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Eight Shockingly Dangerous Chemicals You Didn’t Know Were in Your Lipstick

Author: Dr. E.C. Gordon


We all want to have attractive, seductive lips, but recent research suggests that you may be paying too steep a price for your perfect pout. As you may be aware, over the last few years there has been increasing interest in the safety of the ingredients that are used in cosmetics and other beauty products. Worryingly, a wide range of studies have shown that many of these seemingly innocent ingredients can be dangerous to your body, and some of the worst of these chemicals are regularly found in lipstick. Read on to discover the eight most hazardous chemicals that could be in your lipstick, and discover precisely why it is so important to avoid them.


1) Cadmium:

Cadmium is a heavy metal that is often added to lipsticks in spite of its toxicity. It can cause contact dermatitis (i.e. skin inflammation and itching) in the short term, and if you regularly ingest it for a long period of time then you can experience health problems as a result of reduced kidney function. You may develop high blood pressure, experience more painful and frequent urination, and notice puffiness around your hands and feet. Cadmium can very easily build up in your system; one recent study even suggests that it can take more than four decades for this heavy metal to entirely leave your body after exposure.

2) Retinyl palmitate:

If you are pregnant, it is particularly important to try and avoid lipsticks that contain retinyl palmitate. This chemical is a manmade form of vitamin A, and it can influence your reproductive hormones and promote developmental abnormalities in your unborn baby. Even if you are not pregnant, it is worth noting that retinyl palmitate is a carcinogen, so it increases your risk of developing a wide range of malignant tumors.

3) Triclosan:

Triclosan can be used as a preservative in lipsticks in order to make sure that they last longer, but it poses a number of serious health risks. Firstly, it can interfere with the levels of female sex hormones in your body, increasing your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Secondly, triclosan is an antibacterial agent, so its widespread use encourages the evolution of dangerous bacteria that are capable of resisting antibiotics.

4) Coal tar:

The Environmental Working Group has labeled coal tar as a highly hazardous ingredient in lipstick and other beauty products, owing to the fact that studies on its side effects show it to be toxic in a number of important ways. For example, it can cause fertility issues by influencing hormone production, it can trigger moderate to severe allergies, and it is a carcinogenic substance that is strongly linked to reproductive cancers in particular.

5) Parabens:

Parabens are also preservatives that are commonly added to lipsticks in order to lengthen their shelf lives. However, there is now little doubt that being regularly and extensively exposed to parabens (such as methylparaben and propylparaben) can have a devastating impact on your body. Most importantly, parabens mimic the actions of the female sex hormone estrogen, increasing your risk of developing cancerous tumors in your breasts. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has warned that parabens can cause metabolic abnormalities (which may lead to unwanted weight changes) and increase the likelihood of developmental disorders.

6) Tocopheryl acetate:

Sometimes known as vitamin E acetate, tocopheryl acetate is a skin irritant that can cause facial swelling, blistering and itching when added to lipsticks.

7) Colorants:

Special ingredients are added to your lipstick in order to give it its distinctive shade. Studies show that some of these ingredients pose little to no risk, but others are more questionable. For example, D&C Red 22 Aluminum Lake is linked to nervous system damage, meaning that it could cause a range of neurological problems. Always research the specific colorants in a lipstick before deciding to buy it.

8) Fragrance:

Finally, although lipsticks often have little to no scent, certain companies market lipsticks that have a fruity or sweet scent. These lipsticks are particularly appealing to younger consumers, but they can pose unexpected risks to your health. The problem with fragrance is that cosmetics companies are under no obligation to list all of the ingredients that are used to create the distinct smell of their products. Sometimes, hundreds of extra chemicals will be added in order to make a lipstick smell like strawberries or candy, and many of these chemicals may be toxic. For example, some popular fragrance ingredients cause migraine headaches, while others are linked to depression, anxiety disorders and allergic reactions.

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