Lipstick Without Lead

Clean/non-toxic lipstick from philadelphia fashion blogger tanya kertsman

Since elementary school, I have always loved wandering the pharmacy aisles, discovering the latest beauty products. As an eleven-year-old browsing the neat rows of perfectly packaged makeup at Eckerd (remember Eckerd?), there is nothing I valued more than finding a lipstick that made me feel mature beyond my years and subsequently begging my mom to buy it for me. I clearly didn’t realize the irony at the time.

The idea that these coveted products contained lead and other potentially toxic ingredients never crossed my mind. Even as an adult, I didn’t start paying attention to beauty product ingredients until I was pregnant with my first baby. I drastically cut my skincare and beauty routine and only used a handful of products that I felt were safe. That included eliminating brands that I had previously used for decades. I don’t use 100% clean products because let’s face it, I have my favorites I’m not quite ready to part with. It’s also not always clear what “clean” and “nontoxic” means since everything has chemicals in it.

Why is there a concern?

So why the concern and need for nontoxic lipstick? A high-level background: When a report from the FDA showed trace amounts of lead in lipstick and other cosmetics, I became seriously concerned about what products I was putting on my body. You can read about the top ten lead-filled lipsticks here. Both the cosmetics industry and the FDA stated that the amount of lead is low and not a concern. However, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a different perspective. They state that lead is a neurotoxin and any amount is too much.

According to the CDC, “no safe blood lead level has been identified. For infants and young children, lead levels of 10 micrograms or more in a deciliter of blood are levels of concern and can damage ability to learn…Of all people, young children face the most danger from exposure to lead because their growing bodies are more prone to harm and also children absorb lead more easily than do adults’ bodies. Pregnant women and women of childbearing age should avoid exposure to lead because lead ingested by a mother can affect the unborn child.”

In addition to lead, there are other toxic ingredients found in lipsticks. A study by the University of California found nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, aluminum, manganese and lead when testing lip products.

My perspective

My perspective: With the potential for cumulative exposure, even if it’s a minimal amount, I’m taking steps to decrease my use of brands that contain potentially toxic ingredients. Ingredients like lead can build up in the body over time so even low exposure can add up to significant exposure over time. Lipstick essentially goes in your mouth and we reapply it several times throughout the day. As a healthcare professional, an avid beauty consumer, and a mother, I would rather not take the risk.

Thinking about preliminary studies and regulation of the beauty industry, I am choosing to take precaution. There are so many great products now that are transparent AND effective. While overhauling your entire makeup bag is unrealistic and expensive, if I am buying a new product, I look into the ingredients and brand ethos before adding to cart. Below are some of my favorite lipsticks and lip balms that I have personally used and recommend often.

I would love your thoughts in the comments. Which lipstick do you use and swear by? 

Saie, Liquid Lip Balm

The Saie Liquid Lip Balm has quickly become my everyday lip moisturizer. It is a lip salve with a faint pale pink hue that helps nourish dry lips while adding a little color. Key ingredients include beeswax, coconut oil, and squalane. A full ingredient list is available on the brand website, including a brief description of the purpose of each ingredient.

RMS Beauty, Lip2Cheek

Created with organic ingredients, the RMS Lip2Cheek creates a nice natural finish on cheeks and lips. I love the dewy look it creates that doesn’t feel overdone. It gives you that natural flush, like you’ve been laughing for hours and lounging in the sun.

Kosas, Weightless Lip Color Lipstick

If you’re worried about performance, try Kosas products. Kosas is a clean beauty brand known for their tinted face oil foundation and pigmented lipsticks. The Weightless Lip Color lipstick stays on for hours without drying out your lips. Key ingredients include Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Seed Oil, and Mango Seed Butter.

Honest Beauty, Tinted Lip Balm

I have been using Honest bath products for my kids since 2015. With the launch of Honest Beauty, I quickly became a loyal customer (the Extreme Length Mascara and Lash Primer is my go-to everyday mascara). A few months ago, I tried the tinted lip balm and it did not disappoint. With avocado oil, açaí and pomegranate oils, the lip balm is hydrating and comes in a beautiful assortment of colors (I have the Summer Melon). It’s also affordable at $8.99 and available at Target.

Milk, Lip + Cheek

This two-in-one stick serves as a hydrating lip tint and buildable sheer blush. Mango butter, peach nectar and avocado oil provide hydration and a subtle natural glow. I recommend getting the mini so you can try it out first. It’s tiny and fits easily in any makeup bag. Milk products are formulated without talc, hydroquinone, mineral oil, urea, synthetic fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates and resorcinol ingredients. The company is transparent and lists all ingredients on their website.


I encourage you to do your own research and decide on your own approach to clean makeup. There is so much information available to help you make a well-informed decision. Here are some resources I find helpful when deciding whether to try a new beauty product.


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