EcoWaste Coalition Puts Women on the Alert vs. Cheap but Leaded Lipsticks

POISON LIPSTICKS: In observance of the National Lipstick Day, toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition cautions consumers against the purchase and use of cheap but unauthorized lipsticks, including imitation products, that may be contaminated with lead and other health-damaging chemicals. ECOWASTE COALITION

A toxics watchdog group has raised the alarm against the sale of unauthorized lipsticks sold cheaply for as low as P10 but are contaminated with heavy metals that may pose hazards to women’s health.

In time for the National Lipstick Day tomorrow, the EcoWaste Coalition today disclosed its discovery of close to 100 lipsticks with levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury way above trace amount limits under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

“Our monitoring of lip cosmetics sold offline and online indicates that unauthorized lipsticks with dangerous levels of lead and other contaminants are imported and offered for sale despite the clear ban on these hazardous substances in the composition of cosmetic products,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Dr. Geminn Louis Apostol, environmental health specialist at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, noted that “the detection of lead, a potent neurotoxin and a reproductive toxicant, in some lipsticks sold in the market is worrisome and women of child-bearing age and young children are particularly at risk from lead toxicity.” He emphasized “there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

"Add to cart? Think again. Make-up should make you look good without poisoning you. It's not just about the aesthetics, not the affordability of a product. More than anything, how it will nourish or affect your body should be of utmost importance," said Catherine Vital, Consultant, Miss Earth Foundation, a partner of the EcoWaste Coalition. "We therefore urge consumers to become more vigilant and critical shoppers and choose products that do not only go for profit but also care for people and the environment." 

For its latest market investigation on lip cosmetics conducted in June-July 2022, the EcoWaste Coalition purchased 225 samples representing 26 brands, including counterfeits, from online dealers and from retailers in Angeles, Cagayan de Oro, Caloocan, Davao, Gapan, Iligan, Lipa, Makati, Manila, and Pasay Cities. 

Among the items analyzed using an Olympus M Vanta Series X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device were assorted lipstick, lip crayon, lip gloss, lip pencil, and lip tint products of various hues.

Of the 225 samples, 95 lipsticks (42%) were found to contain lead levels exceeding the 20 parts per million (ppm) limit, 57 had arsenic higher than 5 ppm (25%), 6 had cadmium beyond 5 ppm (2%), and 3 had mercury above 1 ppm (1%). Fifty-eight of the samples were found contaminated with two to three toxic metals.

Among the samples found with the highest concentrations of lead were fake MAC Mariah Carey Lipstick #02 with 41,360 ppm; Qianxiu Little Lipstick #01 (brown canister), 38,830 ppm; imitation Koko Kollection Lipstick #08 (red canister), 9,760 ppm; Meiya Lipstick #3, 5,041 ppm; and Dexz Lipstick #03 with 3,471 ppm lead. Eight of the fake MAC Mariah Carey lipsticks, in particular, had lead levels exceeding 10,000 ppm of which 6 exceeded 30,000 ppm.

According to an advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “lead is a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period,” warning “health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems.”

To avoid exposure to harmful chemicals in some lip cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged consumers to heed the following safety tips:
  1. Verify before purchasing if the lipstick has the required Certificate of Product Notification by using the FDA Verification Portal at
  2. Read the product labeling information carefully.  Notified cosmetics will have the following information written in English: product name, ingredients, net content,  instructions for use, special precautions, batch number, manufacturing and expiry dates, country of manufacture, and name and address of the company responsible for placing the product in the market.
  3. Be extra cautious of counterfeit products: watch out for incredibly cheap prices, faulty fonts and logos, grammatical and spelling mistakes, poor packaging and other signs of adulteration.
  4. Apply lipstick less frequently, especially if its quality and safety is not assured.
  5. Discourage kids from playing with lipsticks as children are more susceptible to the adverse impacts of lead exposure, which can, among other side effects, interfere with normal brain development.