Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

Your favorite tube of lipstick could cause you some serious damage!


Does your face hurt? Because it’s killing me! Truth is, it could be killing you too. Makeup? A murderer? Shocking, I know, but your favorite tube of lipstick could cause you some serious damage in the long run. In case you weren’t aware, many lipsticks and glosses on the counters of your local CVS or Nordstrom are loaded with lead and other dangerous metals that are classified as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Yikes!

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

Makeup = Murder?! Cancerous Cosmetics?!

Scary Studies + Frightening Facts 

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To KnowAccording to the study administered at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, lead, cadmium, aluminum, chromium and a couple other metals were found in commonly sold lipstick products at highly toxic levels. Lead has been banned in most products because it’s common knowledge that the metal should be avoided lead at all costs; however, it was found in 75% of the samples claimed by USA Today regarding the same study.

To make matters worse, cadmium, a main metal found in the majority of the lipsticks, is known to cause cancer and is found in many breast cancer biopsies. The other lethal metal investigated, chromium, is linked to agents found in stomach cancer diagnoses as well.

The scary thing about all of this is that the problems mentioned can begin with symptoms as subtle as a couple of headaches and feeling sleepy or irritable!

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

But Why Should I Care?

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To KnowThe effects that these ingredients can have on our bodies later in life can be deadly or debilitating. The buildup of lead toxins in our bodies is directly associated with very serious issues and illnesses: hypertension, chronic kidney disease, changes in neurological behavior in adults and brain dysfunction in children. Lead exposure is especially dangerous in regards to our mental health because a high lead toxin level is responsible for severe personality changes and the tearing down of our IQ and cognitive brain activity. In short, lead can cause irreversible brain cell damage!

The EU has banned about 1,400 different chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products, while the U.S. has banned a paltry 11.

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To KnowThe other toxic metals also mentioned are known to be just as lethal as lead. Aluminum is linked to osteoporosis, anemia, extreme nervousness, reduced liver and kidney function, trouble with speech, memory loss and can develop into Alzheimer’s disease over time. The other major toxin, cadmium, is a well-known carcinogen that disrupts our DNA directly.

The scariest thing about all of this is that the problems previously stated can begin with symptoms as subtle as a couple of headaches and feeling sleepy or irritable! That’s why it’s imperative to address your symptoms right away because once the metals build up in our systems, the damage made cannot be undone. Prevention is the best option when it comes to metal poisoning so it’s important to cut down in whatever way possible. In other words, toss out your lead-filled lipstick. NOW!

The truth behind ‘drop-dead gorgeous …’

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

The Top 10 Worst Offenders List goes as follows:

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

The FDA’s study suggested that it wasn’t just your common drugstore lipsticks like Cover Girl and L’Oreal that were the culprits. Natural or organic brands like Burts Bees, PeaceKeeper, CauseMetics, and Colorganics also tested lead-positive. So did higher-end brands, like Clinique, Estee Lauder, Dior, M.A.C., Avon, BeneFit, NARS, Lancome, Mary Kay, Victoria’s Secret, Chanel and Dior.

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know


Is “Natural” Safe?

I admit it. I fell for the natural = nontoxic fallacy. But being labeled natural doesn’t necessarily make makeup free of lead or carcinogens. Even Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers were in the FDA’s Top 20 worst offenders list. Naturally occurring chemical compounds can still produce potentially toxic nanoparticles, like iron and zinc oxides, and it’s up to the company making the lipstick to remove those toxins or discontinue the use of those compounds. Lead may be a neurotoxin, but it’s also a naturally occurring metal—and one that’s surprisingly common (but still completely avoidable) in cosmetics.

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know
… So, now what?! Do we stop wearing lipstick as often? Or should we quit applying our glosses altogether? The answer: not necessarily.


The best advice I can give you ladies is this: if it isn’t necessary to wear it, DON’T. There are other ways to complete a look that don’t require a bold lip color, such as a jeweled statement necklace or a hot pair of red pumps depending on your style preference.

We rarely take off our lipstick using a proper makeup remover, which means these metals are absorbing into our bodies. Over the course of the day the lipstick you use fades, which means that lead and other toxic metals are entering into your pores. Also, how many times do you happen to lick your lips? You’re ingesting said metals directly as well.

To stay safe, check and Google the lipstick with the word “toxic” or “lead.”

Lady to lady, you don’t need to apply lipstick to go to the supermarket — or the gym for that matter (I don’t know why you would, but hey I’ve seen it with my own eyes). Save the fire engine red lips for special occasions.

