The Dangers of Heavy Metals in Cosmetics & How to Protect Yourself

This weeks guest post is from Melissa at RealNutritiousLiving. Have you ever thought of your  makeup as toxic? It definitely can be!! Continue reading to learn more about how your makeup may be harming your health and what you can do about it!

Bri and Melissa are hosting a live event on Facebook on Tuesday, January 30 at 8pm PST. The topic is 'Detox your Makeup Bag and your Supplements'. There will be a lot of information and actionable steps provided to help you live a non-toxic lifestyle, plus a Giveaway (must attend live to be entered). Go here to join!

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What exactly are heavy metals and what are the risks associated with exposure?

Heavy metals are elements that occur naturally, but become concentrated and widely distributed in the environment via human activities like mining and manufacturing.

Some heavy metals, like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, may cause organ damage and are classified as possible or known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, but the severity of their effects depend on factors like dose, route of exposure, and a person’s age at exposure.

 Why are heavy metals in cosmetics?

Companies are not intentionally adding heavy metals to cosmetics. Instead, they are typically contaminants that tag along with both mineral and synthetic ingredients used to give products color.


Lead, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Mercury are the metals that are of the greatest concern and they are linked to all kinds of health problems.

Heavy metals aren’t something most of us would even think would be hiding in our makeup!

Regulation of the beauty industry is basically nonexistent.  In fact, here in the U.S., the federal government hasn't passed a law to regulate ingredients in beauty products since 1937 (source).

Even if there were “safe” levels determined for these products, when you add up the exposures that most women get between multiple beauty products (the average woman wears at least 16 products which expose her to over 515 ingredients (source) and the constant use, you have a greater likelihood for toxic levels to be reach.

What are the harmful effects of metals in makeup?

Lead is linked to neurotoxicity such as learning, language and behavioral problems. It has also been linked to infertility, hormonal and menstrual irregularities, as well as delayed onset of puberty in girls and development of testes in boys. (source)

Arsenic is linked to non-reproductive organ toxicity and hormone disruption. (source)

Cadmium is linked to cancer, tumors, heart, lung damage and birth defects. (source)

Mercury (THIMEROSAL) - FDA has banned the use of mercury compounds in all cosmetics except those used around the eyes, where levels are limited to 65 parts per million (ppm). It can accumulate in the body and may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxic manifestations. Mercury is considered particularly toxic to the developing brain during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. (Learn more here)

How  to choose safe makeup:

1) Check your products for Safety

Search all of your personal care products (as well as cleaning supplies, etc.) on the Healthy Living App

2) Only wear makeup with a dedicated metal testing policy

Because mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, are natural products.  So even if your products are “natural” or “organic” or DIY, if they have metals in them, they can still harbor dangerous heavy metals inside at unsafe levels.


This leads to 2 options:

1) To be as safe as possible, skip the foundation, the blush, the eye pencil, the lipstick, the lip gloss, the mascara, and the eye shadow.  Unless you can find a line of products that uses only plant-based colors.  Keep reading…..

2) Shop safe with a brand that 3rd party tests every batch of makeup for heavy metals, like Beautycounter.  See their policy and learn more about heavy metals in makeup here.

No matter where you shop, make sure you do your homework and keep the heavy metals off of your face — 'cause no one needs that stuff in their makeup.

What brand of cosmetics / beauty products do you use?

What do you think about this?

About the Author:

Melissa Schollaert is a Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor and founder of Real Nutritious Living. Helping others achieve their health goals to attain their healthiest, happiest life is her greatest ambition. She has been a regular expert on NBC, ABC, Good Day Live, ESPN radio, various summits, and podcasts. She regularly teaches classes at Whole Foods and many other outlets.

Join her SAFEr Skincare group (HERE) Follow Melissa on Instagram (HERE)

 Head over to RealNutritiousliving and get jump start your health with her free e-book.


Sources: National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, CosIng, Health Canada, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database


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