The toxic chemical lurking in your favorite lipstick

The government and consumer watchdog groups are taking beauty companies to task for some of their toxic ingredients—and it’s about time. For now, though, it’s still important you use caution. Why? There may be lead in your lipstick.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began researching lead in lipstick around 2007: They found that 61 percent of 33 popular lipstick brands tested positive for lead. An expanded 2010 study by the FDA found lead in over 400 different lipsticks. Researchers at the University of California discovered that lead isn’t the only thing to be wary of: They found toxic metals like chromium, aluminum, and manganese can also turn up in beauty products. (Find out the 31 secrets the beauty industry doesn’t want you to know.)

RELATED: Toxic ingredients in your tampons 

6 PHOTOS
6 toxic ingredients in your tampons to watch out for
See Gallery
6 toxic ingredients in your tampons to watch out for

1. Rayon

“Highly absorbent viscose rayon is one of four synthetic ingredients that is commonly associated with the increase of likelihood of TSS,” says Frenkel. “While the other three synthetic ingredients (polyester, carboxymethylcellulose, and polyacrylate rayon) have been taken off the market, rayon still exists in many tampons today.”

2. Dioxin

This chemical is a result of chlorine processing. “According to the EPA, there is no safe level of exposure to dioxin,” says Frenkel. It’s also linked to hormone disruption and can affect your immune system.

3. Non-organic cotton

“The purpose of genetically engineered cotton is so that it will be resistant to pesticides and herbicides, which would affect the cotton’s growth,” says Frenkel. “This is problematic because it allows substantially more pesticides and herbicides to be sprayed on the cotton, which increases the risk of its residues being present in the cotton that’s in our tampons.” Hence why she stresses the importance of using organic cotton, since non-organic cotton tampons are likely to be genetically modified.

4. Fragrance

“Fragrance is essentially chemical soup,” says Frenkel. As with beauty products, brands don’t have to list what chemicals they’re putting under the umbrella term “fragrance,” so it can contain harmful ingredients.

5. Chlorine

“Chlorine is used in the bleaching processes and does produce trace amounts of dioxins in the process,” notes Frenkel. “While the FDA maintains that there are only trace amounts of dioxins, when you look at this from a cumulative angle, there is cause for concern.”

6. BPA

BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that comes from producing plastic, and it has been linked to cancer. Look for BPA-free applicators when shopping for tampons, says Frenkel.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

“Lead contamination in lipstick is a documented problem that can adversely impact the health of women and kids that dip into their mother’s makeup bag,” says Janet Nudelman, director of Program and Policy at the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, as well as director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Men are also at risk of exposure from lead acetate in men’s hair dye, like Grecian Formula, and other sources.”

Lead poses health risks to men and women of all ages, but children should be extra cautious of products containing lead. “The main problem with lead is that it’s neurotoxin in that is has an effect on the brain,” explains Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science at EWG. “So it’s especially harmful to younger children because the brain isn’t fully developed.”

RELATED: Natural beauty 

17 PHOTOS
Nordstrom's natural beauty
See Gallery

Experts agree that there is “no safe” level of lead: Low amounts can cause weakness, increases in blood pressure, and anemia; higher exposure can severely damage the brain, kidneys, and other organs—and it can be life-threatening.

You can stay safe by shopping smartly: “Consumers should avoid lipsticks that they know have tested high in lead contamination,” says Nudelman. “They should contact their favorite brands and ask them if they have a policy in place to test their raw materials for lead contamination.” Here are 12 more toxic ingredients found in your beauty products.

“You have to do your research,” adds Leiba.

You can learn more about the FDA’s take on this problem here.

Wondering what other beauty products might be harmful? Here are the signs your skin products are secretly damaging your face.

RELATED: Harmful chemicals in beauty products 

6 PHOTOS
'Green' Beauty Decoded: Harmful Chemicals in Your Cosmetics And How to Avoid Them
See Gallery
'Green' Beauty Decoded: Harmful Chemicals in Your Cosmetics And How to Avoid Them

MASCARAS

OUR MISSION: Natural mascaras are notorious for their so-so performance (flaking and smudging) and steep price tags. So GHRI set out to find the best of the bunch on store shelves — for $20 or less.

HOW WE SCREENED: Our scientists first performed a lengthy evaluation of the ingredients in mascaras claiming to be natural. Any containing triethanolamine (an emulsifier), added parabens, or synthetic dyes, waxes, or fragrances were eliminated.

THE WINNER: In a close race, Lavera Volume Mascara ($20, lavera.com) came in first. It oomphed up lashes without flaking, smudging, or eye irritation, reported testers. "It was easy to apply and didn't clump on the brush," said one.

MASCARAS

HONORABLE MENTION: Second-place finisher 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara ($18, 100percentpure.com) scored for its pleasant scent. While it ranked a smidge behind Lavera in flaking and smudging, testers liked how it made their lashes look. "It added just a touch of darkness without being thick or goopy," noted one.

FACE MOISTURIZERS

OUR MISSION: There's no shortage of "natural" face moisturizers on the market. But which ones are free of controversial synthetics, feel good on your skin, and cost $20 or less?

HOW WE SCREENED: After poring over labels, the lab cut any contenders containing added parabens, synthetic dyes or fragrances, or petrochemical-derived waxes or oils. Those remaining were each sent to 20 women, who rated qualities from scent to texture.

THE WINNER: Women loved Nature's Gate Rice Bran Moisturizer ($15, natures-gate.com), noting that the "very light and nongreasy texture" delivered immediate hydration and was absorbed quickly. "Several hours later, my skin still felt smooth," said one volunteer.

FACE MOISTURIZERS

HONORABLE MENTION: Acing second: Weleda Iris Hydrating Facial Lotion ($20, usa.weleda.com). While Nature's Gate won kudos from testers for being fragrance-free, the two tied for going on smoothly and not irritating skin. Some volunteers preferred this heftier option: "It felt very rich and made my skin feel soft," said one.

TINTED LIP BALMS

OUR MISSION: For women who want subtle lip color minus synthetics, natural tinted balms are a good option. To find out which performed best, our team evaluated the most affordable options — each $7 or less.

HOW WE SCREENED: Our lab excluded any tinted balms containing added parabens, synthetic dyes or fragrances, or petrochemical-derived waxes or oils. The ones that made the cut were sent to testers, who weighed in on their feel, color, and moisturizing power.

THE WINNER: It was a clean sweep: Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm ($7, burtsbees.com) outperformed the competition in all categories, including leaving lips hydrated. "I really like the texture. It was neither too thick nor too thin, and it didn't feel gooey — just comfortable," said one volunteer.

TINTED LIP BALMS

MENTION: Kiss My Face Sheer Organic Shimmer ($5, kissmyface.com) garnered good scores for its soft — yet still noticeable — shimmery hue and a refreshing smell. "It has not only a nice color, but a nice peppermint scent as well," reported a tester.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The post The Toxic Chemical Lurking in Your Favorite Lipstick appeared first on Reader's Digest.

Read Full Story
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Like AOL Lifestyle on Facebook