Exclusive interview: Part 1

Why are we finding lead in cosmetics?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Why are we finding lead in cosmetics?
There are regular reports of product recalls and removals from within the cosmetics marketplace because lead has been detected.

Lead and its compounds are prohibited in cosmetics under various country regulations. So why are we finding it in cosmetics? Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science explores.

Why does lead occur in products in the first place?

Lead is a naturally occurring element. Iron oxides are coloured pigments used in a variety of colour cosmetics that are mined from the ground, and therefore contain traces of lead

However, all colourants to be used in the personal care industry are supposed to be checked for levels of heavy metals and should not be sold to manufacturers where they exceed regulated levels.

What do the regulations state?

It is illegal for a cosmetic product, or its ingredients, to contain lead and its compounds as an ingredient. While very small (trace) amounts may be found in colour cosmetics, this is regulated to be below 10ppm as an impurity (10 parts per million; or less than 0.001%w/w) in the US, Canadian, EU, UK, ASEAN, African, Australian and New Zealand markets.

Lead may not be as prevalent as reported

Fear is the number motivator to drive change in a consumers’ purchasing habits. If the fear of lead in certain cosmetics can be created, a company can benefit by promoting their product as ‘lead free’.

In other words, sometimes companies may benefit from suggesting that lead is more prevalent in personal care than it truthfully is.

In fact, the FDA​ has analysed hundreds of cosmetic products, including lipsticks and other colour cosmetics, and found that ‘99% of the cosmetic lip products and externally applied cosmetics on the US market contain lead at levels below 10 ppm’.

In the second part of this article, we explore the presence of lead in cosmetics products news and the questions of consumer safety and trust in your favourite leading brands. This will be published on Tuesday 28th August 2018.


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