Some lip gloss may be bad for you. Trace amounts of lead and other toxic metals have been found in certain glosses. However, at this time, the FDA does not consider it to be a serious safety concern.
Lip gloss was invented by the legendary cinema makeup artist Max Factor. He wanted to add create a shiny lustre effect on the lips of his leading ladies. After seeing lip gloss on the big screen, ordinary women wanted to replicate the look themselves. Factor launched his own lip gloss in 1932, the first commercially available kind ever.
Today, lip gloss is still used frequently. It comes in a variety of colors, consistencies and finishes—from sheer to opaque and anywhere between a subtle sheen to full-on sparkles. Needless to say that when it comes to modern lip gloss, we have a lot more options—and a lot more questionable ingredients to look out for.
In 2013, reports that trace amounts of lead and other toxic metals in lip products sparked a lot of media attention. A study printed in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal revealed that lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and other metals were present in the products.
Lead was the most abundant—found in 75 percent of the lip products tested, including gloss. A potentially dangerous neurotoxin, long-term buildup of lead may cause serious health problems: headaches, muscle and joint point, infertility, impaired cognitive function and more. Lead is especially dangerous to pregnant women and children as it may lead to developmental disorders.
Chromium is a mineral that is used by the body in small amounts to aid in digestion. However, it is toxic in large quantities. A known human carcinogen, overexposure to chromium has been linked to stomach tumors, lung cancer and other serious health conditions.
In addition to lead and chromium, all lip products tested included trace amounts of aluminum, manganese and titanium. However, the FDA did not find any of this a cause for concern. The findings were not new—there have been reports of lead in lipstick and other cosmetics for quite some time. It’s also unsurprising: the metals are naturally present in water and soil, so it makes sense that they would eventually make their way into products made from these things.
But even though the FDA isn’t worried, it’s not a bad idea to take charge of what goes onto your skin—and eventually into your body. To limit your exposure, avoid dabbing the gloss into your skin or getting any in your mouth. Never swallow it, even if it claims to be flavored or edible.
Also, you’re not likely to find “lead” and “chromium” on the ingredients label of any product—so simply scanning the packaging won’t be enough. Do your research: the Environmental Working Group keeps a database of cosmetic products and ranks them by toxicity. Check their site to see if your favorite lip glosses have ever been found to contain lead or other potential toxins. If they have, it might be time to switch brands.
Possible short-term side effects
- joint aches
Possible long-term side effects
- stomach tumors
Ingredients to be aware of
- adds shine, color to lips
- readily available
- wide selection