The Lipstick Lead Test is Wrong

lipstickLike many of you, I have seen the lead in lipstick test on youtube. For those of you who don’t know what it is, there are a few videos on line touting a way to test your lipsticks and other cosmetics for lead and other heavy metals by simply wiping the creamy cosmetic over the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and then swiping a paper towel over it. If the makeup on the paper towel has black specks in it then the cosmetic has lead in it.

While I am usually good at fact checking up front, I heard this tip from a trusted friend, tried it and low and behold! Lead in my lipstick! It seemed like a good way to quickly test my make up and even my child’s face paint and I didn’t think twice about it. Then a friend of mine tried the test on her daughter’s lip balm and it came up with the black specs. Wanting to call the company and complain she wanted to make sure what she was going to complain about was accurate so I took a closer look at the test and couldn’t find any scientific based evidence to back it up. Yikes!

I then reached out to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and was put in touch with Ena Do, Director of Marketing & Communication for the Breast Cancer Fund. You can read our interaction here:


I’ve been asked about the lipstick on aluminum foil test as a way to see if there is lead in the lipstick. Is that an accurate test? Thank you!

Vanessa Parsons

Vanesa thanks for the inquiry and checked with our scientists and here is what we can tell you:

– We can’t find any evidence of this as definitive or true test.  Aluminum is a pretty reactive metal but could react with other elements in lipstick. We do not think a simple rubbing test would be specific at all and definitely is not what we would use. Here is a link to the tests we did. The tests used by the Campaign and the FDA to assess lead in lipstick:

Hope this helps
Thank You

Ena Do

Even though the aluminum foil test for lipstick was not accurate there are organizations out there like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics doing a great job of listing which companies still use heavy metals, like lead, in their makeup. They also have wonderful petitions you can sign in support of removing these heavy metals. Spread the word!

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