Harmful Ingredients In Your Lipstick

harmful ingredients in your lipstick
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Harmful ingredients in your lipstick

Why should you worry about potentially harmful ingredients in your lipstick?

harmful ingredients in your lipstickThe lips are vascular, this leads to a higher risk of absorbing substances placed on them compared to other areas of the body that are not as vascular.

Did you know that the “European Union law bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.  In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, European Union law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.”

In addition,”The Canadian government regularly updates a Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist that includes hundreds of chemicals and contaminants prohibited and restricted from use in cosmetics such as formaldehyde, triclosan, selenium, nitrosamines and 1,4-dioxane — all of which are allowed in U.S. products.”

SourceSafe Cosmetics

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick -Parabens

Parabens are synthetically produced preservatives used in our personal care products. They are restricted in the European Union as there are concerns for cellular changes and endocrine disruption. The strongest concerns are among children who are exposed to products with these preservatives. Their body surface area is higher than an adult, thus children are more likely to absorb more parabens compared to an adult.

“Parabens have been measured in blood and urine including that of pregnant women, amniotic fluid, placental tissue, cord blood and breast tissue.There is evidence that parabens and para-hydroxybenzoic acid may act as endocrine disruptors . Parabens may increase breast cancer risk, particularly if exposure occurs during critical periods of development. Parabens may also be implicated in the proliferation of breast cancer”. Source Breast Cancer UK 

According to the FDA, “Studies have shown, however, that parabens have significantly less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen. Parabens have not been shown to be harmful as used in cosmetics, where they are present only in very small amounts.”

Consider not using parabens on irritated skin or on your lips as higher absorption would be expected in these areas.

Harmful ingredients in your Lipstick -Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is another preservative. According to EWG Skin Deep there are, “high concerns: Irritation skin, eyes, or lungs”. There are also concerns for organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that phenoxyethanol can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea in infants.

Japan has set limits on how much phenoxyethanol can be used in a product.

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick -Phthalates

What are phthalates? According tot the FDA, “Historically, the primary phthalates used in cosmetic products have been dibutylphthalate (DBP), used as a plasticizer in products such as nail polishes (to reduce cracking by making them less brittle); dimethylphthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays (to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair); and diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. According to FDA’s latest survey of cosmetics, conducted in 2010, however, DBP and DMP are now used rarely. DEP is the only phthalate still commonly used in cosmetics.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article showing that infants exposed to infant care products, specifically baby shampoos, baby lotions, and baby powder, showed increased levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine (see “Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure,” disclaimer icon S. Sathyanarayana, Pediatrics, 2008, vol. 121, pp. 260-268).

There are concerns that phthalates are endocrine disruptors. According to EWG Skin Deep, “DIBUTYL PHTHALATE: The State of California and other authoritative bodies have classified dibutyl phthalate (DBP) as a reproductive and developmental toxicant, and the European Union banned the use of this ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. In animal studies, exposure to DBP during gestation causes infertility, cryptorchidism and problems in sperm development, adverse effects similar to human testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Prenatal exposure to DBP has been associated with anatomical changes in the reproductive system development in baby boys. In adult men, DBP has been correlated with changes in serum hormone levels, lower sperm concentration and motility, and decreased fertility.”

The FDA states, “it’s not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on human health”.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to say whether a skin care product contains phthalates. The manufacturer does not have to disclose what fragrances are in their products, it is part of their “trade secret”.

Consider avoiding synthetic “fragrance” which may include phthalates unless they are from natural plant based botanicals.

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick lead

harmful ingredients in your lipstickAccording to the World Health Organization, “Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations.”

Unfortunately, lead has been found in our lipsticks. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics stated,

“Lead in lipstick was presumed an urban legend until 2007, when the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the report A Poison Kiss, with the results from an independent laboratory that tested 33 popular brands of lipsticks for lead content.

Our findings:

  • 61 percent of lipsticks contained lead, with levels ranging up to 0.65 parts per million.
  • Lead-contaminated brands included L’Oreal, Cover Girl and even a $24 tube of Dior Addict.”

Lead is not intentionally placed in products, it occurs through contamination of color additives.The recent science indicates there is no safe level of lead exposure.

There is a cumulative effect as well, in the University of California study, researchers found women applied lipstick from two to 14 times every day. In terms of chemical exposure, that translates into ingesting or absorbing as much as 87 milligrams of product a day.

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick heavy metals

“Lead is not the only concern in lipsticks. A study by University of California researchers found nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, aluminum, manganese, and lead in testing of 24 lip glosses and eight lipsticks.” Source Safe Cosmetics

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

When some chemical preservatives break down, there is potential to release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is classified as known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Researchers as well as the CDC.

According to Medscape, “Quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol are the five most common FRPs (formaldehyde releasing preservatives.” Quaternium-15 is one of the most widely used preservatives (Rietschel & Fowler, 2008), it is one of the most common preservatives that causes allergic contact dermatitis.

Other ingredients to look for include,

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • BHUT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • methenamine
  • quarternium-15, Quaternium-18, Quaternium-26

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick -PEG compounds

PEG or polyethylene glycol are petroleum-based compounds that are used to thicken products and allow other ingredients to penetrate deeper into the upper layers of the skin The main issue with PEGs is that they are often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.

According to the FDA, The compound 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant that may be present in extremely small amounts in some cosmetics. It forms as a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients. These ingredients include certain detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and solvents identifiable by the prefix, word, or syllables “PEG,” “Polyethylene,” “Polyethylene glycol,” “Polyoxyethylene,” “-eth-,” or “-oxynol-.” However, 1,4-dioxane itself is not used as a cosmetic ingredient.”

According to the NIH, ethylene oxide is used as a pesticide and a sterilizing agent. The ability of ethylene oxide to damage DNA makes it an effective sterilizing agent but also accounts for its cancer-causing activity. Lymphoma and leukemia are the cancers most frequently reported to be associated with occupational exposure to ethylene oxide.

EWG’s Skin deep give PEG a rating of 3

Harmful ingredients in your lipstick Butylated compounds (bht, bha)

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a toluene-based ingredient used as a preservative in food and personal care products. It can also be used as an antioxidant and fragrance Ingredient. There is concern when this ingredient is ingested in high doses.

According to the FDA,

“BHT increases the level of microsomal enzymes in the liver. The significance of this increase raises certain questions. The liver weight of animals fed BHT is increased and some interpret this enlargement as hypertrophy which is fully reversible and without apparent toxicological significance.”

There is little information when it comes to the topical application of this ingredient. Ewg’s Skin Deep gives Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) a rating of 4

These are just a few of harmful ingredients in your lipstick. In another post I will discuss the concern with some of the color pigments that are used in lipsticks. Ever lip tints are free of lead, parabens, PEGs and formaldehyde releasers.

Do you have any concerns for harmful ingredients in your lipstick?

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 172 Articles

I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.

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