Better Beauty: What’s in a Lipstick gives a deeper look into why lip color isn’t as carefree as it seems, what to look for (and look out for), and a few great lipsticks that you can feel good about wearing.
I remember months ago reading a post from a gal in a lip color company saying something to the effect of, “Oh, it’s not a matter of life and death – it’s just lipstick!” I shrugged it off, not really being a lipstick kind of gal anyway. I figured she was right; at the time I didn’t think there would be any correlation between life, death and lipstick.
But then I learned some things that I can’t unlearn – and I realized that lipstick really does have more in common with life and death than my online friend originally thought.
As with all products, the first thing I would encourage you to do is to ignore the brand messaging that a company uses. Words like natural, vegan, gluten free, and cruelty free are great in theory, but unfortunately are hardly regulated in the cosmetics industry. Oftentimes even if a company can say these things about their manufacturing processes, that doesn’t mean they have a supply chain that adheres to the same standards. I’m not saying every company is lying to you; I’m saying that it’s up to YOU to determine if the product in question is really as clean as it’s touted to be.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?
We’ll start with one of the more commonly known issues with lipstick: heavy metals, with an emphasis in lead. Lead is, by the way, natural, vegan, gluten free and cruelty free. It’s also inexplicably responsible for irreversible brain damage and behavior issues in children, as well as serious side effects from exposure in adults such as neurological effects, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, and reproductive toxicity. Heavy metals, like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, may also cause organ damage and are classified as possible or known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, but their effects depend on factors like dosage, how a person is exposured, and the age of exposure.
Heavy metals are impossible to remove from anything because of the fact that they are naturally occurring. Any company that says they are completely heavy-metal free are likely not continually testing for heavy metals. The truth is that heavy metal contamination is not intentional; they are found in mineral and synthetic ingredients that are used as colorants in cosmetics. What you want to look for is a company that has the lowest possible amount of heavy metals in their products, and then you want to make sure that they have continued batch testing to make sure that heavy metal exposure is under consistently below that level.
A few other ingredients to look out for:
- Butylatedhydroxy Anisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene – Synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors and may cause liver damage.
- Synthetic flavor or fragrance – An engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed.
- Methylparaben – a paraben, which is used as a preservative, which is linked to cancer, reproductive damage, endocrine issues, and other possible health issues.
- Propylparaben – another paraben, with similar issues, as well as skin and eye irritation. Also linked to endocrine disruption and cancer.
- Retinyl Palmitate – this is a synthetic form of Vitamin A that could be toxic for pregnant women, and may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically.
- Colorants – often tested on animals, and (if they don’t come from a clean supply chain) test highly for heavy metals. Also linked to nervous system damage and/or other health concerns.
WHAT SHOULD I BUY INSTEAD?
As always I like to make sure I don’t just share the doom and gloom of the toxins commonly found in products – I like to share some great options as well! Let’s dig into 5 lipsticks that a beautiful and much safer to use!
- Beautycounter Color Intense Lipstick or Beautycounter Sheer Lipstick
- RMS Beauty Wild With Desire
- Maia’s Mineral Galaxy Mineral Lipstick
- Poofy Supernaturals Lipstick
- Milani Lipstick