Toxics Watch Group Alerts Consumers vs. Lipsticks Contaminated with Lead (Kissable Lips Need Not be Toxic)

As lovebirds get ready for Valentine’s Day,  a toxics watch group tipped off consumers, particularly women, against prettifying themselves with cheap but lead-laden lipsticks that are sold in the local market. 

The precautionary warning from the EcoWaste Coalition came on the heels of the group’s recent market investigation indicating the unchecked sale of lipsticks, mostly imitation products, sold at very low prices without market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA has repeatedly warned the public against buying lipsticks that lack the required cosmetic product notifications as these products may contain high levels of heavy metals such as lead, “a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period.”

Aside from being damaging to the brain and the central nervous system, “people with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Women should be on the alert for dangerous substances like lead and other contaminants that may be lurking in some lipsticks, particularly counterfeit ones, that could build up in the body over time and spell trouble for the brain, the kidneys and even the heart,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“You should not spend for toxic lipsticks to get those attractive and kissable lips,” she emphasized.

“If you are not sure if your lipstick is lead-safe, better use less and avoid frequent re-application,” she suggested.

From February 4 to 9, the group bought 85 lipsticks with prices ranging from P10 to P80 each from cosmetic retail stores in Guadalupe, Makati City; Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila; Baclaran, Pasay City; and Novaliches, Quezon City. 

Out of 100 products representing 20 brands, 25 were found to contain lead between 25 to 4,093 parts per million, exceeding the 20 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, as per screening using an X-Ray Fluorescence equipment.  

“While the other samples were negative for lead, we cannot say if they are totally safe from other contaminants, including unwanted microbes, as these products have not passed through the FDA’s verification procedures,” Lucero said.

Topping the list of toxic lipsticks were counterfeit MAC lipsticks such as Zac Posen # 08 and MAC Matte Lipstick #07 containing 4,093 and 3,017 ppm of lead, respectively.  Fake Zac Posen #5, #12 and #14 and phony MAC Charlotte Olympia and MAC Vivaglam were also found to contain high levels of lead.

Joining the list were three Monaliza Series lipsticks #20 with lead content amounting to 1,856 ppm, 2,004 ppm and 2,056 ppm and a faux Chanel Red Rule Matte Lipstick #18 was found to contain 581 ppm of lead.  Monaliza lipsticks were among those already banned by the FDA due to their lead content.

According to the FDA, “heavy metals are inherently present in pigments (colorants) and in some raw materials that are used in producing lipsticks.”

“Thus, the FDA enforces strict compliance to the requirements of current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) for cosmetic products to ensure that possible contaminants are within the allowable limits set by the FDA, consistent with the ASEAN Directives,” it said.

“Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems,” it further warned.

From 2013 to date, the FDA has issued public health advisories against over 50 non-compliant lipsticks, including 43 submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition for containing toxic metals or for lacking the necessary notifications.

The avoid exposure to lead and other contaminants in lipsticks, the group advised consumers to opt for those with valid cosmetic product notification and proper labeling information.

Cosmetics which are duly notified with the FDA will have the following labeling information written in English: a) product name, b) ingredients, c) net content, d) instruction on the use of the products, e) batch number, f) special precautions if any, and g) country of manufacture/importer.