 2:16 am

    What if i dont have 24 carat gold? I only have lower carat. Will it affect the test? Thanks!

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    • Makeup Mew
      May 8, 2014, 6:23 am

      You’ll need at least 99.999% gold or 24 K to be sure.

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  4. Aleena
    April 30, 2014, 4:40 pm

    how can i do this on kryolan tv paint sticks (foundation sticks)? also i don’t have 24 carat gold, the jewellery i have is like 12 or less. can you perform this test on that brand please. :) if you have time, i use 2W.

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    • Makeup Mew
      May 8, 2014, 6:21 am

      I don’t have kryolan tv paint stick but if I do come across it I’ll email you.

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