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Do you need to worry about lead in your lipstick?

DAVID HECKER/AFP/Getty Images/file

The lead content in lipstick -- yes, some products do contain lead -- is getting attention today after a US Food and Drug Administration analysis conducted in December found that 400 products contain trace amounts of lead. The FDA, though, emphasized that “our results do not show levels of lead in lipstick that would pose a safety concern.”

So don’t panic or feel compelled to throw away a product that falls on the FDA’s worst offenders list. L’Oréal USA Color Sensational Pink Petal shade and Colour Riche Volcanic shade both contain about 7 parts per million of lead. Others by Avon, Revlon, Cover Girl, and Maybelline had 4 or 5 parts per million.


While that’s a little higher than the FDA’s 2007 analysis of lipsticks -- which topped out at a maximum amount of 3 parts per million of lead -- it hardly poses a health hazard.

Consider this: Lead paint that was used on interior house walls until the 1970s contained 400,000 parts per million for white paint and 50,000 to 70,000 parts per million for colored paints. Toddlers and babies who put peeling paint chips in their mouths were, indeed, experiencing cognitive difficulties and other signs of lead poisoning as a result. Hence, a federal law was passed limiting lead in paint.

But paint is currently allowed to have a maximum lead level of 600 parts per million. That’s a lot more than what’s been found in lipsticks, and we can still assume that young children are putting peeling paint in their mouths from time to time just as they might get into their mother’s lipstick.

If you’re careful to take precautions to avoid toxic chemicals even in tiny amounts, you can certainly switch to lipstick brands with less lead by checking out the FDA’s analysis. Just realize that it’s tough to avoid lead -- and many other toxic chemicals -- altogether and the amount that you’re putting on your lips even from a worst offender on the FDA’s list in all likelihood poses no health risk.


Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.