What’s In That Lipstick?


Obviously no one wakes up and says “You know what? Today, I’m going to color my lips with toxins!” Yet everyday we do, because the most popular brands on the market contain heavy metals, petrochemicals and other harmful ingredients that simply don’t need to be there.

While some of these harmful ingredients are knowingly added to lipsticks, others are unintentional by-products of the manufacturing process. These accidental contaminants are not listed on the label and are only found when companies test their products to see whether or not they are present.

Choosing a more natural lipstick

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the average woman uses 10 personal care items each day, exposing us to more than 100 unique chemicals that accumulate in our bodies. So while the impact of chemicals and heavy metal contaminants in our bodies may be minimal for a single product, the cumulative effect of the products we use on a daily basis is a concern.

The good news is that there are tons of cosmetic brands these days that offer healthier alternatives. These healthier brands use vibrant botanicals and minerals to create naturally beautiful colors that nourish our lips without harming our bodies.

If you do buy lipsticks that contain synthetic ingredients, be sure look for companies that regularly test their products for heavy metals and other unwanted contaminants. Also, don’t let children play with them, as the accumulation of chemicals are more concentrated in their smaller bodies.

Here are a few things to look for and avoid on the label.
Natural lip gloss

Look for lipsticks that include:

  • Plant-based emollients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado and aloe vera.
  • Healthy botanical oils such as castor oil, chamomile oil, jojoba oil, olive and sunflower oil.
  • Natural wax ingredients such as candelilla, carnauba or beeswax.
  • Natural fragrances or flavors such as vanilla extract and peppermint extract.
  • Natural preservatives such as tea tree oil, neem oil and cinnamon. Vitamin E is a more common preservative, but often comes from GMO soy, so just make sure the ingredients label specifically says it’s from sunflower oil or some non-GMO source.
  • Natural lip colors made from fruits, vegetables and other botanical ingredients. Examples include turmeric, beetroot, purple carrots, berries, pomegranates and calendula.
  • Titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and mica are considered safe mineral colorants. Look for the words “non-nanoparticle” or “not micronized into nano-particles”.[/accordion]

Avoid lipsticks that contain:

  • Petroleum-based emollients, such as mineral oil and petrolatum.
  • Artificial scents, which are usually listed on the ingredients label as “fragrance”, “natural fragrance” or “parfum”.
  • Synthetic and petroleum-based waxes that give lipstick its shape. Common waxes to avoid include paraffin and ozokerite.
  • Synthetic preservatives such as formaldehyde, BHT and parabens.
  • Artificial dyes. In the US these dyes are listed on the label beginning with FD&C or D&C, or the color name followed by a number. For example: D&C Red 21 or just Red 21.
  • Avoid mineral ingredients that have been “micronized” into nano-particles.

Assess the lipsticks you already own

Be sure to check the Environmental Working Group’s database for cosmetics to help you decide whether you want to keep or toss what you already own.

If you find that you own a few lipsticks you can’t part with, you can reduce the absorption of harmful ingredients into your skin by applying a layer of all-natural lip balm underneath the lipstick. Note that this will only help somewhat with absorption, but will not prevent you from ingesting the lipstick when you eat, drink or lick your lips.

Good To Know

  • Wearing lipstick made with healthier ingredients means you don’t have to worry if you (or your little one) swallow a little lipstick now and then.
  • Some lip products contain animal ingredients such as sheep lanolin, beeswax or carmine. If you wish to avoid animal-based ingredients, look for the leaping bunny logo or the words “vegan”, “cruelty-free” or “no animal testing” on the label.

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