Metals in Cosmetics: Implications for Human Health

J Appl Toxicol. 2015 Jun;35(6):551-72. doi: 10.1002/jat.3129. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Cosmetics, preparations repeatedly applied directly to the human skin, mucous membranes, hair and nails, should be safe for health, however, recently there has been increasing concern about their safety. Unfortunately, using these products in some cases is related to the occurrence of unfavourable effects resulting from intentional or the accidental presence of chemical substances, including toxic metals. Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and nickel, as well as aluminium, classified as a light metal, are detected in various types of cosmetics (colour cosmetics, face and body care products, hair cosmetics, herbal cosmetics, etc.). In addition, necessary, but harmful when they occur in excessive amounts, elements such as copper, iron, chromium and cobalt are also present in cosmetic products. Metals occurring in cosmetics may undergo retention and act directly in the skin or be absorbed through the skin into the blood, accumulate in the body and exert toxic effects in various organs. Some cases of topical (mainly allergic contact dermatitis) and systemic effects owing to exposure to metals present in cosmetics have been reported. Literature data show that in commercially available cosmetics toxic metals may be present in amounts creating a danger to human health. Thus, the present review article focused on the problems related to the presence of heavy metals and aluminium in cosmetics, including their sources, concentrations and law regulations as well as danger for the health of these products users. Owing to the growing usage of cosmetics it is necessary to pay special attention to these problems.

Keywords: aluminium; concentrations; cosmetics; heavy metals; law regulations; metal nanoparticles; natural cosmetics; systemic action; topical action; toxic effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coloring Agents / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / chemistry
  • Eye / drug effects
  • Hair Preparations / adverse effects
  • Hair Preparations / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Metals / adverse effects*
  • Metals / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / adverse effects
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis


  • Coloring Agents
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair Preparations
  • Metals
  • Metals, Heavy