Skip to content

Are you putting toxic heavy metals on your face every day?

Image credit: Environmental Defense

Earlier in May, Environmental Defence released a shocking report on the health risks associated with the toxic heavy metals found in makeup. The report, “Heavy Metal Hazard”, outlines the results of tests of 49 facial makeup items that were selected from across a spectrum of categories and brands. Originally, six Canadian women were asked to identify five pieces of makeup they use regularly, while Environmental Defence selected an additional five. In the end, 49 items were tested that included five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses. The products were tested by an accredited laboratory, SGS Canada Inc., for the presence of heavy metals.

The danger of heavy metals is that collectively, they accumulate in your body over time and have been linked to long-term health issues such as cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological problems (memory loss, mood swings) nerve, joint and muscle disorders, cardiovascular, skeletal, blood, immune, kidney, skin, and hormonal problems… and the list goes on. Essentially, every and any aspect of your body could be adversely affected. Where it relates to make-up, the heavy metals can be absorbed through your skin, and in the case of lip products, even ingested.

Of all the heavy metals, the most concerning ones are arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury because they’re not only banned as “intentional ingredients” in the cosmetic industry (with draft limits as potential impurities), but are identified as being “toxic” in Canada because of their health implications. After the big four are beryllium, selenium, and thallium, which are also considered intentional ingredients, and finally, nickel.

What’s concerning is that at all of the facial makeup products tested positive for at least one or more heavy metal. Below is a summary of the results from the report.

Of those tested, some of the most popular, and well-loved brands were the ones testing the highest for traces of heavy metals. Even those testing the lowest, still contained at least two heavy metals.

When you look at the big four heavy metals in the facial products that had ranked the highest for containing the most heavy metal, it’s surprising that almost half of them are over Canada’s specified draft limit.

As a point of comparison, Canada allows 10 ppm for metal impurities that are “technically avoidable” whereas in Europe heavy metals are banned altogether and in the United States, the limit is 1.07 ppm.

What’s the most shocking of all is that cosmetic companies are not required to include these impurities on their product labels. So, in Canada, there simply is no way of knowing if what you are buying contains these toxic heavy metals.

The report goes into much more detail around the impacts of each heavy metal and recommendations on what the Canadian government should be doing to empower Canadians to make informed decisions around products. The report also concludes with suggestions for the average person to protect themselves from facial make-up with heavy metals:

  1. Choose safer products
    Environmental Defence offers a pocket shopping guide that helps consumers find safe products. EWG’s Skin Deep database is also a resource. A product-line that is fantastic that was developed by a woman who regularly provides comprehensive reviews on cosmetic products is Paula’s Choice.
  2. Use less product
    Consider eliminating certain products from your routine or use makeup less often.
  3. Help pass smarter, health-protective laws
    Sign the petition on Environmental Defence, and ask that Health Canada be given the authority and resources it needs to ensure the safety of cosmetics by visiting
  4. Demand that cosmetics companies fully disclose ingredients and support those that do
    Tell cosmetics companies that you want them to fully disclose the ingredients in the products they make – including impurities – through their toll-free customer hotlines. You can usually find their numbers on their product packages and websites. Environmental Defence also provides talking points on our heavy metal report fact sheet – also at

I highly recommend downloading the report to read in more detail yourself. You might be surprised by what you’re actually putting on your face.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. vivve #

    Hi Affiche,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Regarding sharing, it’s likely because there is an extra “s” within your http:// – which makes it a request for a secure site connection. Try the link again without the “s”, and it should work:



    January 9, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: