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Unsafe Lipstick Ingredients Prompt FDA Warning Letter to Lime Crime

Aug 17, 2015

After learning about unsafe ingredients listed on the label of Lime Crime's Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent the company a warning letter directing it to correct the violations.

The letter, dated July 29, warns Lime Crime that the coloring agents ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines, listed on the labels of Lime Crime's Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick, are not permitted in lipsticks, Fashionista reports.

These coloring agents are permitted in "externally applied cosmetics" under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act but that designation excludes lipstick, because lipstick comes into contact with the mucous membranes of the mouth and the ingredients can be absorbed. The FDA did not test the lipsticks for the presence of the unsafe coloring agents; it issued the warning on the basis of the label's ingredient list. Lime Crime must remove the ingredients from the lipstick. If the ingredients are not in fact present in the lipsticks, the company must change the label, Fashionista reports. The FDA letter refers to the lipstick as “an adulterated cosmetic because it bears or contains a color additive which is unsafe within the meaning of section 721(a)” of the cosmetic act. Lime Crime has 15 days from receipt of the letter to respond in writing with the steps it has taken to correct the situation and prevent a recurrence.

While ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines both have a low-to-moderate toxicity rating in the Environmental Working Group database, the ingredients are potential irritants, Fashionista reports. Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist and co-founder of the web site the Beauty Brains says FDA warning letters of this sort are relatively common.

Lime Crime, known for its nontraditional cosmetic colors, has had a somewhat troubled history, according to Fashionista. The company was launched in 2008 by musician and fashion designer Kseniya Vorostova, who is now known as Doe Deere, to produce cosmetics in unusual colors. Fashionista reports that Lime Crime has been accused of repackaging other companies' products and a few years ago vegan makeup users say Lime Crime—which calls itself vegan—was using beeswax and carmine, which are not acceptable in vegan products. Lime Crime removed those ingredients from its products. This year, when the company suffered a credit data breach, customers complained that the company was not quick or forthright its handling of the incident. Online threads about Lime Crime's use of ferric ferrocyanides in the Velvetines products are believed to be what brought this matter to the FDA's attention.

Lime Crime says the problem is not the ingredients but merely mislabeling. In an email to Fashionista, Lime Crime said, "The Velvetines are absolutely safe to use. However, a misprint occurred on some of the labels. We are working with the FDA to correct this. Customer's safety is always a top priority for us. We apologize for any concern or confusion the misprint may have caused."

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