Is Lancome lipstick loaded with lead?

KP’s question: Here’s a good one for you – a story about the dangers of lead in lipstick. I was forwarded this email from a friend (first red flag, unknown source!) What’s up with this??

The Left Brain’s reply:

I’ve posted KP’s email in the Beauty Brains forum so everyone can read the entire story, but the basic idea is that the dyes used in lipsticks made by LANCOME, CHRISTIAN DIOR, CLINIQUE, ESTEE LAUDER, and SHISEIDO contain lead and will give you cancer. Furthermore, you can tell if your lipstick contains lead by smearing some on a piece of paper and then rubbing a gold ring across it. If the gold leaves a dark grey streak, the lipstick contains lead.

There is lead in lipstick

Your skepticism is well founded, KP, because this story is just another urban legend. First of all, all colorants allowed for use in cosmetics must pass rigorous testing by the US FDA. It’s true that dyes are allowed to contain VERY VERY VERY small amounts of lead (about 20 parts per million). But that’s far below the amount that could harm you, no matter how much lipstick you use. So lipsticks DO NOT contain dangerous amounts of lead.

Lead doesn’t cause cancer

Second, there’s no doubt that lead poisoning is a very serious illness. It can make you sick; it can even kill you. But it can’t give you cancer. So this is just another case where The Big “C” is used to scare people.

The ringer

Third, the gold ring trick is bogus too. Rubbing a gold ring across the right kind of surface will leave a dark streak. But so will a coin or any other metal object that has a bit of oxidation built up on it. Rubbing the metal (the ring in this case) can leave a dark streak whether you smear lipstick on it first or not. So clearly the streak is not from lead in lipstick.

You can read the entire debunking at It’s one of The Beauty Brains’ favorite sites.