Ask EWG: Lead in lipstick?

There's an internet rumor that says you can check for lead in lipstick by rubbing a gold ring on the lipstick. If the lipstick turns black, it contains lead. Is there any truth to this?

We wish it weren't so, but lead has recently been found in lipstick. Two television news programs--Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV and Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV--both tested several brands and reportedly found lead in some at levels between 0.2 and 0.4 parts per million. That sounds like a insignificant amount, but that's two to four times the FDA limit for lead in candy. Cosmetics companies claim that the lead in their products come from background pollution--meaning the lead in the air gets folded into their products during the manufacturing process. The common sense answer is that you should avoid lead, especially when you're putting it in or around your mouth.

So which lipsticks tested positive? The KCBS test found the brands AM Cosmetics (no longer in business but still in stores) and Cover Girl to have lead, while WPXI did not list brand names. If you want to find out about the ingredients in your favorite lipstick, look it up in Skin Deep, the EWG cosmetics database, for its toxicity rating. Skin Deep also has extensive information about lead.

Unfortunately we can't confirm or deny the ring part of this question because we've never tested it ourselves. The web-at-large, however, denies its factuality.

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