Toxic make-up: Looks that can kill

Published: February 23, 2012
Lead in lipstick, arsenic in eyeliner and cadmium in mascara

Lead in lipstick, arsenic in eyeliner and cadmium in mascara . CREATIVE COMMONS

Ask any toddler and they’ll tell you that their mother’s make-up drawer, filled with crimson lipsticks and bright shadows, is the most magical place they’ve ever seen. What, both, the toddler and the mother don’t realise is that whatever magical stuff is making one drop dead gorgeous could also make one drop dead altogether. Harmful toxins in make-up is not an entirely new revelation — for years, it has usually been played down by big corporations with all kinds of creative marketing gimmicks using buzzwords like ‘pure’ and ‘natural’. However, every now and then, some reports do surface about the high levels of lead in lipsticks. But is it just limited

to lipsticks?

What’s inside eyeliners and concealers?

According to, eyeliner and concealers contain cadmium, powders and blushers are not nickel-free, beryllium is found in bronzers and eye-shadow and mascara and foundations even include arsenic. Surprisingly enough, none of these ingredients get a mention on the packaging.

Not Clinique, L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl!

An environmental defense report called, “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Make-up”, which assessed 49 popular make-up products including Clinique, L’Oreal and Maybelline, revealed appalling results.

For instance, Maybelline Color Sensation turned out to have lead and Clinique Stay True make-up contained arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead and thallium. The only thing missing was mercury. Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus eye liner contained beryllium, cadmium, nickel and lead, reports the site.

Why toxins aren’t mentioned?

Since these harmful toxins are only considered impurities and not added intentionally and exist as byproducts, they apparently don’t deserve a mention. While most of us stay quiet and do nothing but plaster on the paint, a campaign for Safe Cosmetics has started urging make-up bigwigs to not just reformulate their products but put forward labels mentioning every ingredients and byproduct in beauty items.

Why toxins are harmful?

From hormone disruption, cancer, neurological problems, memory loss, mood swings, reproductive and developmental disorders, kidney problems, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, lung damage, dermatitis and hair loss, there’s practically very little they don’t have an effect on!

Take lead for instance, this neurotoxin can accumulate over time and result in behavioural and learning problems. Pregnant women and children should never be exposed to lead.

How to stay safe

1. Read the label

2. Get rid of old make-up

3. Pay attention to irritation and allergies

4. Buy organic and natural products

5. Avoid the bacteria buffet at the make-up counter

6. Don’t leave make-up unattended in open air and close all lids

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Feb 24, 2012 - 7:51AM

    omg scary


  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Point7: Or don’t use make up. Women are naturally beautiful !


  • Ali
    Feb 24, 2012 - 11:15AM

    I hope my wife gets to see this article, i get to spend atleast 200usd on her cosmetics every month.


  • Citizen
    Feb 24, 2012 - 1:59PM

    Then we ask from where we getting tumors , cancers and other diseases.

    Okay this is all info about L’Oreal , cover girl etc , (Great it got exposed )but majority people in Pakistan cant even afford these brands . They use cheaper brands and God knows, what harmful chemicals or metals are in them . any check ? any safe cosmetic licence given by relevant authority ? Majority cosmetics don’t even have expiry date mentioned , what else you can expect.


  • Feb 24, 2012 - 4:14PM

    ladies…….women….girls, you are already jems, and we love you, you dont need ani makeup……and get sick.

    Cheers and feel beautiful …. you deserve it !!!!!!!!!


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