Deadly Lip Balm

With toxic ingredients being left off product labels, you may want to trade in your tube for one of these.

Yes, that seemingly innocuous, cheery little slick of color you use to brighten your smile — and frequently lick off your lips — can be toxic. Like so many things these days, cosmetics are rife with unhealthy ingredients — from heavy metals to endocrine disrupting chemicals, both of which can build up in our bodies and interfere with our health. Lip glosses are some of the worst heavy metal offenders, often containing the highest levels of lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deems lead exposure unsafe at any level and the EPA has linked arsenic to a host of illnesses including cancer — clearly something you want to avoid. But dodging it is tricky. We rely on labeling to stay informed, but you won’t find heavy metals listed on that pretty little tube. Thanks to loose regulation, it’s up to the manufacturer to ensure product safety and since these metals are generally considered by-products and unintentional, they’re not required to be listed on packaging.

"Do you know there’s actually an allowable amount of lead for lip gloss? It’s just unacceptable," says Kelly Teegarden, a stage III thyroid cancer survivor, who overhauled the chemicals in her life after becoming sick and decided to create her own beauty line, Kelly Teegarden Organics. "The ingredients I use for KTO are proven not to cause cancer or disrupt the endocrine system, and they're not on any hot list of any country. Putting on lip gloss should be a no-risk situation."

Hopefully, the passage of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, supported by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, will change things for the better. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up some new balms and glosses with healthier ingredients and none of the aforementioned offenders: