Kiss of Death: Can Lipstick Raise Risk for Diabetes?

The outlook for makeup keeps getting uglier and uglier.

Lead-laden lipstick. Skin creams made with mercury. A slew of animal-tested products on the market.

And now, a new report that link lipstick to increased rates of diabetes.

The connection lies in phthalates—esters of phthalic acid used to make plastic-based products more flexible, durable, and transparent. Lipstick, as well as other cosmetics, contains BPA (the phthalate Bisphenol-A), which, according to Cathryn Wellner of, tends to travel through the pores and into the bloodstream.

The recent study from Sweden’s Uppsala University tested 1,016 70-year-olds, 119 of whom had developed diabetes. After a round of blood tests, researchers discovered that seniors with higher levels of phthalates in their bodies also had higher rates of diabetes—almost twice the rates of those with lower levels.

The research confirms earlier literature on phthalates and diabetes. In 2005, Spanish and Mexican scientists found that BPA “disrupts pancreatic beta-cell function…and induces insulin resistance.” And in February of this year, researcher Angel Nadal of the Miguel Hernandez University in Spain found that BPA “triggers the release of almost double the insulin actually needed to break down food,” according to the Huffington Post.

“When you eat something with BPA, it’s like telling your organs that you are eating more than you are really eating,” said Nadal.

High insulin levels, in turn, often lead to weight gain and Type II Diabetes, two health epidemics that the United States is currently busy battling.

Even more frightening is that a little BPA can do a lot of damage health-wise.

“It takes so little of this chemical to cause harm,” says Frederick vom Saal, expert in endocrine disruptors at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

And according to WebMD researcher P. Monica Lind: “Even at relatively low levels of phthalate metabolites in the blood, the risk of getting diabetes begins to rise.”

BPA, of course, is found in more than just makeup; it’s also a common ingredient in other personal care items, as well as soda- and food-can linings. Since the chemical often goes unlabeled, consumers can ingest it unwittingly.

And BPA has also been found to contribute to more than just diabetes; various studies report it can increase risk for cancer, heart disease, and damage to the reproductive system.

Yet though the facts are stacked against BPA, regulators have done surprisingly little to limit its use. Health Canada only bans BPA in baby bottles, reports care2. And the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows BPA in packaged food containers, deeming evidence against phthalates “inconclusive.”

Corporations: 1, Consumers: 0.

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