Do You Know Nutrition: Read lipstick ingredients carefully

By Phylis Canion
July 17, 2012 at 2:17 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

I am a bit leery of lipstick ingredients as I learn more about toxic ingredients in cosmetics. Sometimes, I wonder how much lipstick I swallow that is full of ingredients not designed to be swallowed? Do you have any information to share on this subject?

The average lipstick wearer swallows an estimated seven to eight pounds of lipstick in their lifetime. And yes, I said pounds.

First, a bit of lipstick history. Lipstick was the first cosmetic to ever be used and dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who used henna or crushed cochineal beetles and ants to obtain different shades of red lipstick.

Today, however, lipstick ingredients have changed dramatically and now contain common ingredients such as wax, oil, pigments and dyes, alcohol, preservatives and antioxidants.

Apart from the common ingredients, lipstick can contain edible ingredients such as shea butter, organic pigments like beets, sunflower oil and vitamin E.

Unfortunately, lipstick can contain some of the following harmful ingredients: lead, in which the Food and Drug Administration has enforced strict regulations; coal tar derived FD&C coloring; carmine (food coloring obtained from boiling pigmented beetles; lake colors (highly toxic, artificial coloring); and fragrances (a term that could be hiding up to 600 toxic chemicals that you are swallowing), which are best to avoid at all extremes.

Methylparaben is a preservative used in many beauty products, although the use of this chemical is restricted in the European Union. Propylparaben is rated as a "moderate hazard" by the Cosmetics Database, as is tocopheryl acetate. As with food label, it is important to read the label on cosmetics, especially lipstick, however you will have to purchase a very strong magnifier in order to read print that is beyond bifocals.

The Natural Products Association has recently initiated a new certification system for beauty products that are at least 95 percent natural. If you have any concerns, you can enter a product name into Environmental Working Group Rankings and see how a product is rated on a safety scale.

Did you know, the basic federal law regulating cosmetics has not been updated since 1938? So, you may want to think twice before licking your lipstick-coated lips.

Thought for the week: A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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