Toxic Halloween makeup – should you be afraid?

October 30th, 2013 by Sarah Leave a reply »

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In this weeks’s Beauty Brains show we discussed the Huff Po article on toxic makeup. Here’s a transcript (or at least a summary) of the points we covered.

1. “Because of the fact that the cosmetics industry is not regulated by the FDA, there are no laws based on levels that are safe for makeup.”

Truth: Consumer advocacy groups frequently claim that the cosmetic industry is unregulated. This is false. The regulatory framework for the cosmetic industry was set up in 1938 with the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This created the FDA which is who regulates the cosmetic industry.


2. “Lead is banned from makeup in both Canada and Europe but it’s allowed AT ANY LEVEL in makeup in the U.S.”

Truth: The Cosmetics Directive in the European Union specifically bans lead as an ingredient while in the US lead is NOT included as an approved ingredient in the Cosmetic Dictionary. In other words, lead is not allowed as an ingredient in EITHER country. (The exception in the US is lead acetate which is allowed as a color additive but products containing this ingredient must be clearly with the following warning statement: “CAUTION: Contains lead acetate. For external use only.”)

It’s also true in both the US and EU that cosmetics contain trace amounts of lead – there’s a big difference between adding lead as an ingredient and having trace amounts of lead present as in impurity.


3. “…there are numerous other paths of exposure [to lead] and makeup is a critical one.”

Truth: According to the American Cancer Society, the main routes of exposure to lead are breathing and ingestion. Other than the exception of kohl eye makeup, which is known to contain high amounts of lead (and which is NOT allowed in the US), makeup is not cited as a “critical” concern for lead exposure. If you’re really worried about protecting children from lead then don’t let them eat any candy (which is allowed by the FDA to contain up to 0.5 ppm of lead) or drink tap water (which is allowed by the EPA to contain up to 15 ppb lead.) Since candy and water are directly ingested, the potential for lead exposure is MUCH greater from these sources than from makeup which is poorly absorbed by skin, if at all.


4. “Since we absorb as much as 80 percent of what goes on our skin, the precautionary principal tells us it’s not smart to coat ourselves with things containing lead.”

Truth: In reality our skin is an effective barrier against most materials and very little of what is applied topically actually makes it through the skin into the blood. The notion that 80% of whatever goes on skin is absorbed is not accurate.


5. “Lead in lipstick has been a known issue for years and the FDA continues to do periodic tests which only show more lead in lipstick…”

Truth: Actually last two studies (using the method validated by the FDA) show a consistent amount of lead present in lipstick, not “more” lead. The first study, from 2009 showed an average of 1.07 ppm while the most recent study 2012 showed 1.11 ppm. From a statistical perspective this is not an increase in lead.


The bottom line
Let’s be clear: lead poisoning IS a serious problem. But the amount of lead and other potentially dangerous materials in cosmetics is controlled through a combination of government restrictions and industry self-regulation. Lead is not allowed as an ingredient in the US or the EU but it is allowed in cosmetics at trace levels. These amounts of lead are very low and the amount of that lead that enters our bodies from these products is even less. Therefore the risk of lead poisoning from cosmetics is VERY low. Our kids are exposed to greater amounts of lead from candy and water than from makeup.

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