EcoWaste Coalition Cautions Consumers Anew against Buying and Using Counterfeit Lipsticks

The EcoWaste Coalition has again warned Filipino consumers against buying and using cheap imitation lipsticks that may be laced with lead and other heavy metal contaminants.

The anti-toxics watchdog group issued the warning after screening lipsticks bought from retailers of counterfeit cosmetics in Divisoria, Manila last July 9 and 11.  The group employed a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to screen the items for heavy metals.

“Consumers should not think that imitation lipsticks -- because these are 'branded' -- are harmless to use.  These counterfeits, as we all know, have not been assessed for quality and safety by our health authorities and may contain health-damaging chemical and bacterial contaminants," said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“The presence of high levels of heavy metal contaminants in the lipsticks we screened may be attributed to the use of low-quality raw materials and the failure to observe good manufacturing practices,” he said.

"Consumers, especially women of child-bearing age, should avoid these tainted lipsticks. Pregnant women who may ingest lead in lipstick through multiple applications each day can expose babies in the womb at their very critical age of development.  Lead is known to cross the placenta and pile up in fetal tissues," he warned.

"Exposure to high levels of lead may also bring about reproductive health problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects,” he added.

Out of 32 samples costing P35 to P50 each, 10 were found to contain lead in the scale of 152 to 43,800 parts per million (ppm), way above the 20 ppm limit for lead as contaminant as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

Some samples also screened positive for arsenic and mercury, which like lead, are not permitted by the ACD as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, which bans lead above 90 ppm in paint products, also bans the use of lead and lead compounds in the production of cosmetics.

The following imitation lipsticks were among those found to be contaminated with high concentrations of lead:

1.  MAC Mariah Carey #02 (red canister), 43,800 ppm
2.  MAC Mariah Carey #02 (yellow canister), 41,100 ppm
3.  Naked Love #09, 25,600 ppm
4.  MAC Retro Matte #A08, 11,600 ppm
5.  MAC Zac Posen So Chaud #04, 7,523 ppm
6.  MAC Zac Posen Kinda Sexy #14, 4,626 ppm
7.  MAC Zac Posen Girl About Town #08, 4,532 ppm
8.  Revlon Matt Gossip Gurl #07, 1,232 ppm
9.  Revlon Matt Gossip Gurl #06, 242 ppm
10. MAC Zac Posen Angel #10, 152 ppm

According to the FDA, ”lead is a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period. Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems.”

“Lead easily crosses the placenta, and pregnant women should pay particular attention to the different sources of lead exposure,” the FDA warned.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed arsenic, lead and mercury among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” requiring action by governments to protect the health of children, women of reproductive age, and workers.

To prevent human exposure to lead and other chemical as well as bacterial impurities in lipsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition again reminded consumers to observe the following precautionary measures: 

a. Check if the item has the required cosmetic product notification by accessing the FDA website.
b. Buy from a licensed retail outlet and ask for an official receipt.
c. If the price looks too good to be true, the product is most likely a counterfeit.
d. Use less, especially if the product is not guaranteed safe from lead and other contaminants.
e. Don’t let children play with lipstick.


Information on lead in lipstick:
Information on arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury: