Updated April 2023
*I am not paid to write anything and I don’t sell anything. This is in contrast to similar bloggers in this realm; almost all of them sell/are affiliates of one of the MLM cosmetic brands! I don’t, because I want to remain unbiased.*
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS:
-Makeup ingredients/ color pigments almost always contain dangerous heavy metals (including lead and cadmium), sometimes in very high amounts. They are not listed directly as ingredients on labels.
-Natural/organic products are NOT less likely to contain heavy metals.
-There are no US laws for limits for heavy metals in final products. The best standards available are products sold in Germany or Made Safe certified. Next best are products sold in the EU, Canada or EWG Verified.
-There are no certifications that ensure products are completely free of heavy metals. The only way to know for sure what the levels are is third party heavy metals testing on final products. I have only found two companies who have SHARED this testing publicly.
-Some companies claim to have low or no lead and other heavy metals, but do not prove it at all by sharing their test results.
-What the industry considers “trace amounts” is not low enough, in my opinion.
-It is safest to assume that any makeup with pigment has some level of heavy metals (even ones like Burts Bees). Therefore, for children I would only recommend pretend makeup or clear lipgloss. Lead is toxic in any amount and children are especially vulnerable. If you must buy makeup for kids, I would choose poofy or au natarale. Klee Naturals is a kids makeup that is supposedly good but they didn’t reply to me. You could try to contact them. Another idea I heard of but haven’t tried, it’s to find a very natural red food dye such as India tree and paint it on the lips or cheeks with a lip brush.
-Cosmetics also contains other toxic ingredients including cancer causing PFAS. Here is a link and another about PFAS testing done on makeup. Keep in mind that the testing only did 1-3 products per brand, so I’m not willing to stop using entire brands because of this. Also one article notes that “Probably for most green beauty products, they’re less likely to be adding PFAS on purpose and more likely it’s the entire manufacturing process for cosmetics that needs to be cleaned up.” There is also a lawsuit against Cover Girl for having PFAS in products they claim are “sustainable.”
-I did not find any perfect companies, but some are better than others. It’s important to scrutinize their claims by asking lots of questions.
THE LACK OF REGULATION OF HEAVY METALS:
As a follow-up study to one led by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted its own expanded, 400-lipstick study, which found lead in the vast majority of lipsticks tested.
Many of the companies I looked at tried to say vague things, such as that they stay within all federal standards. But although the FDA has set limits for lead in some color additives used in cosmetics, there is still no FDA limit defined for lead in cosmetics! The government does not regulate cosmetics. according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), cosmetic manufacturers do not have to seek approval for use of any ingredient or raw material except for some prohibited chemicals and color additives. The FDA does not have the authority to require cosmetic companies to test their products for safety or to recall products that contain harmful ingredients, which don’t even have to be listed; EWG states that if the ingredient is a nanomaterial or a trade secret, it does not have to be disclosed on the label.
So watch out for the language that companies try to use. They often also try to focus on talking about ingredients they don’t use, but I recommend scrutinizing the ingredient lists of what IS actually in the products.
Some companies try to refer to FDA or European Union standards, but none of them could tell me exactly what the limits are for heavy metals are under these standards. See farther down for what I found later. I feel that asking consumers to decipher through these legal documents to try to figure it out is not fair, and they should be familiar enough with the limits themselves and be able to state what limits they fall under, clearly. As stated, the FDA does very little regarding lead, so companies who say they meet FDA standards aren’t doing anything to make me feel reassured about lead safety. There are also no limits regarding nano particles.
According to EWG, the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive (EU Regulation 1223/2009) is widely considered the global gold standard of cosmetics safety regulation. According to this, the EU prohibits heavy metals in makeup sold on the EU market. They say the use of any kind of heavy metal in a cosmetic product is strictly banned inside the European Union. Companies selling their products on the Internet and thus making them available to the EU market subjects them to the same rules applicable to cosmetic products offered in physical stores in EU Member States.
However, there are some instances in which products containing trace amounts of a heavy metal can enter the EU marketplace. Though no limit for the maximum amount of a heavy metal allowed inside a cosmetic product exists in Europe, unintended trace amounts may be included in a cosmetic product under the condition that the amount included presents no danger to human health and that the trace amount is so small that it could not be avoided under any reasonable Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as laid out by accepted EU guidelines. This creates allowances for products which may be exposed to banned metals throughout their manufacturing processes, while in storage or being transported, or as a result of an impurity from any of its other accepted and legal ingredients. The EU prohibits nano particles (with some limitations), and animal testing.
So the EU apparently has loopholes for “trace amounts”; 10 ppm is considered a trace amount, but that equals 10,000 ppb (which is the better measurement to use), and is an astronomical number. The FDA has also mentioned “we concluded that up to 10 ppm lead in cosmetic lip products and externally applied cosmetics would not pose a health risk” but their reasoning is not convincing to me. For starters, no amount of lead is actually safe. And just because it isn’t a high enough level to affect blood lead levels, doesn’t mean it’s not having an effect on your body/ is being stored/accumulating in your body.
The highest amount in the FDA lipstick study was 7.19 parts per million (ppm), or 7190 ppb. More than 99 percent of the cosmetics they surveyed contained less than 10 ppm lead. So basically, the FDA doesn’t think anything needs to change.
ISSUES WITH COSMETICS COMPANIES:
One makeup company also tried to argue that the ingredients containing heavy metals would basically be watered down/dispersed by other ingredients. “Less than 10ppm is relatively common in all documentation for pigments. The reading is on the raw material itself and could mean there is only 1ppm. Usually that pigment is under 1% of the total formula, which means it would be equivalent to 0.1ppm if the reading was at a maximum of 10ppm on the raw material.” But, that would still be 100ppb, and that’s IF that is the only ingredient with heavy metals and IF it’s really watered down with benign ingredients (BUT some mineral makeups are purely minerals, so if each mineral ingredient has high levels, then obviously the finished mixture will too).
This isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but just to illustrate standards measured in ppb, Water is considered toxic for children (by the American Academy of Pediatrics) at levels that exceed 1 ppb. Bottled water is considered illegal for Lead content if it has more than 5 ppb. Tap water is considered to be unsafe for human consumption if it exceeds the (relatively high / not protective of human health) federal standard of 15 ppb. The limit in dried fruit is 100 ppb.
A frustrating thing is that even the companies who say they test for heavy metals don’t actually prove it by sharing the test results for their products (there are only two exemptions). Some companies have shared testing information for some of their ingredients, but that doesn’t tell us what the finished products have unless they share testing for all ingredients and they all have no/ very low levels. So basically they are all asking us to just trust them. Some of them also say they test, but don’t specify that they stay under a certain level… so it’s possible that they have a high level. Just saying they test isn’t enough!
Many of the companies claim to be lead free (without proving it) but use ingredients likely to have lead. Reading the EU loopholes has made me suspicious that the companies who use any terminology along the lines of “lead free” or “as close as possible to zero” actually mean “lead free other than trace amounts.” And what they consider trace amounts, I don’t agree is low enough. Even 1ppm, which sounds low, is actually 1,000 ppb (which is parts per billion, which still sounds low), but the fact is that NO amount of lead is safe. Microscopic amounts are enough to poison a child, and any amount is a neurotoxin that can cause permanent brain damage.
It doesn’t matter that lead is naturally occurring (and actually, without human mining and dispersal, it would not be very prevalent or spread in the environment and food) and found in food and other places. We can’t avoid lead in our lives completely, but in something optional like makeup, I think we should take all measures to remove it, and I don’t think companies are doing enough. Rather, they are just trying to hide behind language that makes them sound like they are safe.
SOME INGREDIENTS OF CONCERN:
#WhyShouldWeWorry? Is the amount of harmful chemicals in cosmetics enough to do any real damage? Yes, the chemicals can be breathed in through the nose or absorbed through the skin.
-Lead and heavy metals. Companies are not intentionally adding heavy metals to cosmetics and they don’t appear as ingredients on labels. Instead, they are typically contaminants that tag along with both mineral and synthetic ingredients used to give products color. Whether lead can be absorbed through skin is controversial, but at least in some forms, it is possible. It can definitely be consumed through the use of lip products. Did you know that some women reapply up to 20 times a day, and the average woman eats 18 tubes of lipstick in their lifetime? It’s also very easy to spread makeup everywhere with your fingers, when your kids kiss you, etc.
-Titanium dioxide in inhalable forms (such as a loose powder) is designated as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Avoid loose powders and blushes that contain titanium dioxide and use caution with pressed powders, since they can become airborne when used. Also, avoid it in aerosolized sunscreens. Some sources say the risk from makeup is low, but you can decide for yourself. Zinc oxide has been mentioned as another inhalation risk. So many of the natural brands people recommend have titanium dioxide in powdered products! Here are the concerns. But this site makes many ingredients (discussed at bottom of their page) seem less worrisome.
-Oxides (which add color) from natural sources (such as as the mineral zincite) often are contaminated with lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and nickel, but companies claim it’s possible to purify them. Or, those created in the lab can be created without heavy metals. Natural ingredients such as Clays, mica, and Cacao also often have lead. But synthetic chemical ingredients (as in all mainstream, conventional makeup brands) have hazards of their own. So my quest has been trying to find makeup that avoids toxic ingredients AND heavy metals.
-Bismuth Oxychloride seldom occurs in nature and is manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead and copper metal refining, with chloride, a chlorine compound, and water. It’s used in cosmetics for it’s distinct shimmery, pearlescent appearance. Some people react to bismuth oxychloride due to its unique crystalline structure. It has been said that the crystals can “poke” at skin and get stuck in the pores, contributing towards breakouts and cystic acne.
-Reintyl palmitate when exposed to the sun has been shown to speed up the photo-carcinogenic effects of the sun.
-Ultramarines are mineral-derived pigments composed of sodium, aluminum, silicate and sulfate. FDA only allows synthetic ultramarines to be used in cosmetics, but they are not allowed in lipstick.
-Nano particles are another thing to watch out for for things like oxides and titanium dioxide. This refers to the tiny size of particles, so small that they can penetrate pores and purportedly alter DNA! Most companies do not know if they are using naoparticles / nanosized particles / or, a step larger but still too small, micronized particles.
-Carmine is a pigment of a bright red color obtained from the carminic acid produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for a particularly deep red color. Vegans may take issue with this being an animal source.
-Parabens are preservatives added to personal care products to extend the shelf life. May alter hormone levels, possibly increasing risks for certain types of cancer, impaired fertility, or alteration of the development of a fetus or young child. Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in some individuals.
-Talc, because of asbestos found in makeup.
-You should also be wary of any makeup containing any of these ingredients: Dyes, Lakes, Fragrances, petroleum, phthalates, BHA, DEA, PEG, or any other preservatives. If there are a lot of words that are hard to spell and pronounce, there is a good chance they are toxic. If you aren’t sure, you can look them up in the EWG Skindeep Database. I recommend looking up individual ingredients rather than the finished products.
Organic ingredients are of course ideal and preferred, but hard to come by. Also, The FDA regulation on organic ingredients can fall into a grey area, especially with cleaning products or cosmetics. So if the label says “organic,” “natural,” or even “hypoallergenic,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that those products are safe. Organic ingredients are NOT less likely to have heavy metals, but they do have less toxicants of other types.
#EthicalConcerns: Cruelty free is also a term I don’t trust unless they have a certification like Leaping Bunny. “No animal testing” is also vague and often refers to the final product only; not the ingredients.
I made notes of of the above considerations whenever I noticed them in products of the following brands (but if I didn’t make a note, you can look into it). I also noted if I know if they are MLM companies, to be aware that some of the recommendations for these products are from people who sell the products.
Your choices may vary depending on what criteria is most important to you, and what specific products you are looking at. I did Not look at every product that every brand makes, but I did make notes of anything that stood out in the products I saw. In my opinion, none of the brands are perfect! I rarely wear makeup anymore, and as I slowly replace the kinds I already have, I’ll likely buy from a few different companies on the “Best” list, depending on the product I need. I’m hoping that soon, companies will start sharing their testing or getting certifications.
It’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable with. The only way to avoid all risk completely is by not wearing any makeup.
There are SO MANY brands of makeup out there now that I can’t possibly look at them all, but I think I got all the most popular natural brands. I encourage people to email companies and ask questions, and really scrutinize the responses to make sure you’re getting a legit answer and not something that just sounds warm and fuzzy (such as irrelevant certifications or vague references to safety standards). Here are suggestions of what to ask:
1. I am interested in seeing third party heavy metals test results /certificate of analysis for your finished makeup products.
2. Where do you source your oxides from? I.e. are they natural or lab created?
3. Some ingredients almost always have lead, such as natural minerals, clay, cacao, cocoa (chocolate) and natural iron oxide. Can you tell me more about these ingredients you use and how you ensure they are free of heavy metals ?
Try to keep the questions from getting too long by finding out as much as you can from the website and ingredients lists. In my opinion, the heavy metals information is always in need of clarification, but you can often find the answers to the rest of the questions without emailing.
If they don’t share testing certificates, push for as many specifics as possible and ask if they have a level they stay beneath. Many companies will say something vague like “we don’t use heavy metals in our products,” so ask how exactly they ensure that. In my opinion, it’s also a really bad sign when companies don’t respond to queries at all.
Another thing to watch out for is if they say they got a “non-detectable” result for metals. Ask the level of detection threshold; some testing can only detect as low as say, 80 ppm. Therefore the test could say say non detect but in fact it could contain up to 80 ppm. So by level of detection you’re asking if the test really could detect down to zero, or if the limit was something like 20 or 80 ppm or something. It’s nearly impossible to get a non detect if testing to zero.
You can also ask about specific ingredients of concern, but I just look at the ingredient list for those. Depending what language they use about being cruelty free or animal testing, you can ask for clarification. You could also ask about efforts to be more environmentally friendly, such as using recycled packaging, but that information is usually discussed on their website.
Please let me know if any companies share proof of heavy metals testing! Also, a reminder that I have no affiliation to any of these companies and am getting no benefit whatsoever for writing this blog.
REGULATIONS/ HEAVY METALS LIMITS:
This information was very hard to come by. I actually wrote this entire blog about a year ago (and haven’t posted until now), and then a few months later another Mamavation did a similar investigation and found the following information (update in 2022 is it appears that she edited her post to focus on PFAS and removed the heavy metals info). She has more people and resources than I do, so this goes to show that this kind of information is often so hard for regular people to get, and it shouldn’t be that way.
• The best: Cosmetics sold in Germany have a limit of Lead 2ppm, cadmium .1ppm, mercury .5ppm, antimony .5ppm which is stricter than Canada. It’s possible that some companies might have different formulations for their products sold in Germany.
• Another best: MADE SAFE certification aligns with German standards which are far safer than Canadian standards. Products tested need to be under the following: Lead 2ppm, cadmium .1ppm, mercury .5ppm, antimony .5ppm. (MADE SAFE does NOT allow the use of synthetic biology in their products.). I could not find this information publicly; only through Mamavation.
• 2nd Best: European Union Heavy Metal Upper Limits:
Lead – 10 ppm
Arsenic – 3 ppm
Cadmium – 1 ppm
Mercury – 1 ppm
The EU has also banned or restricted more than 1,400 ingredients from use in cosmetics, while the United States FDA has only prohibited 8 ingredients.
• 3rd Best: Canadian: Natural Health Products Sold in Canada have a limit for lead impurities of 10 ppm, Arsenic 3ppm, Cadmium 3ppm, Mercury 1ppm, Antimony 5ppm in products applied to the skin.
• Another 3rd Best: Environmental Working Group verification aligns with Canadian standards of no more than 10ppm lead in products applied to the skin. (Unfortunately, they allow synthetic biology inside cosmetics.) I could not find this information publicly; only through Mamavation.
• United States recommended (U.S. does not legally enforce this limit, just provides guidance) Heavy Metal Upper Limits:
Lead – 10 ppm
Mercury – 1 ppm (U.S. permits an upper limit of 65 ppm for Mercury if used as a preservative in an eye product)
Arsenic – no finished product limit
Cadmium – no guidance
I used the above standards to group my rankings further below.
OTHER CERTIFICATIONS / WAYS TO VERIFY HEAVY METALS LIMITS IN MAKEUP:
–Ecocert COSMOS: This certification makes sure that the mineral pigments are truly natural and mostly organic, without any petroleum additives or components. They have to adhere to European limits for heavy metals, which specifies limits for 12 heavy metals, not just 3 as specified by the FDA here in the U.S.
-The Environmental Working Group has a SkinDeep database of beauty products and ingredients, but they DO NOT appear to reflect heavy metals risks (ingredients that often are contaminated with heavy metals get safe scores) 🤷🏻♀️. I tried to write to EWG, and ThinkDirty (a similar organization) for clarification if they screen for heavy metals in products/ if that is reflected in their scores, but they have not responded. I assume the YUKA app also doesn’t reflect heavy metals.
-The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and EWG also awarded “Champion” status to some companies, but that was in 2011 and no updates or details can be found on what it actually means, and they haven’t responded to questions. Some of the companies on the Champion list: Rms, Maia, Juice Beauty, Honeybee Gardens, Lauren brooke, Vapor. Full list
-“Cert Clean” is a skincare certification, but they don’t test any products. They are more of an audit of listed ingredients (but remember that heavy metals are almost never deliberately added as a listed ingredient). They include lead acetate (but that is only one form of lead) and mercury in their list of standards, but not cadmium. This certification is unlikely to be any better than the Made Safe Cert.
– I’m looking into the “Toxic Free” certification, but it isn’t clear if and how they check for heavy metals.
-CREDO makeup store avoids many “dirty” ingredients but about metals, says: “we ask that our brand partners to meet the minimums established by FDA for cosmetics, and work with ingredient suppliers to obtain heavy metal testing results on colorants.” But as mentioned, the FDA doesn’t have a high standard.
BEST CHOICES (German or Made Safe Standards):
Why Poofy or Au Naturale are my top choices: Although I know for sure that these (and all makeup that has pigment) have some heavy metals, at least I’ve seen numbers that are low. For all the other companies, I am assuming there is a high probability that they consider “trace amounts” to be much, much higher than the numbers Poofy showed, yet still call their products lead free. Lipstick and foundation contain ingredients that are risky for heavy metals, so in the absence of proof that they are truly lead free, I’m a bit wary of putting that directly on my lips and skin.
• Poofy Organics (brand tests products once a year and the confirmed testing labs Mamavation saw are Canadian friendly. The test results I’ve seen were way better than the best German Standards. This is one of the only company I’ve seen that released third party testing for heavy metals. But that was a couple years ago and they have since discontinued some products and created new ones. But the fact they showed the test results and metals were low (for some products) in the past suggests that they use low lead ingredients. “We continue to order the ingredients from the same suppliers and most of the ingredients overlap; so although some of the products have changed, the ingredients have not. All our oxides are natural.” Organic ingredients, but some foundation may contain titanium dioxide. I have used their lipstick and mascara and like it. This is an MLM company, which I am usually wary of, but this is the only one I have bought from (direct through the website. I just mention that so you know that no one “sold me/talked me into it.” I don’t know anyone who sells it). Here is the link to their heavy metal testing. I appreciate their transparency!
• Au Naturale. They sent me third party test results and said I can share, so I will post them at the end of this blog. All their oxides and titanium dioxide are synthetic (less risky for metals) and both ECOCERT and COSMOS certified. They use a combination of both natural and synthetic mica. They use plant based, naturally derived, and certified organic (when possible) ingredients for the bases of products. They have CoA documentation for all raw ingredients and make sure all cosmetic colourants are individually heavy metals tested and compliant with the FDA regulations (but see above, that statement actually isn’t very comforting; but their test results are).
• Rejuva Minerals (Mamavation states they are EWG Verified, but some of the products are Made Safe Certified: foundation, concealer, powder, bronzer), and/or rated Clean in the Think Dirty App. Some products (here) have been tested for heavy metals, and the levels of heavy metals were all “negligible to none” (although as I’ve said, that is vague we need to see actual numbers.) All samples tested were well below the limits established by the FDA and European Union, for example, no traces of arsenic were detected. Iron Oxide is used in mineral makeup to provide pigment to a product, instead of Carmine or FD&C. None of the products contain nano particles, including the boron. More on their Product Safety here. Most of the products are Titanium Dioxide free with the exception of Champagne on Ice, Plum Punch & Berry Bliss lipstick, pressed powder in White Diamond, Flawless Finish Cream Foundation, and baked products (Baked Blush and Baked Eye shadow).” When asked about the source of iron oxides, they said the products are naturally derived and purified in a lab. They have some products free of mica. Note: Their mascara is the most reasonably priced in this category.
• Annmarie Gianni (Made Safe Certified). But all they have is powder foundation, which contains titanium dioxide, which they say is “organically grown or wild crafted.”
• Inika Organic (Made with German standards, not positive standards are same for products sold in the US). Amazon affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3KAyjt4
• Lili Lolo (Made with German standards, but not positive standards are same for products sold in US). Amazon affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3H018gd
Note: The following brands were listed as top brands on Mamavation’s list, but I can’t actually find any makeup from these brands; only skin care: Anumati (Made Safe Certified), Kosmatology (Made Safe Certified), Loli Beauty (Made Safe Certified), Mamaearth (Made Safe Certified), S.W. Basics (Made Safe Certified), True Botanicals (Made Safe Certified).
BETTER (but not best) CHOICES (EU standard or ECOCERT):
• Crunchi is a good choice that avoids PFAS but says “There is no such thing as a completely “lead-free” mineral color cosmetic. It does not exist. Iron oxides are derived from the earth and need to be purified to remove heavy metal contaminants. It is possible to remove most impurities, however it is not possible to remove 100% of heavy metals and trace amounts will always still exist. Crunchi uses some of the purist forms of iron oxides available in the world therefore reducing the likelihood of heavy metal impurities in our products.” But they fail to mention that they could use lab created iron oxides. “All pigments used meet the ECOCERT standard, which is one of the most prominent international organic certification organizations in the world.” ECOCERT makes sure that the mineral pigments are truly natural, without any petroleum additives or components, and they have to adhere to European limits for heavy metals, which specifies limits for 12 heavy metals, not just 3 as specified by the FDA here in the U.S. No synthetic dyes or fragrances either. I hear they plan to provide third party testing in the near future. No nano particles or titanium dioxide in any loose powder formulations. Uses organic ingredients. Leaping Bunny Certified. This is an MLM company. They have not responded to questions about ECOCERT and I outlined my concerns about EU standards above. They say “In 2019 Crunchi began a third-party laboratory testing program for heavy metals (Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, and Cadmium). Since day one, Crunchi has invested in the highest purity grade colorants (iron oxides) available for all our color cosmetics with the goal of achieving the lowest possible heavy metal levels for our products using tests with a sensitivity as low as…..” but their language is still vague and doesn’t actually give specifics on what the actual levels in their makeup are. They claim “We are thrilled to report that all products tested so far are well below the European Union, Canadian, and United States cosmetic heavy metal upper limits” but note that they said “so far” and also remember that German or MadeSafe are better standards that they don’t claim to meet.
• Kjaer Weis: “We’re happy to say that we require all our raw material suppliers to provide documentation that ingredients do not contain heavy metals and that tested levels are well below the limit permitted by law. Our ingredients are certified by the Italian CCPB, one of the strictest certification boards in the world. Our ingredients meet both EU and Italian CCPB regulations for heavy metals—kindly refer to EU cosmetic product regulations for more information.” Uses organic ingredients. Very pricy.
GOOD CHOICES: EWG Verified or Canadian Standards):
Note that many of these are from Mamavation’s list (which has since been removed from her post) and she may not have checked to make sure they actually sell makeup:
• Babu Botanicals (EWG Certified)
• Beautycounter (EWG Certified, brand tests every batch 3x, independently tests safer than German standards according to Mamavation, who makes this her top choice, but she doesn’t disclose the information they gave her about the test results. UPDATE August 2021: I finally got a link for Beautycounter test results. However, they still act super secretive about test results in general, and we only definitively know for all products that they meet EWG standards. This brand is the most controversial. Many people, including those concerned about heavy metals, think this brand is the best. But many non-toxic gurus feel that they use many ingredients that aren’t clean enough. They Say they test for lead BUT don’t release the test results, so to me this means they aren’t any better than the other companies who don’t share test results, AND, other brands have cleaner ingredients. “We have set our allowable limits at or below the strictest international guidance on acceptable trace levels of heavy metal impurities in cosmetics, using the most up-to-date scientific evidence to inform our standards. That means that Beautycounter is screening all of our color cosmetics for heavy metals and doing our best to reach “non-detectable” heavy metal limits when possible, while always keeping them within our health-protective company standards.” But they don’t say what their limit or standard is, other than to say “extremely low allowable levels.” Uses talc, titanium dioxide, preservatives. This is an MLM company. I believe it is especially important to #FactCheckMLMs because sometimes sales consultants can stretch the truth even more than what the company directly says.
• C’est Moi (EWG Certified): Amazon affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3ojbiBF
• Coastal Classic Creations (EWG Certified) Says they test to meet the following standards but couldn’t tell me what the limits are other than giving these websites, which I haven’t been able to peruse deep enough to find the limits AND I don’t feel I should have to! I would feel much more comfortable if a company was able to tell me what limits they fall under. They said they are going to update their website with the EU information. Their standards for levels of heavy metals fully conform to the European Union Directive 2008/128/EC for purity requirements as well as meeting all requirements of US 21 Code of Federal Regulations for purity. Color additives used in cosmetics must conform with the requirements of Section 73.2250, Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States Food and Drug Administration. Contains Clay and oxides.
