Heavy Metals in Makeup

If you’ve been following along in my group a couple of months ago I posted about heavy metals being found in baby formula. Then, a week ago I posted about heavy metals and BPA showing up in protein powders. Heavy metals are ubiquitous to the earth and anything that is sourced from the earth will likely have heavy metals found. This means that our exposure is happening more than we may realize. When I would test an infant for lead the only question we asked was when was their house built as we knew that lead based paint was a common occurrence in any home built before 1978. We never asked about any other source of exposure. I recall several pediatric patients having elevated lead levels despite their homes being built after 1978 and no exposure to lead based paint. I wish I could go back and dig more into their lifestyle.

In January Chris Kresser wrote an article about heavy metals and behavioral disorders in children.(1) It’s an excellent article that goes over where exposure may be coming from and ways to limit and help with detoxing from this kind of exposure, which includes some simple steps. “According to neurology experts Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan in a 2014 report in The Lancet Neurology, “a silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity” is disabling children around the world and contributing to the meteoric rise of ADHD, ASD, and other behavioral disorders. What is responsible for the rapidly rising rates of behavioral disorders in children? Research indicates that heavy metal exposure promotes neurodevelopmental toxicity and may be one of the underlying causes of childhood behavioral disorders.”

Heavy metals are harmful to humans and the effects of exposure can include lowered IQ, neurological effects, cancer, headaches, and kidney, lung and heart damage. Heavy metals build up and it can be hard for our body to detox from them effectively. There are blood, urine and hair tests you can do to test for heavy metals and while they aren’t perfect, they can help. Chris Kresser’s artical does an excellent job of digging into the common heavy metals we are exposed to.

When we are talking about cosmetics many people who are the hunt for safer look for mineral based makeup thinking it will be safer, but this isn’t always the reality. In cosmetics the FDA has issued no limits for heavy metals as contaminants, therefore cosmetic companies do not have to test for heavy metals or declare them on ingredient labels.

For the most part, cosmetic companies are not intentionally using heavy metals in their products. That being said, heavy metals are frequently found in makeup because they contaminate the colorants that companies use – whether they are natural ingredients that come from the earth, or synthetic.

You would be incredibly shocked by the results of our 3rd-party lab that tested 12 ‘popular’ cosmetics for heavy metals. In fact, the lab was so shocked they had to run the test over again! Some of these cosmetics contained 240 parts per million (ppm) of toxic metals – at Beautycounter, we test every production batch of EVERY color EVERY time we produce it (since heavy metal contamination could change from batch to batch.

We always strive to achieve undetectable levels of heavy metals in our products. “Undetectable levels” range from 0.5 to 5 parts per million, depending on the metal. Heavy metals are everywhere and unless you are going to decide to not wear color cosmetics, you will have some exposure.

The FDA recommends less than 20 parts per million in cosmetics, which we do not feel is acceptable. Once again, we set our own standard and established a very low “allowable level” for each heavy metal, which is below 2 parts per million.

When you are on the hunt for safer makeup and choosing mineral based makeup, please ask the company if they test for heavy metals. I have asked several well known cleaner cosmetic brands if they are testing and the answer is no.

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