When you swipe a tube of red lipstick across your smackers, could you be puckering up for a poison kiss?
Earlier this month, the watchdog group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that one-third of the lipsticks in a study of 33 red lipsticks contained levels of lead exceeding 0.1 parts per million - that's more lead than the FDA's limit for candy. Lead is a toxic material that in high doses can damage the kidneys and the reproductive system, as well as cause anemia.
"There was a rampant Internet rumor for many years about lead in lipstick that was widely dismissed by myth-buster Web sites and the cosmetics industry," said Stacy Malkan, a co-founding member of the campaign. But TV programs found lead upon testing cosmetics, Malkan explained, prompting the campaign to test at the Bodycote Testing Group laboratory in California almost three dozen red lipsticks, purchased in four American cities.
According to the campaign's Web site, the FDA doesn't have a limit on the amount of lead allowable in lipsticks, which usually is found in colorants or as a by-product of other ingredients. Some of the lipsticks that the campaign found to have the highest detectable amounts of lead include L'Oreal Colour Riche True Red, which contained 0.65 ppm; Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor Maximum Red, which contained 0.56 ppm, and Dior Addict Positive Red, which contained 0.21 ppm.
But some companies say the lipstick study is just a shade unrealistic. Jody Weiss, founder of PeaceKeeper Cause-metics, whose Paint Me Compassionate lipstick tested for .12 parts per million for lead by the campaign, fought back, saying in an interview that the study "might be making a measurement mistake."
It's "inaccurate" to compare a bar of chocolate against a tube of lipstick, as the makeup weighs less and is applied in small bits over an extended period, Weiss said. "A lipstick tube is only 4 grams, and you don't eat the whole tube in one sitting," she said.
But Malkan said other companies "are finding a way to make lipsticks that are not contaminated. It is possible to find cleaner sources."
In the meantime, a handful of the 33 lipsticks tested contained less than .02 parts per million, or barely detectable levels of lead. So you don't have to sacrifice your smoochable red lips to stay healthy.
HEALTHY COLOR: These 7 lipsticks were found to contain little to no lead
Wet n Wild Mega Colors Cherry Blossom, $1.99 at www.walgreens.com
Tarte Inside Out Vitamin Lipstick, $22 at www.tartecosmetics.com
Revlon Super Lustrous Love That Red $7.49 at www.cvs.com
Clinique's Long Last Lipstick Merlot, $14 at www.clinique.com
Dior's Replenishing Lip Color Red Premiere, $26 at www.amazon.com
The Body Shop's Lip Color Garnet, $12 at www.thebodyshop.com
MAC Matte Lipstick Viva Glam 1, $14 at www.maccosmetics.com