Let’s not forget that there are other ways to keep your lips from cracking that don’t involve lipsticks and glosses. If you Google “lip moisturizer DIY,” you will see many ways to make your own lip balm that does NOT involve lead. Not to mention, there are daily lip scrubs available for purchase that not only keep your lips kissably smooth, but also sloughs off of dead skin cells that build up over time.

Lead is a metal that people should avoid at all costs and it was found in 75% of the lipstick samples.

If you absolutely cannot be separated from your lipstick, don’t be discouraged. The Environmental Working Group has published a list of “safe” lipsticks (as well as other makeup products) that contain safe and natural ingredients.

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

The Top 10 Safest Lipsticks (big thanks to the EWG) are as follows:

Lethal Lipsticks: What You Need To Know

1. Au Naturale Lip and Cheek Tint, Shade: Parisian Red.
2. Au Naturale Lip and Cheek Tint, Shade: Venetian Red.
3. Au Naturale Lip and Cheek Tint, Shade: Vermilion.
4. Coastal Classic Creations: Autumn Leaves, Shade: Cinnamon Red.
5. Coastal Classic Creations: Ida’s Rose Lipstick, Shade: Deep Rose.
6. Coastal Classic Creations: Ida’s Rose Lipstick, Shade: Coral Red.
7. Coastal Classic Creations: Shell Lipstick, Shade: Mocha.
8. Mineralz 175, Shade: Sweet Georgia Brown.
9. Au Naturale Lipstick, Shade: Current.
10. Au Naturale Lipstick, Shade: Moroccan Red.

Something to note: Over the years, the US has banned 22 chemicals outright. Perspective: the EU currently bans more than 1,300 chemicals.

We at Urbanette value your life over your lipstick and think that you should too! Smooches ;-*

Will you be tossing your lipstick? Why or why not?

Avatar of Alicia Drelich

Hi! My name is Alicia. I have a degree in English and writing. I love to write; it's the most valuable form of therapy and it costs you nothing but your time. I'm a huge fan of dancing and dry humor. If you could make me laugh, play a good beat to move to --and hand me a kitten or twelve-- you'd have yourself a new best friend.

Reader Discussion: 91 Comments

  1. Avatar of Oyuntsetseg Dashnyam

    Oyuntsetseg Dashnyam

    How about Ecco Bella brand, is it safe?

    • Avatar of Hilary Rowland

      It should be, yes. I haven’t had it tested, but I know about the company and they seem to be ethical. I use their liquid lipsticks. I use Babo SPF lip tint as a daily lipstick nowadays, and it doubles as blush.

  2. Avatar of Laura

    Great post Alicia,

    I’m glad you’re raising awareness to the issue of lead in lipsticks! Great point that we’re sometimes fooled by the “natural” brands like Burt’s Bees! Just to add to your points, your vegan readers might want to watch out for a few ingredients known to contain animal products – carmine, lanolin oil, and beeswax. For those who want to learn more about what lipstick is made of, we recently published a post on the good, bad, and ugly lipstick ingredients from past to present:

    Thanks again for this important info,


  3. Avatar of Muriel Villera

    Muriel Villera

    Kudos Urbanette for this post. A lot of us may not be aware of all these things and brands that can harm us and just buy whatever lipstick we want, it’s about time that we change that habit.

    • Avatar of Jeanette Svedberg

      Jeanette Svedberg

      I don’t pay much attention to the lead thingy, but after reading this, I realized that I should be more careful and pcik the best one for me.

  4. Avatar of Felicia Romero

    Felicia Romero

    I will let my girls read this, this is very helpful and I’m sure a lot of women wear lipstick, just wondering if they’re cautious enough in choosing the right and safest brand for them.

    • Avatar of Felicia Castro

      Felicia Castro

      All women should se this post.

  5. Avatar of Cristina Bernal

    Was so shocked to see one of my favorite brands on the top 10 worst offenders!

  6. Avatar of Joyce Gonzalez

    Joyce Gonzalez

    Couldn’t thank you enough Urbanette for this topic, so helpful.

  7. Avatar of Laura Harris

    Laura Harris

    Now that’s scary, especially for a lipstick lover like me!

  8. Avatar of Debra Perry

    Debra Perry

    I love wearing lipsticks and to be honest, I don’t really check the lead content. Thanks for this article I’ll be more careful next time I buy a new one!

    • Avatar of Sonya Crespo

      Sonya Crespo

      Guilty of this too!

  9. Avatar of Mary Garcia

    Mary Garcia

    So it’s true that samples are different from the actual products! I used to think that wasn’t the case. Although it can easily be proved by perfumes, but I never thought of cosmetics.

  10. Avatar of Mattie Beck

    Mattie Beck

    Where can we get Au Naturale and the rest of the ones listed here? I haven’t seen them anywhere in stores. Or maybe I just missed it?

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