Up until recently social distancing and mask mandates made it easy to forgo products like lip glosses and lipstick. Consumers did not want a mask sticking to their lips, especially if no one would see it anyway. However, as society opens back up again and masks become optional, lip color sales are spiking across the country. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.

I am well aware that not every woman wears lipstick (including yours truly), but it is certainly a makeup staple for many. When averaged out over the course of a lifetime, it is estimated that the average lipstick-wearing woman can consume anywhere between four and seven pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. As we grow in our knowledge about what we put in and on our bodies, it’s important to understand more about the hidden dangers of lipstick ingredients, with heavy metals at the top of the list.

In 1978 the heavy metal lead was banned from being used as an ingredient in paint. Lead is a neurotoxin that can affect almost every organ in the entire body, most specifically the brain. As a country we have banned it in almost every product we use and produce; however, it is very common to find heavy metals like lead in lipstick. In fact, a 2012 FDA study of lipstick from 20 popular brands found lead in every single one. 

So are companies actively adding lead or other heavy metals to their lipstick? No, absolutely not. Unlike other harmful ingredients like phthalates and parabens, heavy metals are a byproduct of inadvertent contamination in cosmetics. An issue we face, though, is that these products are not being tested by the FDA before being released to the market. At this point in time the FDA only has the power to recall harmful products rather than act as a third party that tests and screens for safety beforehand. 

Another issue we face as consumers is the lack of legislation surrounding clean beauty claims. Essentially a company can claim their products are "clean" without having to back up that statement in any way. Other terms that are questionable include "natural," "botanical" and "vegan" to name a few. 

Companies can claim a lot of things about being clean because there are no government mandates around these marketing terms, so the best thing you can do is take the time to read the ingredients and do the research. Ask a company claiming to be “clean” if they have lab test results they can share to prove the safety of their products. Ask about the efforts taken to ensure minimal contamination in their products. Ask about their screening process for contaminants like lead, whether they only do it at the formulation stage or take the time to screen every batch. The little things add up!

Lipstick is a beautiful symbol of women’s empowerment, so may we take the steps that truly empower our bodies and our health in every area, including color cosmetics!


Heather Disarro is the author and creator of Heather’s Dish, a clean beauty educator, a health coach and social media boss. She loves spending time with her family doing almost anything outdoors, eating great food, reading and enjoying everything Arkansas has to offer.