Survey of cosmetics for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, and nickel content

J Cosmet Sci. 2014 May-Jun;65(3):125-45.


As part of efforts to assess amounts of inorganic element contamination in cosmetics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration contracted a private laboratory to determine the total content of seven potentially toxic or allergenic elements in 150 cosmetic products of 12 types (eye shadows, blushes, lipsticks, three types of lotions, mascaras, foundations, body powders, compact powders, shaving creams, and face paints). Samples were analyzed for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, and nickel by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and for mercury by cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry. The methods used to determine the elements were tested for validity by using standard reference materials with matrices similar to the cosmetic types. The cosmetic products were found to contain median values of 0.21 mg/kg arsenic, 3.1 mg/kg chromium, 0.91 mg/kg cobalt, 0.85 mg/kg lead, and 2.7 mg/kg nickel. The median values for cadmium and mercury were below the limits of detection of the methods. The contract requirements, testing procedures, and findings from the survey are described.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Cadmium / analysis
  • Chromium / analysis
  • Cobalt / analysis
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Drug Contamination*
  • Lead / analysis
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mercury / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Nickel / analysis
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Cosmetics
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Lead
  • Cobalt
  • Nickel
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic