The researchers focused on lipstick and lip gloss, they said, because those who wear them absorb or eat them, bit by bit.
High use was defined as ingesting 87 milligrams of the product a day. That would involve repeated reapplying, Hammond said. Average use was about 24 milligrams a day.
When used at an average daily rate, the estimated intake of chromium from 10 products exceeded acceptable daily intake, the researchers found. Chromium has been linked to stomach tumors.
High use of the products, they found, also could result in overexposure to aluminum, cadmium and manganese. High manganese levels have been linked to nervous system problems.
The findings do signal a need for more public oversight, the researchers said.
The FDA regulates cosmetics safety under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Cosmetics must be safe when used as the label directs or under ordinary conditions. The FDA does not, however, require cosmetics to get pre-market approval. Color additives must get pre-market approval, in most cases. No limits for lead in cosmetics have been set by the FDA.
The FDA, however, has set specifications for lead in the color additives that are used in cosmetics.
The Personal Care Products Council, a trade association representing the cosmetics industry, said in a statement Wednesday that the lead content of lipsticks has already been studied by the FDA and that the agency decided the amounts involved were not a threat to public safety.
"Trace amounts of metals in lip products need to be put into context," Linda Loretz, chief toxicologist for the council, said in the statement. "Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison. For example, daily trace amounts of chromium or cadmium from lip products based on the results in this report are less than 1 percent of daily exposures one would get from their diet. In the case of manganese, typical daily intake from food is more than 1000-fold greater than the amount from lip products."