• Drunk Elephant (according to Mamavation, confirmed testing levels about same as Canada, but I’m not sure if this information is publicly available). Amazon Affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3AsI4oF
• GAONDODAM (EWG Certified). Amazon affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3qZCCX8
• Maia’s Mineral Galaxy (EWG Certified). They told me “We use raw material as per EWG guidelines and get certifications from manufacturers.” This is extremely vague and they haven’t responded to follow up questions. This is an example of a company that needs to improve on their communication and choice of words, because to me they sounded too vague and could have specified about the EWG verification and being on on the EWG champion list in 2011.
• Mineral Fusion (EWG Certified). Amazon affiliates link: https://amzn.to/3AtQOee
• Paul Penders (EWG Certified)
• Qet Botanicals (EWG Certified)
• Saie (EWG Certified)
• Sally B Skin Yummies (EWG Certified)
• W3LL (EWG Certified). Amazon Affiliates link: https://amzn.to/35rAKON
COMPANIES WHO SAY THEY TEST FOR METALS and HAVE A LIMIT BUT HAVE NOT SHOWN PROOF:
• 100% Pure (Uses fruit pigments instead of minerals, but wouldn’t give heavy metals testing levels and is not 3rd party certified). “We test our ingredients for purity to ensure there are no heavy metals or environmental contaminants present … and free from environmental pollutants, toxins, and synthetic pesticides. We have extremely high standards when it comes to ingredient sourcing. All fruits and vegetables are non-GMO, and often Organic. We always label products and ingredients that are certified USDA Organic. Ingredients are both locally, globally sourced. Most of our products are manufactured here in the USA. All of our products are cruelty-free, and most are vegan. We’re currently in a transitional phase and are moving to become a fully vegan brand. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have three natural mineral sources– rutile, anatase, and brookite. We use naturally sourced rutile, which has a higher UV absorbance level.” They also specify allergen info. Basically said that arsenic in the rice starch isn’t an issue. Non-Nano. Some products (powder) do have titanium dioxide. I saw a blog that was skeptical about their ingredient lists.
• Lauren Brooke (was on the ewg champion list in 2011). At first over chat, the representative said she for sure knew there was no mercury or lead (lol). By email it was a different story; the typical explanation that metals are naturally occurring, so it’s just a matter of what level ends up in makeup. They said they have test reports for each ingredient And stay within FDA and EU regulations.
• Lemongrass Spa. “The minerals we use in our makeup are independently tested for heavy metals, and there are no traces of lead, nickel or other heavy metals. We also do not use any ingredients in our production that would pose a threat of potential heavy metal contamination.” They say they can’t share the test results because they contain proprietary information, but I’m skeptical because from all the heavy metals test reports I’ve seen, they don’t contain proprietary information. However, mined minerals have a higher chance of being contaminated with lead than those that are lab created, and this quote doesn’t make me feel very confident. “All of our minerals are mined and essentially washed to make safe for use. They are (non nanno) pharmaceutical grade and follow fair trade labor laws. “Natural minerals are talc-free, chemical-free, non nanoparticle and dye-free.” None of the products contain any gluten. They use organic ingredients. Their brow pomade looks interesting. This seems to be some sort MLM company; they have “consultants.”
• Gabriel and zuzu. Claims they are lead free. Powder foundation contains titanium dioxide. Gabriel lipstick was on the fda lipstick list, over 1 ppm or 1,000 ppb (this is lower than many others, but too high for my preferences).
COMPANIES WHO SAY THEY TEST FOR METALS BUT DO NOT SPECIFY ANY KIND OF LIMIT:
(Simply testing isn’t an assurance of anything… what if the results were high?)
• Rms. “Rest assured heavy metal testing is conducted on each individual ingredient used in our products.” But they did not Respond to Follow up questions asking for more specifics, and they didn’t state if they stay below a certain level. May contain titanium dioxide. (Was on the ewg champion list in 2011)
• Pure Haven. Says they test but don’t release the results. (I’m not sure if they’ve stated a level they stay beneath)
• All Natural Cosmetics. “We have had our lipsticks tested for lead when several years ago the lead in lipstick alert occurred and they were in the safe area. As far as the powdered products, no we have not tested for lead as we have suppliers who stock the iron oxides with data sheets to show the safety. There is a high percentage of our ingredients in our powdered products which is arrowroot which is food grade.” Have not responded to follow up questions about what the heck “safe zone” means. There is no safe level of lead.
