Lead acetate is used as a color additive in "progressive" hair dye products. These products are applied over a period of time to achieve a gradual coloring effect.
In order to be approved for this use, a color additive petition was required to establish safety. The safety data submitted in support of this petition included results from trials on humans using the products. In the trials, people using the product under controlled conditions of use were monitored for the amount of lead in their bloodstream. No significant increase in blood levels of lead was seen in the trial subjects and the lead was not shown to be absorbed into the body through such use.
These data allowed FDA to determine that safe conditions of use could be established, and a color additive regulation (Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 73.2396) allowing the use of lead acetate in hair dyes was established. The regulation requires that the following caution statement appear on the product labels:
"Caution: Contains lead acetate. For external use only. Keep this product out of children's reach. Do not use on cut or abraded scalp. If skin irritation develops, discontinue use. Do not use to color mustaches, eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair on parts of the body other than the scalp. Do not get in eyes. Follow instructions carefully and wash hands thoroughly after use."
To ensure safe use of these products, it is important that consumers follow these directions carefully.
Consumers can determine if lead acetate is used in a particular hair dye product by reviewing the product ingredient declaration appearing on the label of the cosmetic package.
January 9, 2002. This information is current. It is updated only as needed.