The most toxic cosmetic? Traditional lip glosses, finds study

You won't find lead and arsenic listed on beauty products labels. But your traditional skin care and makeup might be full of them—especially your lip gloss.
lip glosses most toxic cosmetic
"Unintentional" ingredients found in lip glosses include lead—at 10 times the amount the FDA allows. (Photo: THE GAZETTE/Allen McInnis)

You won’t see heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury listed on your beauty product labels. But that doesn’t mean your skin care and makeup is free of them. In fact, your best-selling Sephora lip gloss looks to be loaded with arsenic and other known toxins.

A Canadian environmental group recently had 49 popular beauty products tested for heavy metals, and was surprised to find just how many traditional beauty products (ie: chemically formulated ones) contained these “unintentional” ingredients.

Lead was detected in 96 percent of the products, arsenic in 20 percent, and cadmium in 51 percent, according to the Montreal Gazette, which published the report findings.

If these concentrations were found in milk, there would be a nationwide uproar if not a product recall. So why are these toxins tolerated in skin care?

Traditional beauty brands like to say that these ingredients appear in amounts so small they don’t warrant mention on product labels (the FDA agrees), nor do they cause much harm. (Although no traditional beauty brand or the FDA has tested this claim.)

But this small study finds that there are considerably more heavy metals in products than companies have let on. In fact, in the case of Benefit Benetint Pocket Pal Gloss, it sounds out of control.

The popular makeup-bag staple contained the highest lead concentration, “more than 10 times the limit set out in Health Canada’s draft guidelines for contaminants (10 parts per million). Even this limit is nearly 10 times higher than what the US FDA has proved to be technically avoidable, at 1.07 ppm,” says the Gazette.

Considering that lip products are so easily ingested—and that beauty companies have no incentive to test for or declare the presence of these dangerous ingredients in their products—it’s definitely time to treat yourself to a few fastidiously natural lip glosses. And we’re more than happy to recommend some… —Melisse Gelula

For more information about the Canadian Environmental Defence study, visit or read the Gazette article here.

Got an all-natural or organic lip gloss you love? Tell us in Comments area, below!

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