Makeup Can Be Ugly: Best Lipstick For Your Health, Heart And Complexion

girl applying lipstick using a mirror

Many women have spent more time and money than they'd like to admit in an effort to find the perfect shade of lipstick. The holy grail in this quest is often a really gorgeous red that works with their skin tone.

What they may not realize, though, is that there has been a controversy raging for years over those reds that goes beyond its color—involving one specific, hidden ingredient that many of them share—lead.

The Lowdown On Lead

Cosmetic companies don't add lead to their formulations on purpose, it's actually a byproduct of the manufacturing process. As such, it doesn't need to be included on the ingredients list of the product.

Another fact that may surprise many women is that the Food and Drug Administration has no official policy or testing standard for lead in cosmetics. Safety testing programs and disclosure protocols are solely at the discretion of the individual manufacturers. Depending who you ask, this is either a huge problem, or hardly worth mentioning.

Many Are Calling For A Crack Down

Many doctors and consumer advocates believe that there is absolutely no safe level of exposure to lead, especially for children and pregnant women. The feature of lead exposure that is of particular interest in this debate is that it is cumulative. Exposure to trace amounts can build up over time, and eventually have toxic effects. Even small amounts of lead can act as a neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor.

Although lipstick is not intended to be ingested, it is an unavoidable fact that small amounts will find their way into the body through absorption or ingestion. This fact, coupled with mounds of scientific evidence of the extreme toxicity of heavy metals like lead in the body, is more than enough to convince many that lead should be banned in cosmetics, even in inadvertent, trace amounts.

FDA Claims Lead Levels Are Safe

Plenty of other doctors, however, and even the FDA itself disagree with the critics. The FDA has performed extensive testing on hundreds of varieties of lipstick, and found lead in a significant majority of them. Nonetheless, the agency's official position is that the levels of lead found in commercially available lipstick fall well within acceptable limits, and pose no health concerns. Still, the FDA is considering creating an upper limit on the amount of lead contamination permissible in lipsticks and cosmetics in general, to prevent any future risk to consumers.

Healthier Choices

Regardless of your stance on the subject, the old saying is true: Better safe than sorry. So if this controversy has you considering trading in your old red for something a little less risky, you can find examples below to some good-for-you reds.

All of these fabulous shades come in at a zero or one risk factor on the Skin Deep database, an incredibly useful tool created to make the process of shopping for cosmetics safer and more transparent. Consider one of the following:

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