Advocacy Cosmetics Fashion Lifestyle Toxic Products

EcoWaste Raises Red Flag Over Toxic Lipsticks Laden with Lead and Other Harmful Chemicals

Top: Counterfeit MAC lipsticks laden with lead and other toxic metals. Bottom: Sampled lipsticks found to contain heavy metal impurities such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.

As the “National Lipstick Day” is celebrated today, July 29, a non-profit group urged the public, especially women, to shun unsafe products containing heavy metal impurities that can damage human health.

The EcoWaste Coalition raised the red flag on “poison lipsticks” after finding cheap lip products, mostly imitation ones, contaminated with lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic way above the trace limits under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

Arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury belong to the list of “10 chemicals of major public health concern” as per the World Health Organization (WHO), and are among the “substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products” as per the ACD.

“We urge lipstick users not to buy counterfeit lipsticks and those without proper market authorization as many of such products are laden with heavy metal contaminants that can seriously harm human health,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our intent is not to throw cold water on this special day for lipstick lovers, but to remind consumers of the hazardous substances that may be lurking in fake articles and others that have not been assessed for their quality and safety,” he added.

“To safeguard consumer health, we request the authorities, particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cause the immediate seizure of the non-compliant lipsticks in cooperation with local government and police units,” he said.

In test buys conducted on July 28 at Divisoria – Manila’s hub of cheap finds – the EcoWaste Coalition bought an assortment of lipstick products costing P15 to P70 per piece from retail stores located at 168 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall, Divisoria Mall and Dragon 8 Mall.

Out of 38 lipsticks bought and screened for heavy metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, 30 were found to contain at least one metal above the ACD’s allowable limit of 20 parts per million(ppm) for lead, 5 ppm for cadmium, 5 ppm for arsenic and 1 ppm for mercury.

Lead above 20 ppm was detected in 30 samples with 10 of these samples, which were mostly MAC imitation lipsticks, contaminated with lead in the range of 2,633 ppm to 39,500 ppm.

A counterfeit MAC Mariah Carey #02 lipstick was found to contain 39,500 ppm of lead, 1,865 ppm of arsenic, 372 ppm of cadmium and 100 ppm of mercury, while a Qianxiu Lipstick #010 had 22,400 ppm of lead, 1,420 of arsenic and 128 ppm of mercury.

To avoid exposure to lead and other heavy metal impurities in lipsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the following safety tips:

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.

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 said.

Arsenic, cadmium and mercury, like lead, are also toxic to human health.



Information re National Lipstick Day:

Information on lead in lipstick:

Information on arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury: