Why do we use lipsticks?

For many who use lipstick, it can be considered the “go-to” make up item when we need a quick fix for our look. Lipstick is also part of our beauty regime, though the usage has dropped drastically nowadays with the compulsory usage of face masks.

Lipstick does have its benefits such as:

  • It brightens up your smile and your face!
  • If your lips are your best feature, a good quality lipstick colour artfully applied will definitely enhance your lips.
  • It protects and heals dry lips from the cold or air-conditioning.
  • Lipstick gives its wearer a psychological boost. People who apply lipstick are usually more confident and empowered.
  • When you feel down, a bright lipstick can lift your spirits.
  • Many lipsticks offer SPF protection from damage from the sun.

Do you know what goes into a lipstick?

For starters, many lipstick and lip gloss brands do contain the following toxic metals:

  • lead
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • aluminium

Lipsticks also have other toxic metals, some at levels that could cause health concern.

Research study on lipstick and lip gloss

A research study conducted by the Berkeley School of Public Health in the University of California, analysed 32 popular brands of lipstick and lip gloss for the concentration of the toxic metals and users possible daily intake.

The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Study author and professor of environmental health sciences, Professor S. Katharine Hammond, said, “Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter. Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term.”

The study was done out of concern that lipstick and lip gloss is gradually ingested or absorbed by the user during the course of the day.

Average and High Use

The scientists in the study developed standards to define average and high use of lip make up.

Average Use is defined as ingesting of upto 24 milligrams of lip make up a day.

High Use is defined as ingesting 87 milligrams a day.

People who slather lipstick on heavily, and keep on doing multiple touch ups throughout the day would fall under the High Use group.

It was also found that people under the Average Use, could be exposed excessively to chromium from some lipsticks. Chromium is a toxic metal and a type of carcinogen linked to stomach tumours.

People under the High Use category of lipstick and lip gloss could become exposed to high concentrations of aluminium, cadmium and manganese as well. Toxicity in the nervous system is associated with exposure to high concentrations of manganese over time.


Lead is also found in many lipsticks, but the level is generally lower than the acceptable daily intake for adults. Here, it must be stressed that young children may be at risk of exposure here, as they sometimes like to play with make-up.

Lead exposure has been linked to anaemia, damage to the nervous system, and kidney and brain damage.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study in 2012 revealed that more than 400 lipstick brands contained twice as much lead as previously thought – upto 7.19 ppm.

In early 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an announcement stating “no amount of lead is a safe one”. The CDC has urged pregnant women and children to avoid being exposed to it in any form.

In conclusion: Currently there are insufficient reasons for adults to stop using lipstick and lip gloss all together. The exception would be the mandatory use of face masks nowadays.

The study conducted by the Berkeley School of Public Health does indicate the necessity of health regulators placing more regulations on safety levels of the toxic metals used in the manufacture of lipstick and lip gloss.

Readers are advised to read or Google the ingredient list of lipstick brands, as many brands are now lead-free.

By Aaron
12th October 2020 22:30

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