While makeup might look pretty, what it does to our body isn’t quite the same. What you might not know, is that some of your favourite beauty products contain harsh chemicals and potentially harmful ingredients.
Take NARS lipstick for example. Almost every ingredient is harmful to some extent:
– Isopropyl titanium triisostearate
– Propylene carbonate
– Stearalkonium hectorite
– Copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax
– Polyhydroxystearic acid
– Caprylyl glycol
– Coprinus comatus (mushroom) extract)
– Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil
– Tocopheryl acetate
– Sorbitan isostearate
– Hexylene glycol
– Hydrogenated phosphatidylcholine
– Portulaca pilosa extract
– Sucrose cocoate
– Ascorbyl palmitate
– Palmitoyl tripeptide-38
– Disodium EDTA
With those being the base ingredients, then they add (depending on the colour), some of the below:
– Titanium dioxide
– Iron oxides
– Blue 1 lake
– Red 28
– Red 33 lake
– Red 6 lake
– Red 7 lake
– Yellow 5 lake
– Yellow 6 lake
Keep in mind that this is only one lipstick company. Each company has its own different concoction of chemical additives, but if you ask yourself whether you’d ever consume a product that had an ingredient list such as the one above, I could almost guarantee your answer would be no.
Just like our skin, our lips are relatively permeable. In fact, your lips are the most permeable part of your body, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t want anything on your lips that may eventually enter the body.
Medical research shows that significant amounts of cosmetic ingredients (including carcinogenic substances like heavy metals), penetrate the skin and end up in the blood stream (1). While the chemicals in cosmetics may not show immediate signs of toxicity on the skin, they slowly poison us on the inside, through repeated use.
Unlike our skin which has a thicker stratum corneum (a layer of skin), the stratum corneum on our lips is far thinner than anywhere else on the body (2). This, combined with the fact that the red-coloured, blood-filled capillaries are close to this thin layer of skin, means that our lips are even more susceptible to a higher chemical-blood transfusion rate when wearing certain products, such as lipstick.
Not only does lipstick sit on our lips, but many people who use lipstick also lick their lips, causing the ingestion of these chemicals, too.
Heavy Metals in Lipstick
While most lipstick ingredients should be avoided, it is of particular concern to avoid those with ingredients containing heavy metals like cadmium, aluminum, and lead.
The New York Times notes that “most lipsticks contain at least a trace of lead, researchers have shown. But a new study finds that a wide range of brands contain as many as eight other metals, from cadmium to aluminum (3).”
While the FDA claims that the levels of heavy metals found in lipstick is inconsequential, scientists believe otherwise. Daily exposure to heavy metals, over a long-term period, could pose a serious health risk. Currently, there is no set limit for the amount of lead used in cosmetics (4), despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C) acknowledged last year that no level of lead is really safe (5).
Lead isn’t the only health concern, either. In her recent study, Dr. Katharine Hammond, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, found traces of cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper, and nickel in 24 lip glosses and eight lipstick brands (6).
If you’re not willing to part with your lipstick right yet, exercise caution in the amount of exposure you sustain. Many individuals reapply their lipstick over 24 times a day. Dr. Hammond advises to cut this number down quite a bit, so that you’re only applying two to three times a day. This way, you’ll lower your risk of health-related concerns from heavy metals later in life.
Choosing softer hues and tones is another way around heavy metal exposure. In her studies, Dr. Hammond found that the darker the colour, the heavier the concentration of metals (7).
Cosmetic companies can control heavy metal content whenever they choose, given the wide range of metal concentrations across colours and brands. According to Dr. Sean Palfrey, medical director of the lead poisoning prevention program at Boston University Medical Centre, “it shouldn’t be a huge step for manufacturers to take out trace amounts of metals in a situation where they don’t know and we don’t know what’s safe for people who use them.”
Should cosmetic manufacturers and the FDA not take responsibility for the safety of these products?
Not Just Lipstick
Lipstick isn’t the only cosmetic that contains heavy metals. The Environmental Defence group found heavy metal contamination in over 49 different cosmetic products tested. The items included were 14 eye shadows, 8 lipsticks or glosses, 5 blushes or bronzers, 7 mascaras, 5 foundations, 4 concealers, 4 powders, and 2 eyeliners (8).
The results? 96% contained lead; 90% beryllium; 61% thallium; 51% cadmium; and 20% arsenic.
What’s worse is that almost all products tested contained an average of 4 out of the 8 metals, and each product contained an average of 2 of the 4 toxic metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.
Heavy metals are dangerous, because they tend to bioaccumulate. This means that the concentration of a chemical in a biological organism increases over time, compared to the chemical’s concentration in the environment (9).
Heavy metals store themselves in the fat cells of our body, and can lead to a variety of different health risks like circulatory and nerve tissue damage, liver and kidney damage, stomach and intestinal irritation, joint issues, tumour development and so much more. They can also be the cause of many chronic and mystery illnesses.
Lipsticks To Avoid
The following its contains the lipsticks you should avoid at all costs (10):
1. Avon Beyond Color (#558 Mad for Mauve)
2. Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#643 Satin Plum)
3. L’Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor (#748 Heroic)
4. Maybelline Color Sensational (#125 Pink Petal)
5. NARS Semi-Matte (#1005 Red Lizard)
6. CoverGirl Queen Collection Vibrant Hues (#580 Ruby Remix)
7. L’Oreal Colour Riche (#410 Volcanic)
8. Maybelline Color Sensation (#475 Mauve Me)
9. NARS Semi-Matte (#1009 Funny Face)
10. L’Oreal Colour Riche (#165 Tickled Pink)
11. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer (Toffee)
12. Stargazer Lipstick (#103c)
13. Revlon Matte (#009 Fabulous Fig)
14. Sonia Kashuk Luxury Lip Color (#27 Mauvey)
15. L’Oreal Endless (#530 Mauve Amour)
16. Revlon ColorStay (#375 Ripened Red)
17. Revlon Super Lustrous Peal (#631 Luminous Pink)
18. CoverGirl Continuous Color (#025 Warm Brick)
Safe Makeup Brands
There are lots of great makeup companies out there that don’t use heavy metals or harsh chemicals in their products. Plus, they don’t test on animals, which is a strict requirement on my beauty product check list.