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Lead in your lipstick?

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It shimmers. It sparkles. It makes the young look older and the old look younger. IT is makeup and, from a young age, women are drawn to its allure.

You may love the look of a smoky eye and classic red lip, but did you know its glamorous color comes from a wide array of color additives like manganese violet, ultramarines and guaiazulene.

Guaia-WHAT? The names of these additives are daunting. But the specifications about allowable “impurities” in these additives are most surprising ... elements like lead, arsenic and mercury.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. But their oversight is somewhat limited.

“Cosmetics don’t need FDA approval like a medication would before hitting store shelves – only the color additives in them do,” states Virtua family medicine specialist Fiona Baldwin, MD. “Basically, the FDA states that cosmetic manufacturers can’t use additives that have been found to cause cancer
in humans or animals.”

Lead is the element in cosmetics that’s taking the most heat, although it’s not known to cause cancer. However, lead is a known “neurotoxin” that can build up in the body over months and years. “Even at low levels, lead build-up in an adult can cause mental decline and high blood pressure,” says Dr. Baldwin. “At higher levels, an adult could experience muscle weakness, anemia, mood disorders and reproductive problems.”