Lipstick has been getting a lot of bad press lately. But if you are a woman who enjoys wearing make up and feels more attractive and confident when doing so, giving up lipstick may not be an easy step to take.
What is the problem with commercial lipsticks?
Basically, heavy metals.
Many well known commercial lipsticks and lip glosses contain lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other metals according to a very recently published study by researchers at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
Earlier studies, including one done in 2007 by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, also reported the presence of lead - in some 61% of popular lipstick products.
In the current study, researchers found that “some of the toxic metals (heavy metals) are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term".
Although we may be more knowledgeable about the dangers of lead
, the less well known cadmium
(a carcinogen that has been found in breast cancer biopsies and is also commonly found as a soil contaminant) and chromium
(also a carcinogen with a link to stomach tumors) should also raise some alarm bells.
What about pregnancy?
Could the same heavy metals found in lipstick (however small the quantities) also pose a health hazard (such as brain damage) to unborn babies when used during pregnancy?
The process of making lipstick
According to Wikipedia, lipstick contains wax, oils, antioxidants and emollients with the wax providing the structure to the solid lipstick. The high melting carnauba wax is a key ingredient in terms of strengthening the lipstick. More than 50% of lipsticks made in the USA contain pig fat or castor oil, which gives them a shiny appearance.
Lipsticks get their colors from a variety of pigments and lake dyes including bromo acid, D&C Red No. 21, Calcium Lake such as D&C Red 7 and D&C Red 34, and D&C Orange No. 17. Pink lipsticks are made by mixing colorless titanium dioxide and red shades. Both organic and inorganic pigments are used.
Matte lipsticks contain more filling agents like silica while creme lipsticks contain more waxes than oils. Sheer and long lasting lipstick contain a lot of oil including silicone oil to seal the colors to the wearer's lips. Glossy lipsticks contain more oil to give a shiny finish to the lips while shimmery lipsticks may contain mica, silica, fish scales and synthetic pearl particles to give them that glittery or shimmering shine.
Lipstick is made from grinding and heating ingredients. Then heated waxes are added to the mix for texture. Oils and lanolin are added for specific formula requirements. Afterwards, the hot liquid is poured into a metal mold. The mixture is chilled and kept cool so that the lipsticks harden. Once they have hardened, they are heated in a flame for half a second to create a shiny finish and to remove imperfections.
Why the emphasis on dangers of lipstick?
Researchers are particularly concerned about lipstick and lip gloss because they are easily ingested and absorbed, both through the skin of the lips and through the mouth. Think how many women end up literally “eating” their lipstick. Apparently, the average use was worked out as 24 milligrams of “lip make up” per day while those who reapply lip color repeatedly could be ingesting as much as 87 milligrams per day.
As well as the other heavy metals mentioned, regular use of these commercial lipsticks could result in potential overexposure to aluminum
as well. Over time, exposure to high concentrations of manganese has been linked to toxicity in the nervous system.
Some ingredients to look out for and be aware of include petrochemicals
, added artificial fragrances and dyes
, as well as nano particles
What safety legislation is in place?
In the USA? None
The European Union has something that the USA does not: a directive about cosmetics that cadmium, chromium and lead at any level
are unacceptable for use in cosmetic products. Now in the USA, with the current studies, there is more of an impetus for calling on the FDA to tighten regulations about what can be put into cosmetics; about having guidelines like those in the EU; and making sure there is proper and correct labeling of ingredients.
More than ever, consumers need to be able to make informed choices.
Find out which lipsticks to avoid
According to this site
, here are the top 20 lead-containing lipsticks from the FDA's 2012 review of 400 lipstick shades
Healthier, natural lipsticks to use
Even choosing a “natural” lipstick does not always mean safer
as even natural ingredients can be potentially irritating. It is still difficult to find natural cosmetic products because many companies still rely on synthetic ingredients to some degree. However, BITE Luminous Creme Lipstick may be as natural as lipstick gets with main ingredients including castor, jojoba and argan oils along with beeswax and shea butter. The natural lipstick also contains resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine. BITE lipstick is also paraben-, sulfate- and phthalate-free. It doesn't contain any synthetic fragrances or dyes, either. It is reported that it has an "amazing creamy texture" with color that lasts throughout the day. There are 21 different shades including of reds, neutrals, pinks and berries – something to suit every one.
You can even make your own 100% natural lipstick
Here is the recipe
Of course, we should be aiming to reduce heavy metals in all aspects of our daily lives – not just lipstick. For example, checking our food and water sources, being concerned about the use of vaccines, our dental procedures, the quality of the air where we live and so much more.
Unfortunately, heavy metals can be found everywhere and in everything. It is a fact of our modern life.