Lead is a heavy metal that occurs naturally and is present at an average level of 0.0014 % (14 parts-per-million (ppm)) in the Earth’s crust. Trace amounts of lead are found throughout the environment, from rocks to sediments to water and soils. Most human exposure to lead is the result of the amounts found naturally in the environment, including food and drinking water. 

Because lead occurs naturally in the environment and is routinely detectable in the air, water and soil, unavoidable traces may be present in some cosmetics ingredients sourced from the earth. The cosmetics industry meets all regulations on environmental traces of lead and manufacturers make every effort to minimize these traces that come from the natural and organic ingredients that consumers demand. Lead is never intentionally added to cosmetics or personal care products. 

Exposure to lead can also occur through inhalation or by inadvertently ingesting contaminated soil, dust or lead-based paint. Lead may be carried from the soil into plants grown in the soil. Lead paint is a major source of environmental exposure for children who ingest older, flaking paint; paint chips; and weathered powdered paint. Lead can also leach into drinking water from lead-based water pipes and into foods or liquids stored in ceramic containers made with lead glazing. 

Should I be concerned about the presence of lead in cosmetics?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). These laws, along with the more recent Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) of 2022, require that cosmetics marketed in the U.S. be properly labeled and safe for their intended use.

Lead’s toxicity in humans has been well documented and its level in cosmetics is tightly regulated. For example, cosmetics regulations in the U.S. set strict limits for lead as an impurity in colorants used in cosmetics (20 ppm) . 

In addition, FDA has set a limit of 10 ppm lead in cosmetics such as lipsticks, lip glosses, lip liners, eye shadows, blushes, shampoos and body lotions. The FDA determined that a maximum level of 10 ppm in such products would not pose a health risk. This FDA limit is consistent with the 10 ppm maximum lead limit set in other countries for similar products:

CountryCosmetic Lead Limit (ppm)
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)20
GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)10
I.C.C.R. (International Cooperation on Cosmetic Regulation)10
U.S.20 (colorants), 10 (cosmetics)
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