I don’t know about you but for me, I love a minimalist makeup look with a polished lipstick as my go-to look; however, the sad truth is that lipstick is one of the WORST offenders when it comes to toxic ingredients. While I do believe that any beauty product we use should be clean because lipstick is something that we actually consume while wearing, you always want to make sure the lip products you are choosing are as clean as possible! Another sad truth is that while many stores try to offer us cleaner options, for me, they are still not clean enough for use on the mouth.
So what is so bad about traditional lipstick? Well, here is a short list of toxic ingredients to look out for:
Polyethylene: This synthetic resin is distilled from petroleum or natural gas. It is the most widely used plastic in the world, used in products like cling wrap, shopping bags, detergent bottles, and automobile fuel tanks. It can also be modified to take on the elastic properties of rubber. Beauty ingredient? It doesn’t seem like this should be anywhere near makeup, but you will see this in most lipsticks!
While some agencies categorize polyethylene as a “safer plastic,” that is under the assumption that the ethylene is at least 99% pure. The reality is that this is unregulated, and other nasty chemicals are often in the mix here. The Clean Production Action Plastics Scorecard lists chemicals frequently mixed with plastic-containing products. You’ll see that acetone, benzene, bisphenol A, and a host of others are known to show up in polyethylene. And it’s a big deal- these chemicals are known to be carcinogens, neurotoxicants, mutagens, and endocrine disruptors that cause reproductive and developmental harm. Bad for you and those working hard to make our products too.
For me, any ingredient with a safety protocol attached to it doesn’t belong in my makeup.
Lake Dyes: Dyes and lakes, also known as artificial or certified colors, can be used in various combinations to produce nearly any color imaginable for cosmetic products. You’ll find statements that dyes and lakes “meet all the FDA’s stringent colorant standards for cosmetics,” but should we let our guard down when it comes to these colorants? Most clean beauty stores say yes; however, here at Organic Bunny, we do not allow any Lake Dyes in our products other than nail polishes!
The EWG explains that industrial colorants, “lake” dyes and pigments are precipitated (or chemically altered) with metal salts such as aluminum, calcium, barium, or others. Most lake pigments are synthetically produced from coal tar or petroleum. In simpler terms, these lab-made colorants leave us at risk for heavy metal exposure and consumption.
Many of these colorants also pose a bioaccumulation risk, meaning once these metals and chemicals get into your body, they stay there for good. They are classified as expected to be toxic or harmful and have demonstrated wildlife and environmental toxicity. These dyes are associated with endocrine disruption as well. You can find a complete list of problematic colors under all their crazy names here.
Fragrance: Or”parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants, such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential effects on the reproductive system. In the EWG database, fragrance is a glaring red 8 out of 10 on the scale of toxic ingredients. Definitely, the most worrisome thing is that companies can use the word “fragrance” on a label, but it can actually represent a mix of hundreds to thousands of undisclosed chemicals. The word fragrance alone is a way to conceal thousands of hormone-disrupting chemicals, so I always avoid it no matter what.
Octinoxate: Octyl methoxycinnamate or OMC, is a UV filter that can be rapidly absorbed through the skin. Octinoxate has been detected in human urine, blood, and breast milk, indicating that this chemical spreads systemically throughout the entire body when exposed.
Like many toxic ingredients, this one has a lot of names. You might also see parsol, escalol or 2-ethylhexl p-methoxycinnamate. Whatever the name, it increases cell proliferation in cells that grow in response to estrogen exposure- a significant trigger in breast cancers. It reduces thyroid hormone in blood serum and significantly lowers estradiol and progesterone levels which are strongly associated with infertility and miscarriages. It has been found to alter the reproductive systems of female human babies. It lowers sperm counts and exhibits antiandrogenic activity passed on to offspring. I avoid this one at all costs!
Parabens: While they intend to discourage the growth of microbes in your care products, parabens have various links to cancer, reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption. Pregnant women and young children are particularly at risk. When examining tumors, doctors have found high concentrations of parabens in tumor masses. Paraben free should be one of the first things you look for in your beauty products, especially in lipsticks!
BHT: Or BHA are butylated compounds containing hydroxytoluene. You’ll also see these show up in processed foods. It has been shown to cause both benign and malignant tumors, organ system toxicity, and reproductive harm, and as such, it poses a higher risk to pregnant women and infants.
Phenoxyethanol: This is a stabilizer and preservative intended to limit bacterial growth. It causes inflamed skin, eczema, and nervous system effects, particularly in infants, and a further increased risk of breastfeeding babies. So moms, check your products carefully for this one! This ingredient should not get anywhere near babies, and actually, in high or frequent exposures, the impact on babies can be worrisome. Eczema is a common issue in infants, and we have to wonder if ingredients like these are to blame in some instances.
It seems so obvious when you look at the lineup that ALL of these should be avoided at all costs. And yet, the crazy thing is that even “clean” lipstick brands still contain many of these, which is why you must stay vigilant even when shopping at your favorite clean beauty stores. Besides here 😉
Beauty Counter, Dime Beauty, Bare Minerals, Ilia, Tarte, Bite, and Sephora’s “Clean Collection” sell lipsticks riddled with lake dyes, butylate derivatives, and toxic preservatives. Often they will list their “green” ingredients upfront- like cocoa butter, rose hip, sea algae, or others that are created naturally, often next to a green leaf icon or special “clean” badge. But look further to read the complete ingredient list because you may see another story.
While there are a lot of ingredients out there to avoid, you don’t have to kiss your lipstick goodbye, as I have a handful of amazing, high-performance brands to shop from. All of them are free of all of the above, which makes them the cleanest possible options you can find!
14E: Made with castor seed oil, shea butter, and aloe and colored with cosmetic-grade mineral pigments. These lippies are more sheer, like a beautiful mix between lip balm and lipstick!
Baims: A German brand filled with nourishing butters and waxes and colored with natural mineral pigments. I absolutely love these lipsticks as the colors are super on-trend and long-lasting!
Gabriel Cosmetics: Filled with natural emollients and extracts, this full-coverage lipstick gives great color and moisture. I really love their more earth-toned colors; they make some great, everyday lippies.
Lily Lolo: Their vegan line is made without animal products or testing. It is filled with GMO-free oils that nourish your lips with lasting color. These pack a pigmented punch with a gorgeous satin finish.
Noyah: Made with natural ingredients and minerals that come in a stylish and eco-friendly bamboo package.
Nu Evolution: This brand provides a high-gloss finish that leaves the artificial dyes out but packs in all-natural oils, extractives, and nourishing compounds.
Nudus: This Australian brand has stunning vibrant colors like Precious, Revenge, and Zozo derived from flowers, fruits, and herbs. Made with 27 active natural ingredients and free from nano-particles, pesticides, and fungicides.
Saint Cosmetics: Each lipstick is named after a famous destination city, and these colors are made from clean, safe ingredients that just might make you want to jet set. These are so bold and beautiful with a more matte finish that holds up all day.
Zao: Certified organic and vegan, these matte finish lipsticks contain luscious ingredients with antioxidant and anti-aging properties. They make some seriously amazing colors, especially for Fall!
So when it comes to lipstick, read every ingredient, and don’t feel like you’re stuck having to use a brand loaded with ingredients you’d rather avoid! Be sure to check out any of the brands on my site and know that you can find that perfect color that is beyond gorgeous and totally safe.