Friday, November 8, 2013

The Kiss that Kills - Lead in Lipstick

...including my formerly beloved Burt's Bees "Raisin" color. As I gather my 3 tubes of lipstick, including two from Victoria's Secret, for the toxic waste graveyard, I am saddened for so many reasons, but chief among them is feeling betrayed by one company I actually trusted (before it went the way so many do and was absorbed into a bigger company - Burt's Bees belongs to Clorox Company). 

Backstory: I was watching a documentary on breast cancer and part of it was talking about how the average woman uses 12 personal care products everyday; the average man, 6. Of these products, sooo many of them have chemicals that are not beneficial for human health, and in fact, some have toxic ingredients. This is where I became aware of lipstick being contaminated with lead and followed up by going to the FDA website.

Learn more in the 2007 New York Times article, "The Pernicious Allure of Lead" about the many reasons and ways lead was used throughout history. Also, let's remember that Queen Elizabeth, whose face had pock marks, made it popular to use a toxic mixture of white lead and vinegar to give more of a porcelain doll look.

The 1979 ban on lead in certain products (including house paint and gasoline) were very successful at dramatically reducing blood levels of this poison. Why not lipstick? There are no FDA standards in regulating the amount of chemicals in products and companies don't even need to know the chemicals that they are putting in their products. If they do know there's lead, they usually argue, "it's legal, it's okay."

So, being ticked off, I felt compelled to write my 'local' Victoria's Secret company.

--Original Message--
Date: 11/6/2013 8:05:48 PM
Subject: Questions About Our Products

Why is there LEAD in Victoria's Secret lipsticks? Are you, as a company, really willing to expose people to a substance linked to lower IQs and aggressive behavior? Worse, is that it's not even listed on the ingredients, but the Enviromental Working Group and FDA have tested your products and found them contaminated with lead. I urge you to be a responsible company and not create toxic products for your consumers (what good are they to you dead/damaged anyway?). I will certainly not be purchasing any more of your beauty goods and will make sure to inform my clients, friends, and family about this toxic product. 

On a personal level, I bought two lipsticks and two lip glosses from your company and I want a credit of the amount they cost me so that I can hopefully buy something non-toxic, perhaps underwear (unless your company has been secretly using something damaging there too - i.e. GMO cotton). Please address these very alarming concerns. 

Best of Health, 
G., Jennifer <>
7:28 PM (14 hours ago)

Dear Adrienne,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding our lipsticks. First and foremost, we want to assure you that at Victoria's Secret, nothing is more important than the safety of our products.

Our lipstick products are not formulated to contain lead. Small traces, less than you would find in safe drinking water, may be present in certain FDA approved colorants that are part of the formulation.

From personal care to home fragrances, our products are extensively evaluated and tested to meet or exceed industry standards, and we’re committed to ensuring that our customers can use our products with confidence.

Again, we appreciate your valuable feedback.

Best regards,

Jennifer G.
Victoria's Secret Beauty Customer Relations

10:31pm, same evening...

Hi Jennifer,                                                         

I know you're just trying to do your job and that part of that probably involves giving bullsh*t answers (see below, in particular) to thoughtful questions from your consumers -likely passed down from higher ups in the company. If that is so, please pass on my response to them, because, really, nothing is going to change until the thinking at 'the top' does.

"Our lipstick products are not formulated to contain lead. Small traces, less than you would find in safe drinking water, may be present in certain FDA approved colorants that are part of the formulation." 
Hmm...well we all know that lead is usually present in lipsticks for the purpose of making it 'stick' to your lips longer - which gives it that 'all day color' so often touted by cosmetics companies. 

Regardless of drinking water, which, though in a terrible shape, can be filtered through reverse osmosis so that many contaminants can be lips don't have a 'filter' from your lipstick. Skin, the largest organ of the body absorbs the lipstick (this is often in addition to lipstick being swallowed - reports show the average women eats the equivalent of 5-8 lipsticks in her lifetime through this method), and then passes into the bloodstream and becomes part of our cells, tissues, and organs. Lead, which is not needed by the human body, and is quite toxic to it, should not be involved in formulations if you and your company truly give a damn about the public/your consumers.

Furthermore, let me give you an example of 'small traces' versus what Victoria Secret lipsticks have, in terms of lead content (given in parts per million):

Estée Lauder
Black Honey


Victoria’s Secret
Limited Brands
Pink Champagne
Or worse...

Victoria’s Secret
Limited Brands

All of this is on the website, if you want to do further research.
Again, it's not the one-time use that concerns me and others in the healthcare field. It is the constant use of products, such as these, that have a cumulative deleterious effect on human health.

I am part of the league of people trying to encourage and empower women, with knowledge, in ways to prevent or at least reduce the risk of health issues, including cancer. I'd like to know that your company isn't at odds with what I consider to be a worthwhile mission. 
Whew. </rant> 
Bottom line: there are a few actions you can take, personally and politically. If you aren't a fan of lead poisoning, consider truly natural products or going au natural. Write your cosmetics company to let them know you enjoy their products and want them to be lead-free. Ask the FDA to ban lead in lipstick.

1 comment:

  1. You go, girl!
    I gave up lipstick years ago, though unrelated to health concerns, way before I knew the health issues posed.
    I am glad knowledgeable professionals such as yourself are going the extra few miles and confronting not only corporate ignorance but blogging to promote greater consumer awareness about covert toxins in our personal products as well as foods we ingest.
    As an integrative physician, I deeply appreciate the work you do helping folks get healthy by re-engineering diet, the major cause of ubiquitous degenerative diseases.
    Dr. Cole