Last week's report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics exposed many popular-brand red lipsticks to contain potentially hazardous amounts of trace leads, raising concern as to what other pernicious ingredients might be lurking under the beauty-product radar. Though we've come a long way from the centuries-old practice of tinting lips with beeswax and red-stained plants, our advancements haven't got us that far. Lipsticks no longer contain whale blubber, but they are still full of animal fats (and in some cases, cow brains), petroleum waxes, carcinogenic coal tar dyes and other toxins. Given lipstick's ills, is it possible to be green and still coat the kisser in red?
Amount of kilograms of lipstick women inadvertently swallow in a lifetime.
Estimated number of chemicals used by the cosmetics industry in the formulation of lipsticks. Eighty-nine per cent of these are yet to be evaluated for human safety (the majority of the remaining chemicals have been tested on animals).
Percentage of lipsticks (of 711 products surveyed in the 2004 Environmental Working Group study, Skin Deep) found to contain ingredients associated with cancer risk, such as butylated hydroxytoluene, nylon-6, ferric red (iron) oxide, polyethylene and titanium dioxide.
Percentage of the increased risk of developing lupus for women who used lipstick three days
a week (the risk increased with years of lipstick use) according
to scientists at the American
College of Rheumatology in
Because makeup worn on the mouth is not only absorbed through the skin, but also swallowed with drinking and eating, lipsticks containing the following ingredients should be avoided: BHT, coal tar dyes (Quinoline, D&C Yellow No. 10 and No. 11, to name a few), colours with the word "lake" after them (they are derived from aluminum), FD&C colours, fragrances and petroleum products (mineral oil, petrolatum). Of the brands that were tested for lead, CoverGirl, L'Oréal, and Christian Dior tested positive. (To see how your brand measures up, plug it in to Cosmeticsdatabase.com.) If you are a lipstick wearer, try to buy products of a natural origin (such as Lavera, Ecco Bella or Aubrey Organics), and look for the certified cruelty-free label. While natural lipsticks are prone to melting quicker and are often limited to the palette of nature, the tradeoff is still an easier one to swallow.
Sources: Canadian Cancer Society, Environmental Working Group, Health Canada, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, U.S. Food and Drug Administration