COMPANIES THAT DON’T TEST
• Omiana. They did talk about how the analyze ingredients and suppliers, but didn’t say they test for metals. No titanium Dioxide. Some ingredients are organic or non gmo. Iron oxides lab-made form to avoid metals and are non nano. For mica-free AND titanium dioxide-free, you can shop this collection for mica-free and titanium dioxide-free (link here).The sidebar has a little feature where you can click ‘no titanium dioxide’ and ‘no mica’ so that the products without both those ingredients appear. You can further filter the options by choosing no boron nitride, no ultramarines, etc.
• Ilia. “Thank you for your inquiry! PPM testing for lead or heavy metals is not performed on our products at this time, but we do work with the highest grade mineral pigments for our natural dyes to ensure any heavy metals are registered at the lowest levels possible which are deemed as trace amounts. Our products do not have nano particles.” They do use organic ingredients. “Every material we use, or any cosmetic brand uses comes with documents. One is called a Certificate of Analysis and the other is a Material Safety Data Sheet. Many natural ingredients will contain trace amounts of minerals and heavy metals as many of the ingredients come from the earth. There is usually a range of which we target to be under 10ppm (parts per million), which is considered a trace level. These documents are reviewed an external regulatory team in the US and responsible person for the European Union to ensure they meet not only international requirements but ours as well.”
• Vapor Organic. Organic ingredients, but Very concerning emails. Quote from formulator and co- founder: “Vapour Organic Beauty does not test for any specific heavy metals. It is unlikely that any company does. My understanding of heavy metals and background radiation is that they will always be present and no one can do anything about that reality. No species or element is in a vacuum on these issues…… That being said, Vapour sources pigments that are non-irradiated and with the lowest levels of heavy metals possible. Our testing confirmed what our vendors FDA inspected pigment lot tests demonstrate- negligible/trace amounts of these elements.” That second paragraph contradicts the first, and when I asked about it, then they said they had given me incorrect info about testing. I’ll probably never trust this company now unless they can prove that they test. Sadly, they would have been at the top of my list if they had given a better answer about testing. From their website: “We have earned the “Champion Safety Status” from the Environmental Working Group and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. We set high standards for ingredient performance and purity; our clean ingredients meet or exceed international green beauty standards. Ingredients are responsibly sourced and have the best environmental ratings. We choose organically farmed and naturally derived, minimally processed ingredients.” Their products do not contain synthetic FD&C or Lake colorants. Colored exclusively with minerals and carmine. No fragrance. They recycle their packaging. They have a powder that doesn’t have titanium dioxode. Somehow, was on the ewg champion list in 2011.
• Real purity. I found this company by reading a blog about lead free lipsticks (but she phrased her criteria in a confusing way, basically that the companies were “better” and not actually confirmed to be lead free. Be careful who you trust online! This company claims lead free at least on some products, and non nano. At least on some products, the complete ingredients list is not provided. “Real Purity lipsticks can be eaten without any health concerns.” “Thank you for your email, my apologies, but we are a very small company and do not do any third party testing. The labs we use assure us they take steps to avoid heavy metals in their ingredients. The oxide source are naturally derived, we are not a certified organic company.” Not sure how they can claim to be lead free, yet write that statement! This is why it’s important to ask questions.
• Epic Beauty. Uses ultramarines
• Earths beauty. No response
OTHER BRANDS TO CONSIDER INQUIRING ABOUT METALS:
Honeybee Gardens (was on the ewg champion list in 2011), Juice Beauty (was on the ewg champion list in 2011), Fitglow (Leaping Bunny Certified 100% Cruelty Free. Certified Organic ingredients , gluten free. Pricy. Didn’t respond to email), Nvey eco, Afterglow (non nano, uses certified organic), Lavera, Max & Madeleine, Miessence, NYR organic, Toups and Co.
There are also sellers on Etsy such as DabHerbMakeup who make makeup. But even herbs, cocoa, arrowroot, iron and zinc oxides often have high heavy metals too, but potentially better than things like mica.
MORE LINKS ABOUT HEAVY METALS IN MAKEUP:
PRODUCTS TO REDUCE MAKEUP REMOVAL WASTE:
-Use organic round nursing pads as makeup remover pads
–Reusable makeup rounds from Anne Riggs on Etsy
–Last Round (reusable cotton rounds)
–Last Swab Beauty (for makeup removal)
–Last Swab Basic (for ear cleaning)
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Heavy Metal Testing Reports, Sent by Au Naturale in November 2020:
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