Back in 2007 the now well-known “Poison Kiss” report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that some of the most popular lipsticks on the market contain varying amounts of lead. Lead, of course, is a heavy metal that wreaks all sorts of horrible havoc when it’s in the body; it’s been associated with everything from infertility to learning disabilities, muscular problems, and death. As such it’s been legally banned from products we’re exposed to in our daily lives, like paint.

But not lipstick. Even though we put lipstick on multiple times a day, and can accidentally eat  the stuff—you know, when it hasn’t already been absorbed into our bodies on its own. Lipstick. Not a great place for lead.

But new research being reported in this New York Times article has found that lipsticks host a whole bunch of other metals—from cadmium to aluminum. The study, published in the May issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found traces of cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper and nickel in 24 lip glosses and eight lipstick brands. They chose these specific lipsticks because they were the most popular among a set of teenage girls at a community health center in Oakland, Calif.

What’s more: The teenagers in the study reported reapplying lipstick and glosses as often as 24 times a day!

Aluminum, chromium and manganese registered the highest concentrations over all. Because metals tend to accumulate in the body, even trace amounts can still be a problem.

Then there’s this: While definitely much safer, it might be hard to know if some of the clean brands are totally free of metals. According to the article, mica—which is found in many of our favorite natural lipsticks—can sometimes be contaminated with metals. So just how crazy careful do we need to be?

I wear natural lipstick pretty regularly, though I don’t reapply it nearly as often as the young women in the study. If I’m being honest, a little mica is probably not going to keep me away from my favorite clean brands—but maybe I would feel differently if I was pregnant or had a small child getting into my stuff? TBD on that… What about you?

What lipsticks do you wear? How often do you reapply?

Excuse the small digression, but I thought this was a topic worth tabling. New research done by the Center for Environmental Health has found significant levels of lead in many mainstream handbags, most certainly available at a store near you.

The Center for Environmental Health pulled purses from 100 top retailers to test—everyone from Target to Neiman Marcus and H&M—and found that out of 300 tested, 43 bags contained significant levels of lead.

Some purses, like one from Tory Burch, contained as much as 580 times the amount of lead allowed in children’s toys, which we can only hope is basically none.

According to California law—prop. 65, the same law that busted the Brazilian Blowout—these purses should come with a big fat warning sign.

Burch, who at least had the decency to comment, unlike Guess and others in the hot seat, said that she’s “appalled” and launching a full investigation. Given how disconnected companies are from the far-away factories that make their products, it’s not surprising that brands don’t always know what they’re putting out on the retail floor. But that’s no excuse, since according to this ABC report “hundreds of manufacturers” had already signed an agreement saying they’d limit lead in their products. In other words: They know it’s a problem.

Needless to say, lead is extremely toxic. It shouldn’t be in lipstick (but it is) and it shouldn’t be in the bags we carry all day, everyday—bags that hold all of our goodies, including snacks, and that rub against our skin and possibly our kids. There’s no question this stuff can get into our bodies, and being that lead’s a powerful neurotoxin connected to all kinds of awful, that’s the last thing we want.

In the ABC piece, Michael Green from CEH said that this is one of the highest levels of lead ever found in a consumer product. The worse culprits seem to be brightly colored bags—apparently lead helps them retain color—in plastics and vinyls. They recommend choosing leather instead. So vegans, in this case, be warned.

Of course, this opens up a whole can of worms that we try not to think too much about, regarding the chemicals present in all of our wearables. Is this a rabbit hole you’ve already gone down? And did you have any idea that these plastic purses—and presumably other accessories, like wallets, made from the same materials—were so incredibly toxic?

Image via

This just in from our friends at Well+Good via our old hometown newspaper, the Montreal Gazette

You won’t see heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury listed on your beauty product labels. But that doesn’t mean your skin care and makeup is free of them. In fact, your best-selling Sephora lip gloss looks to be loaded with arsenic and other known toxins.

A Canadian environmental group recently had 49 popular beauty products tested for heavy metals, and was surprised to find just how many traditional beauty products (ie: chemically formulated ones) contained these “unintentional” ingredients.

Lead was detected in 96 percent of the products, arsenic in 20 percent, and cadmium in 51 percent, according to the Montreal Gazette, which published the report findings.

If these concentrations were found in milk, there would be a nationwide uproar if not a product recall. So why are these toxins tolerated in skin care?

Keep reading at Well+Good


Get That Out of My Face!

That’s right, this week over at GOOD we’re talking about your face—and what you don’t want near it. For those of you who have read the book, this top-10 list of bad chemicals will likely be familiar. Hey, nothing wrong with a little refresher, right? Here’s the repost:

A quick skim of this list reads like a prescription from Dr. Obvious. Clearly nobody wants lead or petroleum on their faces, right? But if you’ve been reading this series, our blog, or our book, you know that the cosmetics industry uses all kinds of ingredients in its products—some dangerous, some just plain confusing. What many of them have in common is that that don’t belong anywhere near our largest organ.

Here’s why: Many of them have pretty damning scientific data on record. They’re also not doing anything for your appearance—and in some cases they may be making matters worse. And thus, here is our mantra: If you can’t be sure a product is safe, and it isn’t doing your looks any favors, why bother using it? With that in mind, here’s a top-10 list of common ingredients, contaminants, and byproducts that are bad for your health and duds for your face.

1. Petroleum and related petrochemicals The danger risk for this group of ingredients ranges from a mellow yellow to code red. Petroleum distillates are toxic solvents used in mascara, hairspray, and callus treatments. But your run-of-the-mill moisturizer probably contains something like mineral oil or paraffin in it, which are not considered dangerous per se, they’re just really, really bad for the environment and they suffocate the skin and may interfere with perspiration.
2. Lead-tainted lipstick In 2009 the FDA discovered that of 20 lipsticks it tested, 20 were contaminated with lead. In many cases, the lead levels exceeded those set by that same FDA for candy—and since they don’t set restrictions for cosmetics, this feels like a fair model of comparison, right? Not so according to the FDA, which claims that we don’t eat our lipstick. Lead is a neurotoxin and lipstick goes on our mouths, which combine to make this debate officially ridiculous. Go for organic small-batch lipstick lines, or kiss a beet instead.
3. Formaldehyde-leaching preservatives Our crusade for clean cosmetics started after the discovery of formaldehyde in a hair treatment (and later in our nail polish), but this known carcinogen is also “donated,” as the pros like to say, by preservatives such as quaternium-15, DMDM-hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea. That means it’s both pervasive and often unlisted, not appearing as an ingredient on labels. It’s considered a human carcinogen by many health agencies worldwide, and when it’s not giving rats nose cancer, it might still be giving you a rash.
4. Fragrance It’s broken-record time, but here goes: Fragrance is in everything from your fancy perfume to your face wash. It represents a concoction of mystery ingredients, whose secrecy is protected by industry-ass-kissing trade laws. Lab studies by the EWG have shown them to contain a whole cocktail of hormone disruptors(among other things). Which is nice, since our hormones regulate, oh, everything: genital size, fertility, weight, acne, and beyond.

See the next five

Images by Brianna Harden

5. Parabens This popular preservative group used in more than 10,000 products became very controversial when their presence was discovered in the tissue of breast tumors. What that data actually means is hotly debated but studies have shown that certain parabens mimic estrogen, the female sex hormone. This could be bad news for both men and women. Look for ingredients on the label with “paraben” as a suffix to avoid these bad boys.