What’s really in your lipstick? The toxic truth…

By Nicole Edwards

Lipstick is the most popular beauty product used by women around the world.. but have you ever wondered what it’s actually is made of?

The truth of the matter is that lipsticks contain a noxious blend of petroleum based chemicals, many of which have not been thoroughly tested for safety.

The scary thing is, what goes ON your mouth can also go IN your mouth. Lipstick is easily absorbed through the lips and every time you lick your lips, you may also be ingesting a small dose of these toxic chemicals. It is estimated that a woman may ingest more than four pounds of lipstick in her lifetime!

Below are some of the most common (and toxic) ingredients found in lipstick.

Nastie #1: Methylparaben

Methylparaben is a synthetic preservative used in many lipsticks and beauty products. Methylparaben is quickly absorbed through the skin and the intestinal tract. This preservative is restricted through most of Europe because it has been linked to cancer. It may also disrupt the endocrine system, or be toxic in other ways. However, it is still present in many lipsticks.

Alarmingly, Methlparaben is often a ‘hidden’ ingredient, meaning it is not actually on the ingredient list, making it near impossible for consumers to be aware of this toxic ingredient.

Methylparaben is rated a “moderate hazard” by the Cosmetics Database.

Nastie #2: Propylparaben

Propylparaben is in the paraben family of preservatives. It is frequently used in lipsticks and other cosmetics. It can irritate skin and eyes or cause reactions in those who are allergic.

Some studies have also raised concerns about hormone (endocrine) disruption, cancer and other toxic effects.

Propylparaben is rated a “high hazard” by the Cosmetics Database.

Nastie #3: Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is an ingredient composed of Retinol (Vitamin A) and Palmitic Acid (a saturated fatty acid and major component of palm oil).

Retinyl palmitate has been linked to a range of health problems, from cancer to reproductive effects. When exposed to UV light, retinol compounds break down and produce toxic free radicals that can damage DNA and cause gene mutations, a precursor to cancer.

Retinyl Palmitate is rated as a “high hazard” by the Cosmetics Database.

Nastie #4: Colourants

Lipstick contains artificial colourants such as D&C Red 36, D&C Red 22 Aluminum Lake and FD&C Blue 1.

Widely used FD&C and D&C colours are coaltar (bituminous coal) derivatives that are continuously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties. These colourants have also raised concerns because some research has linked exposure to nervous system damage and other health concerns.

The majority of time, the D&C and FD&C are left off the label of lipsticks. What you will see is the colour listed as something like “Orange 5” or “Blue 1 Lake.”

Lipstick colourants are also known to be derived from animals. Did you know that lipsticks can contain crushed beetles? If you see ‘Carmine’, ‘Cochineal’ or CI 75470 on your lipstick label, then yours does indeed have beetle shells in it.

Beetle shell is what creates the strong red pigment in most lipsticks and cosmetics. Carmine is typically produced by boiling dried cochineal insects in water, filtering the hard matter and then treating the solution with alum. It takes 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal dye!

Nastie #5: Tocopheryl Acetate

Tocopheryl Acetate, also known as Vitamin E Acetate, is used in a variety of products, including lipstick, moisturizer and foundation. It is cheaper and longer lasting than the natural form of vitamin E, hence its popularity.

The Cosmetics Database rates it as a “moderate hazard” because it may cause itching, burning, scaling, hives and skin blistering, and may be toxic.

Nastie #6: Lead

Lead is a known neurotoxin that builds up over time. It is also a commonly used in Lipsticks. Studies show that Up to 60% of tested lipstick contain lead.

The problem is, lipsticks don’t list lead as an ingredient. Lead is considered a contaminant that makes its way in through materials used to make the products, or through the pigments used in them.

Lead is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and small children. This neurotoxin can cause neurodevelopmental problems in children and it has also been linked to miscarriages and infertility.

Lead is not something you want to be consuming! No “safe” level of lead exposure exists.



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