Health Care and Lipstick

- September 03, 2014
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Women and teens cannot get enough of it. Married men fear it on their shirt collars. Store shelves are stocked with it by the case. Celebrities hawk it on commercials non-stop on television, magazine ads, and billboards; and billions of dollars per year are spent on acquiring it. The ancient Egyptians were the first recorded people to use it, and people have been enhancing their lips with it for thousands of years.

Lipstick by definition is a cosmetic used to color lips, usually crayon-shaped and packaged in a tubular container. No individual inventor can be credited as the first to invent lipstick as it is an ancient invention; however, the history of the use of lipstick and credit individual inventors for creating certain formulas and methods of packaging, according to this website: .

The actual term "lipstick" wasn't first used until 1880. However, people were coloring their lips long before that date. Upper class Mesopotamians applied crushed semi-precious jewels to their lips. Egyptians made a red dye for their lips from a combination of fucus-algin, iodine, and bromine mannite. Cleopatra was said to have used a mixture of crushed carmine beetles and ants to color her lips red.

Historians note that the first cosmetic lipstick manufactured commercially (rather than homemade products) occurred around 1884. Parisian perfumers had begun to sell lip cosmetics to their customers. By the late 1890s, the Sears Roebuck catalog started to advertise and sell both lip and cheek rouge. Early lip cosmetics were not packaged in their familiar tubes that we see used today. Lip cosmetics were then wrapped in silk paper, placed in paper tubes, used tinted papers, or sold in small pots.

According to CNN, every day millions of women apply lipstick without a second thought. What many don't know is that lipsticks may contain lead, the notorious metal that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Lead is a neurotoxin and can be dangerous even at small doses. So what's lead doing in lipsticks? Not all lipsticks contain lead, but a number of studies in recent years show that the metal is more prevalent than previously thought.

Medical experts say there is no safe level of lead in your blood. The FDA says it doesn't consider the lead levels it found in lipsticks to be a safety issue. No lipstick lists lead as an ingredient. The amounts are small, but the presence of lead in lipstick, which is ingested and absorbed through the skin, raises concerns about the safety of a cosmetic product that is wildly popular among women.

Urged on by both consumers and the cosmetics industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted its own testing in 2010. The FDA's results were even more astonishing: The agency detected lead in all 400 lipsticks tested, ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm -- four times higher than the levels observed in the study done by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2007. 

And lead isn't the only toxic metal you may be applying to your lips.  Recently, University of California researchers tested eight lipsticks and 24 lip glosses and detected nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum and lead. It's true that a single lipstick application will not lead to harm. And the good news is that not all lipsticks contain detectable levels of lead or other heavy metals. (And by the way, cost doesn't seem to be a factor; a cheap or expensive lipstick isn't the determinant of how much lead is present.)

The problem is when women who wear lipstick apply it 2 to 14 times a day, according to the study by the University. The result is that they are ingesting and absorbing through their lips as much as 87 milligrams of product a day, the study says. Women are not only applying their lipsticks several times a day, but they also are doing this in the span of a whole lifetime, which means that exposure to lead and other heavy metals adds up and can potentially affect their overall long term health. More details on this subject can be found at this website: 

There remains a wide range of metal concentrations across colors and brands, according to the New York Times, and cosmetic companies are able to control metal content when they choose.

Some metals are undoubtedly absorbed through mucosal tissues in the mouth. And people do swallow lipstick, one reason that it’s so often reapplied. Given the continued debate about how much is absorbed, everyone — including the cosmetics industry — is pushing the F.D.A. to study the issue further.

In the meantime, health care practitioners recommend that consumers take a common-sense approach to cosmetics. For starters, don’t let young children play with lipstick. You should treat it like something dangerous, because if they eat it, a comparatively large level of metals are going into a small body. And be cautious about how often you reapply that shimmering color. Given the uncertainties, two or three times a day is all that beauty can reasonably demand. More information can be found at this site:

Cosmetics safety should be assessed not only by the presence of hazardous contents, but also by comparing estimated exposures with health-based standards. In addition to lead, metals such as aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese require further investigation, according to the National Institutes for Health. A detailed overview of a scientific study can be found at this website: 

Now that you're thinking about lipstick in a new way, let's look at the basics. In short, lipstick is a compressed tube of waxes, oils, additives and pigments that color and moisturize the lips. Most lipstick-wearers don't give much thought to anything other than the color, how it feels on their lips and how much it costs. Lipstick can be had for anywhere from $1 to $100, depending on the brand. One lipstick made by Guerlain costs more than $60,000, but that's probably because of its diamond-encrusted, 18-karat gold tube, according to

Although there are many different types of lipsticks and a vast array of colors, there are some basic ingredients. And that list of ingredients above is just a paltry few of the many substances that might be in the tube of lipstick in your purse. For many women, wearing lipstick for the first time is a rite of passage, and even if they wear no other makeup, they feel naked without it. Lipstick essentially began the modern cosmetics industry. Much more info on lipstick can be found at this website:

Lipstick in general is considered to be safe, but check the ingredients with the manufacturer of the brand you want to buy. Although the health effects of lipstick have not shown to be harmful yet, there is a growing body of evidence that it could cause long term issues. If you suspect that you may have health related issues due to using lipstick, see your doctor. All health issues should be addressed by a physician or professional medical practitioner.

Until next time.
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