Exclusive interview - Part 2

Lead in cosmetics: The real story

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Lead in cosmetics: The real story
Are cosmetic product reports accurate in their representation of lead in cosmetics? We ask Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science what the reality is.

In Part 1 of our exploration into the presence of lead in cosmetics, we delved into what lead is and how regulators are reacting to consumer concerns.

In Part 2, Belinda Carli, Director of the Institute of Personal Care Science asks: If lead in cosmetics is treated so seriously by regulators, how does it keep appearing in cosmetic product news?

Lead may be present in illegal imports

Traditional eyeliners such as Kohl can contain higher than permitted levels of lead. These products may then find their way into countries where lead input is tightly controlled. As soon as these products are detected, they are removed from the market – but when it is under a personal imports scheme, it can be hard to detect and control.

It is only when these products find their way into a commercial market in countries where lead is forbidden, and a health issue is detected, that they can be recalled. Not all imports are tested, but there are heavy penalties if an illegal import like this is found.

Can lead-containing products be found by accident?

Sometimes, a company placing the product into the marketplace does not know their cosmetic product contains lead.

It is, however, a company’s responsibility, before placing a product into the marketplace, to ensure safe use by the end consumer.

This means that any company placing a product onto a marketplace where lead is restricted (or prohibited), they should be making a number of checks. It should know what the final lead input is and/or ensure traceability of the supply of the materials and the manufacturing process to ensure lead is not present, or below permitted ‘adulterant’ limits.

If there is any question over any part of the supply chain, the finished product should be tested by the company placing it onto the marketplace to ensure it is compliant with the regulations to ensure safe use by consumers.

Therefore, sometimes a company is not aware when its products exceed limits, but it should have undertaken appropriate checks to ensure safety and compliance before it placed the product on the market.

In any case, the company putting the product on the market is held responsible, so it is something every personal care brand should be aware of and check for.

How can consumers stay safe from lead contamination?

Due to the extremely low prevalence as found by FDA testing, and because of the strict regulations in many parts of the world, lead contamination should not be a major concern for consumers to have to watch out for.

This doesn’t mean it cannot happen – but where companies maintain their due diligence and responsibility, consumers should feel confident in the personal care and colour cosmetics they use every day.

Consumers should stay wary of cheap make up and buy from reputable brands or stores only, as a safeguard, as these brands are usually aware and have the steps in place to ensure product purity and consumer safety.

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