Potentially Dangerous Ingredients in Lipstick

Lipstick is a classic staple in every woman’s makeup kit and has been since the beginning of makeup.

From bright brick reds to sass up any look to modern playful and quirky blues, yellows and greens.

Whilst lipstick can be that final touch to jazz up or complete any look, there is a dangerous side to this seemingly harmless makeup essential.

The scary thing is, what goes on your mouth can go in your mouth and into your body, meaning that you may be ingesting small doses of these toxic chemicals.

Whilst many studies show impacts may be negligible, it is the cumulative effect of continual usage which could be problematic.

If you want to read more about what might be in your lipstick, keep reading on and make sure to check out our article on best organic and natural lipsticks to find out the best products to ensure your lippy is harmless.


Most people know that lead is not good for us. It has been banned from several products from paint to pipes to fishing rod weights.

But what is the problem with lead? Recent studies reveal that there is no safe level of exposure of lead.

Lead is a neurotoxin that is harmful even in small doses. It has a range of side effects including reducing fertility in both men and women, and has links to learning disabilities and adverse hormonal changes.

It is also especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children because of links to neurodevelopmental problems.

Many lipstick lovers do not realise that they are laying it on their lips on a daily basis.  A 2007 study by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report A Poison Kiss with results from tests of 33 popular lipstick brands.

It was found that 61% lipsticks contained lead, and this was even from some of our favourite brands including L’Oreal and Dior!

Whilst lead itself is not used as an ingredient in lipstick, it can end up in our cosmetics through the manufacturing process or pigments used in them.



Parabens are commonly used chemicals used to preserve our favourite cosmetics.

Whilst they make cosmetics last longer, they can be harmful. They disrupt normal hormone functions and have links to breast cancer and reproductive problems.

Look out for whether your products contain methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben in the ingredients list.

However, it is worth noting that often they are not shown in the ingredients list, so you may be unaware of these potentially dangerous chemicals. It’s best to stick to lipsticks made with natural and organic ingredients.

Retinyl Palmitate

This is a synthetic form of vitamin A and used as a preservative.

It has been flagged by the cosmetics database as a ‘moderate hazard’ because of links to reproductive problems and even cancer. It is also especially harmful for pregnant women.

Whilst vitamin A helps repair collagen and elastin and keeps your lips kissable smooth, retinyl palmitate can cause genetic mutations and damage DNA. Yikes!


Many lipsticks use artificial colourants with very technical and robotic names such as D&C Red 36, D&C Red 22 Aluminium Lake and FD&C Blue 1.

Whilst these ingredients are often the key to a rich and pigmented lip colour, they have been linked to nervous system damage.

Furthermore, these colourants are coaltar (bituminous coal) derivatives which basically means they come from aluminium and petroleum products that have carcinogenic properties.

To mitigate risks on us humans, they are therefore often tested on animals. Not good for those who want to be cruelty-free, and not so harmless.

These are often missing from ingredients labels, or listed as something else, so consumers can be ingesting these unknowingly.

No worries though, there are plenty of lipsticks that use natural colourants, for example from plants and fruits, to ensure you do not put any harmful ingredients onto your body.

Tocopheryl Acetate

This is a lab created ingredient also known as vitamin E acetate. It is cheaper and longer lasting than natural vitamin E which is why it is often used in cosmetics. Vitamin E is a popular ingredient for lipsticks because of its antioxidant and moisturising properties.

This ingredient was dubbed a ‘moderate risk’ by the cosmetics database because of its toxicity, and it can cause burning, itching, peeling, hives and blisters on the skin.

Some studies also show that it has a ‘enhancement of photocarcinogenesis’ effect, meaning it can increase the carcinogenic impact of UV rays.

It definitely sounds like something to be avoided and to make sure your skin stays safe stick to more natural forms of vitamin E.


We have listed some of the potentially dangerous ingredients that exist in one our most loved makeup products. Although it may seem like a chemical-filled nightmare, have no fear.

There are so many lipsticks out there that can give you a lovely lip without smearing these horrible ingredients on them.

It’s best to go for lipsticks that use natural ingredients to ensure no harm is done.

Check out our article on the best organic and natural lipsticks on the market to make that switch.

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