I recently came across an interesting report published by Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental action organisation. It claims that dangerous heavy metals are common in many leading makeup brands’ products. The study found metals such as arsenic, lead, beryllium, nickel and thallium in a whopping number of popular brand products including foundations¸ concealers, powders, eye liners and shadow, bronzers, blushers and lipsticks*.
What’s more astonishing though, is that none of these metals have to be listed on the label. The metals are contaminants or impurities of colours that are made from petroleum- or coal tar (e.g. D&C Red 6). So it’s impossible for consumers to avoid them if they want to.
So what? Well, for many metals, like lead, there is no established “safe” level of exposure. And as a group, heavy metals can build up in the body over time and are known to cause varied health problems including hair loss, headaches, mood swings and reproductive disorders. Cumulative exposure and the “cocktail effect” are difficult to study, as the possible product combinations and permutations are infinite, given the number of cosmetics products on the market. In other words, even trace amounts may be of concern, because it all adds up. Moreover, a third of women wear full makeup every day. And lipsticks and glosses are likely to be at least partially ingested.
Environmental Defence argues that “The only responsible response from cosmetics manufacturers is to commit to doing better.”
Organic manufacturers like us would of course agree. Our solution to this problem is using mineral and plant-based colours that are free from metal contaminants! But we also think that cosmetics manufacturers should be forced to screen for heavy metals and declare them on the label.
(*It’s worth having a look at the report - particularly pages 9-11 - as the actual brands are listed and you might be surprised! http://environmentaldefence.ca/sites/default/files/report_files/HeavyMetalHazard%20FINAL.pdf)