Monday, June 3, 2013

Is Your Lipstick Killing You?

Lipstick may brighten your smile, but according to a recent study, it could also be poisoning your body. The study found that many commonly sold lipsticks and lip glosses contain lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other toxic metals, some at levels that could raise potential health concerns.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health analyzed 32 different lipsticks and lip glosses commonly sold in drugstores and department stores across the U.S. Although scientists had already detected metals in cosmetics in the past, this new report went a step further to estimate the risk of daily intake of the toxic metals. Lipstick and lip glosses are of particular concern since these products are applied to the lips and are gradually ingested.

“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter. Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term,” said S. Katharine Hammond, study author and professor of environmental health sciences. “This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention.’”

The scientists in the study determined that even if you don’t “slather on” lipstick or reapply lip products multiple times per day, you could still be at risk for ingesting a high concentration of toxins. The average user applies lipstick 2.3 times daily and ingests 24 milligrams each day, while a heavy user applies it as many as 14 times per day and ingests an average of 83 milligrams, according to the study.

The study found that even average users are at risk for excessive exposure to toxins. For instance, applying lipstick two times per day could lead to excessive exposure of chromium, a carcinogen associated with stomach tumors.

Individuals who are heavy users are even more at risk. Slathering on lipstick several times per day could lead to an overexposure of cadmium, aluminum and manganese. Exposure to high concentrations of manganese has been associated with toxicity in the nervous system.

Out of the 32 lip products tested, 24 of them contained lead, although at levels that were generally lower than the acceptable daily intake.

There are currently no standards for metal content in cosmetics sold in the U.S. However, cadmium, chromium and lead are all considered unacceptable ingredients, at any level, in cosmetic products sold in Europe, according to the European Union.

So, what’s the deal? Should you choose to forgo lip color and go au naturel? The authors of the study said there’s no reason to throw your lipstick away. Instead, they urge health regulators to have more oversight of lip products to prevent these toxic metals from getting inside your lipstick and into your body.

“I don’t think people should panic,” said Hammond. “But if you use it several times every day, you may want to think about it.” Her basic advice: “Use it less.”

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