In honor of National Lipstick Day, we're aiming to educate women on some of the questionable ingredients found in most mainstream lipstick.   We know the FDA does not regulate cosmetic products, so the industry is allowed to put thousands of synthetic chemicals into personal care products even if those chemicals are linked to serious health concerns.  The beauty industry argues that because they only use a little bit, the public shouldn't be concerned.  The truth is, nobody really knows the health impacts of these chemicals when used regularly and when combined with other chemicals over a long period of time. 

There are varying studies that indicate the amount of lipstick women ingest in their lifetime.  The average of these is 3-5 pounds!   Lipstick is not only ingested from eating and drinking, but absorbed through the skin via lips and membranes inside the cheeks. 

THE LIPSTICK LUPUS STUDY:

We found an interesting study done back in 2008 by researchers at Tufts University in Boston making a connection between women that wear lipstick and the incidence of the rising auto-immune disorder: Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - SLE)

Lupus is a serious  autoimmune disease that triggers inflammation in different tissues of the body.  The immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake – that can potentially damage many parts of the body including the skin and organs. It's complicated and confusing and can take a while to diagnose. 

Since I have been "watched" for Lupus for a long time now because of on\off symptoms that resemble that of Lupus, this study really resonated with me. The results showed a significant incidence of Lupus in women that wear lipstick 3 times per week. A greater risk was also associated with early age of lipstick use ( <16 years of age).  Researchers believe this to be caused by the chemicals found in lipstick including phthalates, synthetic dyes and preservative BHA.  In one study published in 2017 from the University of California San Francisco, it was determined that patients with SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) had significantly increased exposure to phthalates compared to healthy controls.  

So why aren't more people talking about this?  Why aren't women made aware of this, and why isn't more research being done? Auto-immune disorders are clearly on the rise, and some researchers blame this on the increase exposure to environmental  toxins.  Given the fact that Lupus occurs mostly in women, it certainly makes sense to look into the unique products we use on a daily basis and the ingredients in them. 

LIPSTICK INGREDIENTS OF CONCERN:

Most lipsticks are made up of a conglomerate of synthetic plastics, solvents, dyes, oils and waxes derived from petroleum.  

Our team surveyed the ingredients from 5 popular lipstick brands spotted in drugstores.   Unfortunately none of the brands listed the ingredients on the package labels, so we had to refer to the manufacturer websites.  

Here's what we found in MOST of them:

  • Synthetic Fragrance – The  undisclosed “cocktail of chemicals”  that typically includes phthalates.  Many of the ingredients used are petroleum derivatives and some are associated with hormone disruption, diabetes, cancer, fertility issues, birth defects. 
  • BHA/BHT – preservatives found in skincare and some foods.  BHA is a probable carcinogen and listed on California's Prop 65 as a Carcinogen. These ingredients are linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity.
  • Polyethelene Glycol (PEGS) and Propylene Glycol – plastics used for industrial manufacturing/cleaning and in skincare products.  They typically contain contaminants that are linked to various forms of cancer and can be harmful to the nervous system.
  • Parabens – Hormone disrupting preservatives
  • Synthetic Dyes –  Can be noted on the label as "Color with a number".  These are coal tar dyes and studies show their connection to ADHD and some dyes are linked to forms cancer.  

Better CT Lipstick Day

We visited Scott and Kara at Better CT to share our information with CT viewers and safe lipstick brands.   Click on picture to watch.

 

WHAT TO DO?

When you choose to wear lipstick, choose those without the above ingredients  and instead made from natural and organic oils, shea butter and colorants derived from minerals, flowers, fruits, herbs and spices.  The good news is, green beauty is growing and there are LOTS of good choices!  A few brands we recommend are Nudus, Lily Lolo, Au Naturale and INIKA

 

Sources:
Ingredient data taken from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the EWG.
Tufts Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3645843/ 
https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/identifying-exposures-to-chemicals-in-patients-with-sle-a-non-targeted-exposome-approach-reveals-enrichment-for-phthalates/