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No Lead in this Lipstick, But...

There's a company out there you may be familiar with (once again, I'll keep their name to myself). Their main focus is creating products with ingredients that score low in the EWG Cosmetics Database. They make a lot of color cosmetics and have gone to admirable lengths to ensure that the levels of naturally-occurring lead in their products is at the lowest level possible. (Lead, a naturally-occurring heavy metal in the earth's crust, can be found in trace amounts in mineral ingredients used to create colors in makeups because it's inherently found in the ground.) 

However, while they're concerned about lead, they intentionally add other concerning metals to their products, with one lipstick containing: tin oxide, Yellow 5 Lake, Red 5 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Red 27 Lake, and Blue 1 Lake. (Of course, there are lots of other companies that use these colorants, but this company's main marketing point is safety, so I'm bringing it to the table today.) 

First of all, there's hidden aluminum in this product. Yellow 5 Lake, Red 5 Lake, etc, are all artificial colors made from coal tar and--you guessed it: aluminum. 

While most of these artificial colors score low in the Cosmetics Database (due to lack of data) there are inherent problems with these colorants. First of all, they contain aluminum (read more about the harmful effects of aluminum here.) Tartrazine (yellow 5 lake) was recently found to be a xenoestrogen in a lab study on human breast cancer cells. (Source) (Not surprising since aluminum is a metalloestrogen.) Yellow 5 Lake has also been found to create free radical damage to DNA in the colon in several animal studies. (Source). 

Another problem ingredient is tin oxide. The affects of tin on the human body are still largely unknown. (source) While some sources say it is quickly removed from the body after ingestion, traces are known to remain in the body. Tin is not an essential mineral with any positive biological function and can have adverse effects. First of all it is known to create free radical species (damage) to cells. Some tin compounds can have neurotoxic effects (although it's generally considered that tin oxide does not.) (source) Tin is also suspected to replace calcium in bone, possibly leading to osteoporosis. 

"In one study, rats were fed tin at concentrations of 10, 50, 100, or 250 parts per million in the diet. At tin concentrations of 50 ppm or greater, blood levels of calcium were reduced and the calcium content of certain areas of femur bone was diminished." (source)

An ingredient listed on a product would have much higher levels of tin than would be measured in parts per million. (Usually around 1% of the formula.) And while tin oxide is approved as a safe ingredient by the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, they assessed its safety based on the fact that it's not absorbed easily through the skin. However, the safety of tin oxide in a lipstick product with potential for ingestion was not assessed in particular. (Source.) 

So, while this company has done a great job of working to avoid lead and other heavy metals, we can't forget about the potential harmful effects of other metals intentionally added to the product. 

The takeaway: no matter what, always read your ingredients! 

Reader Comments (16)

Another astute and well-informed post. These false labels are endlessly confusing. Dare I ask which company you're talking about? (I hope that I'm not currently using any of these!)

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSarita Coren

Thank you for the info Stephanie. Do you have any suggestions for safe lipsticks and other cosmetics?

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBobbie

Have you looked at all at Burt's Bees Lip Crayons. They seem to be fairly benign as far as their ingredients list, but I'd love your more educated perspective. Thanks.

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Thank you for enlightening us.
Does anyone else besides me feel like there is no escape from the garbage they are putting into almost every consumable?
Does anyone else besides me wonder if the people making almost everything in existence hate human beings??
This goes well beyond hygiene and beauty products. Too bad Bubble & Bee Organic doesn't sell food, medicine, cleaning products, cookware, flatware, linens, childrens toys, etc............

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersickofpoison

Thanks Stephanie!

I have read it before that the "lake" colors are not safe, but time and again they are on the ingredient list of natural products. Any suggestions for safe lipsticks??

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia

Could we get more hints/clues to who this company is?

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermom2one

Great post! I was hesitant about colorants like "Red Lake" because they sounded foreign. Now I know why they are unsafe!

Tue, February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Thank you for your informative post but I find it puzzling why you won't disclose the manufacturer . I guess we will all just have to check and recheck our ingredient labels. Thanks for all the good you do and keeping us informed and for
your integrity.

Wed, February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I stopped using all lip sticks, glosses......over 2 yrs ago, due to the lead, I had no idea there was also aluminum. I also found a place to get makeup that has nothing harmful in it. They list everything in each product just like Bubble and Bee does, and you actually know what it is. :) the comoany is 100%Pure. They are out of France. The European union isn't allowed to use toxins In their toilettrees.
They have a few stores in California. I order on line. I LOVE their products. Their mascara for example, is colored with black tea, and it smells sweet! Best mascara i've ever used. I use all their makeup. I've thown out ALL of my other makeup, due to the toxins.

Wed, February 4, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie town

This is a very informative article but i am sure this company and others disguise their labels when using these colorants and may list these ingredients differently. Unless we are given some clues or how they are listing these ingredients the article is just informative but not very useful when choosing our lipsticks

Wed, February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

@Maria--Actually this company has these ingredients listed on their product and website, so just keep your eye out for their listing.

@Stephanie Town--100% Pure--I have some thoughts on them. (Search on this site for more insight.) Email me at and I'll be happy to share!

@Chris--Yep--always read your ingredients! Why have I chosen not to name the company? I get accused of "shaming and naming" the a interest of self-promotion. So, to show that I'm not trying to tear down other companies, but just educate people about ingredients, I have chosen not to publish the name of the company. But if you'd like to email me I'd be happy to help.

Wed, February 4, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thanks for the great information! Have you heard about Red Apple Lipsticks? Do you know if they are a safe company?

Thu, February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRen

So can you give us a company that has created safe color cosmetics and also tests for heavy metals?

Fri, April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSue

I am not a huge cosmetic user myself but I do think Miessence is one of the few companies that has clean cosmetics. There are limited color choices for many of the reasons Stephanie mentioned. It's hard to find clean colorings.

*disclaimer: I am a Miessence rep and have been using and selling Miessence products for 10 years.

Mon, February 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErin Ely

Well, I bought a lipstick today and was alerted about companies that use lead in its composition. Reading the formula content of the product I found: tin, and the pigments mentioned as Yellow 5 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Blue 1 Lake and so on...
And if there is a doubt if these elements and metals are harmful, companies must invest in research, governments must adopt stronger laws to protect citizens meanwhile doubts persist (precautionary principle) and I will avoid buying products from L'Oréal from now on because this is the brand you might be referring to.

Wed, December 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLuciana

Thanks for sharing it

Mon, January 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterkoelcolours

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