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Beauty-essential lipsticks contain five types of ingredients: emollients that prevent moisture loss and soften the lips; pigments; preservatives; antiseptics; and emulsifiers that hold these other ingredients together.

Beauty-essential lipsticks contain five types of ingredients: emollients that prevent moisture loss and soften the lips; pigments; preservatives; antiseptics; and emulsifiers that hold these other ingredients together.

But these ingredients vary from healthy to toxic depending on the quality of the product.

Be wary of preservatives, emollients, solvents, and pigments in drugstore lipsticks. Some may cause irritation for women with sensitive skin. Others can cause a phototoxic reaction, leading to ultraviolet (UV) sensitivity and intense sunburns. Many colouring agents and preservatives are known to be carcinogenic.

Instead, reach for natural lipsticks, which contain herbal antiseptics, vitamin-rich preservatives, seed-based oils, and tantalizing nontoxic colours. Why would you choose anything else?

Natural Lipsticks

Cosmetic useNatural ingredientsBenefits
antiseptics

cinnamon
goldenseal
lavender
rosemary leaf
sesame oil
shea butter

antibacterial, aromatic, flavourful
prevents contamination
anti-inflammatory, fragrant
antioxidant, stabilizing
curative, moisturizing
prevents chapped lips
preservativesvitamin Eantioxidant; best in combination with other antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea
pigmentscarmine (derived from dried red cochineal beetles)
minerals, including iron oxide, ultramarine blue, manganese violet

gives a rich red colour

anti-inflammatory; mineral flecks diffuse light and smooth fine lines

emollients

carnauba wax

castor oil
cocoa butter
coconut oil
beeswax

moisturizing; from Brazilian wax palm trees
keeps lips supple
lubricating
soothing
used as a thickening agent

Drugstore Lipsticks

Cosmetic useHarmful ingredientsNegative effects
preservativesparabens, including methylparaben and propylparabenlinked to breast cancer
pigmentsbromo acid
lake dyes, including red no. 21, red no. 27, orange no. 17
causes dermatitis
contain coal tar; common allergens; carcinogenic
emollientshydrocarbons
mineral oil
petrolatum
pollutants; detrimental to marine life
phototoxic contains impurities that may
contribute to acne, cancer, and
other significant health problems
solventsglycols, including propylene glycolskin irritant; inhibits skin cell
regeneration

Research Your Lipstick?

Find out if your favourite lipstick contains harmful chemicals. Search product names in the Skin Deep database on the Environmental Working Group website at ewg.org/reports/skindeep2.

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