I’ve got some good news and bad news. First for the bad news: Heavy metals like lead, cadmium and nickel are common contaminants to color cosmetics. Whether or not brand uses mineral or synthetic colorants, or calls themselves “natural” or conventional, various heavy metals have been found across consumer brands. So what’s going on?
Heavy metals can enter into cosmetics in two primary ways: through the extraction and manufacturing process of the raw material or they contaminate the natural colors used to formulate the product. In other words, lead is a naturally occurring metal, found in the Earth and can “tag along” with the beautiful color that makes your blush, bronzer or favorite lipstick. So unless a company is actively testing and looking for heavy metals, they may have no idea that their naturally-sourced cosmetics are tainted with harmful metals.
Beautycounter (a beauty brand I work for) is dedicated to getting safer products into the hands of everyone and launched a line of color cosmetics where they third party test each batch for heavy metals before allowing them on to the market. After testing natural and conventional beauty brands, the company found that many “natural” brands tested positive for heavy metals, which contaminate mineral (and synthetic) cosmetics. Unfortunately the term “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe”.
And after extensive testing the company has concluded that it is nearly impossible for ANY beauty brand to claim to be “heavy metal free” or “lead-free”. Be wary of these unregulated and unsubstantiated claims.
So what is safer?
The short answer is that you should ask your beauty company how they are testing and controlling for heavy metals. Know that just because a company is using natural colorants, doesn’t mean they are safe. On the other hand, some synthetic chemicals can be perfectly safe. Ask tough questions, here is a guide to 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Cosmetics Company.
At the end of the day I use Beautycounter color cosmetics because I love how the products work and look on my skin (easy to apply and natural!) and I can trust that the products are being screened for heavy metals.