The latest on lead and your lipstick

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The latest on lead and your lipstick

Lipstick is literally the word on everyone’s lips right now. And not just because matte is the season’s new gloss. A recent report in the US has claimed some of our favourite lippies contain “surprisingly high levels of lead”, sparking industry-wide debate and freaking lipstick lovers out.

If you’ve ever had one of those ‘lead poisoning from your lipstick’ emails bounce into your inbox, you’ve heard the rumours before.

But unlike the emails, which are always debunked as hoaxes sent by bored Dungeons and Dragons fans, this report has gotten some serious attention. 

The gist of the report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is that some lipsticks, particularly red ones from brands including L’Oreal, Covergirl and Dior, were found to contain levels of lead that exceed limits the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts on sweets, though none listed lead as an ingredient. “Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body,” states the press release accompanying the report, which also cites a link between this kind of lead exposure, miscarriage, infertility and illness in young children.

Sounds scary, but then so did the similar sounding email I received from Dr Nemin at Mt Sinai Hospital – and it turned out that he didn’t even exist. So should we really be eyeing our most beloved lipsticks suspiciously now?

Unsurprisingly, the beauty industry has a little something to say about that. I read return statements from the heavyweights in industry bible Women’s Wear Daily. L’Oréal said it’s “committed to upholding the highest standards of safety for all the products it makes and sells. Each and every ingredient used in [L’Oreal] products has been thoroughly reviewed and tested by our internal safety team made up of toxicologists, clinicians, pharmacists and physicians.”

The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) also weighed in, stating: “Despite continuous allegations over the years, lead is not intentionally added to cosmetics. Lead is a naturally occurring element that is found everywhere in the environment… The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards.”

For their part, the FDA says that the concerns of similar reports have not “generally” been supported by their own analysis and that they would confirm the “factual basis of [this report]” before deciding on any action.

So while lipstick junkies like me are left in limbo, cue the launch of supermodel Josie Maran’s self-labelled line of eco chic make-up. Talk about timing – it hit US shelves just before the lead and lipstick debate caught fire and is also a member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

You could call it glam for greenies. Josie Maran Cosmetics skip toxic ingredients, wear only completely recyclable packaging and look completely covetable while doing it. I’ve been ogling the hippie chic compacts, glosses, powders and, yes, organically-enriched lippies online since they were released in early September. And hatching plans to get my hands on them.

The glitch is that Josie Maran Cosmetics isn’t available in Australia and the brand’s not even shipping outside the US! What’s a girl with a beauty habit to do?

Find a girlfriend heading stateside sometime soon and call dibs on some of her luggage space, that’s what. She won’t mind a shopping order or 20 – that’s what friends are for…

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