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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2009 Jul;54(2):105-13. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2009.02.005. Epub 2009 Feb 27.

Assessment of lead in cosmetic products.

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  • 1Environmental Health Section, Biological & Medical Research Department, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, P.O. Box 3354, Riyadh 11211, Saudi Arabia.


There have been a number of recent reports in the media and on the internet about the presence of lead in brand-names lipsticks. This has drawn our attention to assess the safety of various cheap brands of cosmetics sold at 2-riyals stores in Saudi market that are imported from countries where safety regulations are poorly enforced as well as they lack perfect conditions for manufacturing. Lead contents were determined in 26 and eight different brands of lipsticks and eye shadows using the Zeeman atomic absorption spectrophotometer coupled to graphite tube atomizer after an acid digestion procedure. Lead was detected in all the studied samples. The median (25th-75th percentile) lead content in 72 lipsticks samples was 0.73 (0.49-1.793) PPM wet wt. in the range of 0.27-3760 PPM wet wt. There were four brands of lipsticks with lead content above the FDA lead limit as impurities in color additives (20 PPM). The FDA does not set a limit for lead in lipstick. Three of them were extremely high points and considered outliers. The median (25th-75th percentile) lead contents in pressed powder eye shadow was 1.38 (0.944-1.854) PPM wet wt. (n=22) in the range of 0.42-58.7 PPM wet wt. One brand was above 20 PPM the US FDA's lead limit as impurities. The overall results indicate that lead in lipsticks and eye shadows are below the FDA lead limit as impurities and, thus, probably have no significant toxicological effects. Nevertheless, few brands had lead content above 20 PPM that might put consumers at the risk of lead poisoning. Lead is a cumulative, and applying lead-containing cosmetics several times a day or every day, can potentially add up to significant exposure levels. Pregnant and nursing mothers are vulnerable population because lead passes through placenta and human milk and affect fetus or infant's developments. Our findings call for an immediate mandatory regular testing program to check lead and other toxic metals in lipsticks and other cosmetic products imported to Saudi Arabia in order to curtail their excess and safeguard consumer health.

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