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Is There Lead In Our Lipstick?

Here is an article copied from Paula Begoin's website It was IMPOSSIBLE to reference from her site. SO I posted it HERE so that I could Directly reference it.

Category: Makeup Date: January/February 2004

Dear Paula,
There is an article being circulated over the Internet that certain lipsticks contain lead, which is one of the ingredients that may cause cancer. Part of the message stated that "The higher the lead content, the greater the chance of causing cancer. After doing a test on lipsticks, it was found that the Yves Saint Laurent lipstick contained the largest amount of lead. Watch out for those lipsticks that are supposed to stay longer. If your lipstick stays longer, it is because of the higher content of lead. Here is the test you can do yourself, 1) Put some lipstick on your hand. 2) Use a 24k-14k gold ring to scratch on the lipstick. 3) If the lipstick color changes to black then you know the lipstick contains lead."

I just wanted to know what your opinion is of this--is any of it true? Is it indeed harmful? I'm sure many women out there (including myself), end up accidentally ingesting minute quantities of lipstick every time we wear it.

Connie, via email search

Dear Connie,
First, to be absolutely clear, lead is never added to lipstick! And beyond that, it is ludicrous to suggest lead has anything to do with long-wearing lipsticks, or that gold in any form can detect lead. Lead-based house paint, a major source of problems because of its lead content, can't be detected by scratching it with anything. While Yves Saint Laurent lipsticks are overpriced, they do not contain lead.

The one iota of truth in this offensive and devious Internet email is that a minute amount of lead may be present in some dyes used in cosmetics. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there are trace amounts of lead in certain FD &C (Food, Drug and Cosmetic) coloring agents. FDA separates color additives into two categories: (1) colors that the agency certifies (derived primarily from petroleum and known as coal-tar dyes) and (2) colors that are exempted from certification but approved for use (obtained largely from mineral, plant, or animal sources). Only approved substances may be used to color foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices.

The FDA requires coal-tar dye manufacturers to submit test samples from each batch of color produced. These are then tested to confirm that each batch of the color is within established specifications. These certified colors are listed on labels as FD &C, D&C, or external D&C. It is illegal to use the uncertified versions of color additives that require certification in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. To ensure consumer safety, only certain dyes can be used around the mouth and around the eyes.

In regard to the gold-ring test, explains that "…rubbing various metals across lipstick smears made on sheets of white paper produced dark brown marks… 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." went further to expose one other relentless lipstick myth. Have you heard this one--that the average woman who wears lipstick throughout her life will ingest between 4 and 6 pounds of lipstick? The improbability of this tall (and stomach-turning) tale leaves no room for doubt: it isn't possible. Think about it this way. The average tube of lipstick contains about 0.15 ounce of product, so if a woman were eating 5 pounds of the stuff, that would be the equivalent of 530 whole tubes. As states, "The average woman isn't even likely to own [530] lipsticks during her lifetime, let alone use them right down to their nubs, with none of her lip rouge ever being kissed off, left on the edge of her coffee mug" or fork, spoon, or wiped off on a Kleenex.

One other point: lead does not cause cancer (though it is listed as a possible carcinogen from some sources). It does, however, cause brain and nerve damage, particularly in children (Sources: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,, and Cell Biology and Toxicology, 2002, volume 8, issue 5, pages 341–348).

An article in Consumer Reports (August 2003) suggests that scare-tactic emails repeatedly forwarded around the Internet are often a way for spammers to collect email addresses. Passing these lies around helps contribute to the nightmare known as spam. You can chalk this lipstick myth up to hundreds of others lurking around the Internet. When bizarre, unsubstantiated information like this comes your way, two of the best sources for finding out the truth are and