Four hundred of the nation's most popular lipsticks contained trace levels of lead when tested recently by the government, confirming similar results of earlier analyses but on a much wider scale and at higher levels than previously detected.
Five L'Oreal and Maybelline lipsticks, owned by L'Oreal USA, ranked among the top 10 most contaminated brands, according to the analysis by the Food and Drug Administration. Two Cover Girl and two NARS lipsticks also landed in top 10 slots, as did one from Stargazer.
The findings renew a disagreement between the FDA and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a consumer group that has pushed the government for years to set limits for lead levels in lipsticks. The FDA has resisted, saying the lead levels detected in two rounds of its own testing, including the most recent one, do not pose safety risks. The consumer group says the FDA has no scientific basis for its conclusion.
Reports of lead in lipstick date to the 1990s, when test results from a commercial laboratory raised concerns. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 red lipsticks in 2007 and found two-thirds of them contained lead, and that one-third of those exceeded the FDA's limit for lead in candy. The FDA followed up with its own tests on 20 lipsticks in 2008 and then on 400 lipsticks in the most recent analysis, and found detectable levels in all of them.
But the FDA, which posted its latest findings online in December, said comparing lipstick to candy is unfair.
"It is not scientifically valid to equate the risk to consumers presented by lead levels in candy, a product intended for ingestion, with that associated with lead levels in lipstick, a product intended for topical use and ingested in much smaller quantities than candy," the FDA said in comments posted on its website.
The Personal Care Products Council, the trade group representing the cosmetics industry, agreed with the FDA's assessment.
Top 10 for lead
The 10 brands and shades that contain the most lead, according the FDA's study:
1. Maybelline's Color Sensation in Pink Petal. (Lead content: 7.19 parts per million)
2. L'Oreal Colour Riche in Volcanic. (Lead content: 7.00 ppm)
3. NARS Semi-Matte in Red Lizard. (Lead content: 4.93)
4.Cover Girl Queen Collection Vibrant Hues Color in Ruby Remix (Lead content: 4.92)
5. NARS Semi-Matte in Funny Face. (Lead content: 4.89)
6. L'Oreal Colour Riche in Tickled Pink. (Lead content: 4.45)
7. L'Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor in Heroic. (Lead content: 4.41)
8. Cover Girl Continuous Color in Warm Brick. (Lead content: 4.28)
9. Maybelline Color Sensational in Mauve Me. (Lead content: 4.23)
10. Stargazer lipstick in shade "c." (Lead content: 4.12)