From baby pinks and rosy reds to chocolate browns and berry purples, women all over the world are known to colour they lips in every shade imaginable. Besides colouring, one cannot forget the ritual of touch up. Studies have shown women touch up their lipsticks to up to 20 times a day. As luscious as these colours and glosses make a women’s lips look, they also pose a potential health threat because of the toxic elements they may contain.

According to recent study conducted at the UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health- lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminium and five other metals were found in high levels in over 32 different lipsticks tested. Though, most lipsticks are known to contain traces of lead, the multiple metals are now ringing alarm bells among health activists.

Aluminium, chromium and manganese registered the highest concentrations in total for the lipsticks. Aluminium is added to lipsticks as a stabilizer to prevent them from bleeding, while titanium oxide is used as a whitening agent to soften reds into pinks. These two metals are approved by the FDA but all the other metals are unwanted contaminants. Manufacturers add microscopic flakes of Mica which has metals like manganese, chromium and aluminium to add shine to lip glosses. Moreover, there is an indication that intense lipstick colours may carry a bigger metallic load because of contagion in pigments.

The major cause of concern is not the presence of metals in the cosmetic but risk of its concentration and the effect of its daily intake which is being swallowed and absorbed by women worldwide through mucosal tissues in the mouth. Women who frequently apply colours and glosses could be taking in ‘troubling’ amounts of metals. Statistics indicate that on an average there is a daily ingestion of 24 milligrams of lip make-up per day. Those who slather the lip colour and reapply it repeatedly, could fall into the high use category of 87 milligrams ingestion per day.

According to FDA officials and major cosmetic brands, the level of metals found in lipstick is practically negligible and pose no real health risk. Health experts feel that small-term effects of these metals in the system may be insignificant, but impact of accumulated lead in the body over time cannot be ignored. Moreover, excessive exposure to dangerous levels of chromium, a carcinogen that can cause stomach/lung cancer and high concentrations of manganese has been linked to toxicity in the nervous system.

Meanwhile, health experts issue a word of caution! Ideally, females should opt for neutral lip balms, to avert the situation but we all know that’s not likely to happen. The best scenario is to keep touch ups limited to a reasonable 2-3 times a day. Doctors also advise young children not to use their mother’s make-up when playing dressing up games, because from a child’s perspective, it’s a large level of metal going into a small body.

Edited by: Medhavi Gulati

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