Is every girl’s common beauty product secretly posing a risk to health?
One of the most used cosmetic around the world, an iconic beauty product, a girl’s early interest: lipstick, now with a question mark attached to it. Why is drugstore lipstick a subject to deep health controversy? Are all lipsticks and lip products the same in terms of dangerous ingredients?
Lipstick is a cosmetic product used for centuries for chromatic support in make-up. It is considered that about 5,000 years ago ancient Sumerian men and women were possibly the first to invent and wear lipstick, through crushing gemstones and using them to decorate their faces around the eyes and on their lips. Also, women in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization used red tinted lipstick on their lips, as well as ancient Egyptians. The Islamic Golden Age is thought to be the milestone for inventing the solid lipsticks. The composition obviously changed tremendously ever since, and the development of companies, recipes and the strong industrialization in the field of cosmetics marked some serious modifications in lipstick’s current composition. It contains pigments, waxes, oils, antioxidants and emollients applying color, texture and protection to the lips, in various colors and types. Wax provides the solid structure – it can be beeswax, ozokerite or candelilla wax. Among oils and fats used in lipstick, it could be olive oil, mineral oil, cocoa butter, lanolin and petrolatum. In the U.S., more than a half of the lipsticks contain pig fat or castor oil, for a shiny appearance.
In terms of colors and pigments, lipstick may include bromo acid or titanium dioxide. There are organic and inorganic pigments. For a mattifying effect, some matte lipsticks can contain filling agents like silica. For a shimmery effect, they contain synthetic pearl particles. Some advocates of veganism defend synthetic compounds, while those looking for natural cosmetics usually accept ingredients with an animal origin, like castor oil or lanolin.
Debate about the ingredients and especially the hidden ones revolve around the chemical compounds that can possibly affect the user’s health to a certain extent or another and also around the ingredients originating from animals, or the tests conducted on mice or rabbits. Toxic metals and a wide range of chemicals can pose a risk to health in the case of regular use and the threat is even bigger because most of the dangerous compounds are not listed. What is really dangerous about lipstick?
Toxic metals in drugstore lipsticks
Different kinds of toxic metals have been found in several drugstore brand lipsticks, according to a study conducted at the University of California Berkley’s School of Public Health. Mainly lead, but also chromium, manganese, aluminum, cadmium as well as other metals were found in drugstore lipsticks. We say mainly lead, as it has been found in about 75 percent of the drugstore brands. A study by Campaign For Safe Cosmetics, the US consumer group, revealed 60 percent of the tested lipsticks contained various amounts of lead, from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million, especially in red lipsticks. About one third of the lipsticks containing lead exceeded the limit set by the US Food and Drug Administration for lead in candy, which is 0.1 parts per million. In 2010, another study detected lead in all 400 tested lipsticks, with an increased range of 0.9 to 3.06 parts per million.
Lead can cause serious health issues
Lead is a neurotoxin which can cause behavioral, language and learning problems even at small doses. It is not listed as an ingredient and in spite of the small amounts, lead is ingested and absorbed through the lips, skin and saliva. The contaminants that are present in the pigments and base materials used to produce lipstick, the metals, are not ingredients. That is why companies are not required to put them on the label. Also, the industry’s answer is that the dose makes the poison, so that the lead traces in lipsticks would not pose a threat to one’s health. The FDA is evaluating if an upper limit of lead in lipstick needs to be set in order to protect the health and welfare of consumers. It seems that there is no difference not even from the price positioning: both cheap and expensive lipsticks contain lead, as well as other metals, in small quantities, indeed. Cumulative exposure and also potential long-term use adverse effects are not studied and therefore the real risk cannot be evaluated.
- FDA should be empowered by the Congress to take action in favor for a risk – free make-up, according to Sharima Rasanayagam’s report for CNN Opinions. Cosmetics companies should be required to adhere to a legal standard concerning the metal contamination ongoing in the manufacturing processes.
- Limitation of use. It seems that some women apply lipstick up to 14 times a day, which can lead to approximately 87 ingested milligrams of metals. If you are a similar case, consider cutting back. Use lip balm instead, which, according to the Food and Drug Administration, contains less lead than a deep floral lipstick.
- Protect children from these cosmetics. Young bodies are more vulnerable to toxic metals.
Other dangerous metals
Lead might be the most popular hidden danger in every lipstick on the market, be it dark, nude or red, but manganese, aluminium and chromium registered the highest concentration according to a study. Aluminium, for an example, is added as a stabilizer in most lipsticks, because it prevents color from bleeding. Titanium oxide is known to have a whitening effect, as it softens the reds to pinks. These are approved by the FDA. And in the case of glitter: that is probably mica, a naturally occurring mineral formation which adds shine to lip gloss. Mica may contain lead, aluminium, chromium and manganese. There is also an indication that more intense lipstick colors are significantly higher metallic load carriers, because of contamination in pigments.
Potentially Disruptive Chemicals
Frequently present in many beauty products made in the United States, methylparaben is restricted in the European Union. This chemical has been labeled as a “high hazard” by the Cosmetics Database and it has been linked to cancer. It is considered toxic and may disrupt the endocrine system.
Also a frequently used product, but rated only as a “moderate hazard” by the same Cosmetics Database, propylparaben can irritate skin and eyes. It can also cause allergic reactions, and some studies also warned for endocrine disruption, cancer and other toxic effects.
D&C Red 36 and D&C Red 22 Aluminium Lake, rated low hazard, respectively moderate hazard raise concerns in terms of nervous system damage and other health concerns. They are typically tested on animals.
Vitamin E Acetate
Is actually called Tocopheryl Acetate, and it’s used in various products, from lipstick to foundation. It’s a moderate hazard and can cause itching, hives or burning, as well as skin blistering. It can be toxic.
Or synthetic vitamin A, which can be toxic to pregnant women. It’s a moderate hazard linked with cancer and also reproductive effects.
Petrochemicals are harmful to human health, but they are used to manufacture lipstick. They are derived from petroleum and some of them are obtained from other fossil fuels (like coal or natural gas, corn or sugarcane).
These are the chemicals you should avoid if you find them labeled on your lipstick, as some are carcinogens:
- Mineral oil
- Bismuth oxychloride
Here are some natural and plant-based make-up brands: All Natural Cosmetics, Honeybee Gardens, Natural Solutions, Dr. Hauschka, Skin Botanica or Isabella Catalog. Vegans might not use these products as they contain beeswax, carmine (which is the only alternative to Red Lake petroleum dye, but still derived from an insect), castor oil or lanolin.
It is highly advisable that you check your products to be hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested.
While you should watch out that the ingredients on the black list are not contained in your usual products, it would be ideal that you check your whole life style for potentially harmful chemicals, starting with the cosmetics you regularly use. Your lip balm, your mascara, your foundation, the moisturizer and the cleansing lotions, your make up remover, your shampoo and hair masks, the styling foam, the hairspray, the antiperspirant or deodorant, as well as your domestic cleaning products, detergent and generally any chemical that reaches your skin and air.
While exaggerating with precautions is definitely a bad and stressful idea, creating some healthy habits in regards to your cosmetic routine is a good idea. Best as can be, start by looking into the wide range of dermato-cosmetics and avoid drugstore cosmetics. Drugstore lipstick contains, as you can easily conclude, a lot of potential threats to your overall health. Reviews can potentially help you get a better insight about a product, but they cannot provide sufficient information, which is the reason we advise to properly research your shopping choices beforehand. A natural display of your clear skin and lips might be the best option not only for your looks, but also for your health.