Home Natural cosmetics Lipstick chemicals: How to tell if your lipstick is clean

Lipstick chemicals: How to tell if your lipstick is clean


“I thought, I don’t know what’s in these products! And we put them on our lips and digest them.”

Before starting Lük Beautifood, Cindy says she went to work learning all the different ingredients in lipstick.

“I learned about the different dry oils, wet oils. Whether they absorb or not and worked on that,” Cindy explains.

“And I just decided, I’m going to make the creamiest, smoothest, most delicious lipstick. It’s just sheer, and it can go in my pocket, and I can wear it all the time, and it’s not makeup. And honestly, that’s what I did.”


How do you know if a lipstick is “clean” and free of harmful chemicals?

Cindy says that to find out what chemicals are hiding in your lipstick, “start by reading the ingredients — if you can.”

“It can be difficult because they often have scientific-sounding names.”

Additionally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is dedicated to product research and education, including cosmetics. Their Skin Deep Online Toxicity Guide is a great place to check your cosmetics for nasty ingredients.

What harmful ingredients are found in lipstick?


“We know the environmental concerns of plastics, but recent studies show that microplastics are showing up in the human body and even in baby poop!” Cindy said.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of microplastics in our system or where they end up.”

CHOICE has a great guide to determining if your lipstick contains microplastics. Read it here.


Lipsticks are made from oils, fats and waxes, some of which are derived from petroleum.

You can also find petroleum in synthetic dyes. “Artificial colors and Lake Colors (FD+C) are derived from coal tar (petroleum), and some are considered carcinogenic,” says Cindy.

According Luk Beautifood’s swear words listother petroleum-based ingredients to avoid include: “Paraffin wax, mineral oil, toluene, benzene, polyethylene glycol (PEG), diethanolamine (DEA) and ethanolamine (MEA), butanol, and any word containing butyl alcohol: butyl alcohol , butylparaben, butylene glycol, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), propylene glycol, ethoxylated ingredients and synthetic perfume or fragrance.

Heavy metals

If the color of your lipstick is not natural, it will either be of animal origin or synthetic. This is especially the case with bright red lipstick.

When you read the word “lake” in an ingredient list, it means the colors are man-made. The EWG says “The term ‘lac’ is applied to pigments or dyes that are precipitated with metallic salts such as aluminum, calcium, barium or others. Most lake pigments are produced synthetically from coal tar or petroleum.


Parabens are used as a preservative in cosmetic products. The EWG says, “Long-chain parabens (isobutyl-, butyl-, isopropyl-, and propylparaben) should not be used in personal care or cosmetic products.”

animal products

For vegans, you might want to avoid something called Carmine, which is found in many red lipsticks and is derived from crushed insects. This ingredient is listed in PETA’s Caring Consumer Guide as an animal-derived substance.

Another ingredient to look out for in lipstick is lanolin oil – a product of the sebaceous glands of sheep, which PETA says is extracted from their wool.

lipstick ingredients


How to read the back of the lipstick label

Forget the marketing on the front and take a look at the ingredient list which should be on the back of the package. If not, you can find it on the brand’s website.

First, the ingredients should be listed in order from largest to smallest amount. After that, the ingredients that make up less than 1% of the product will be listed. Finally, you will see the color additives used.

So, whichever ingredients appear first, they will be the ones that will make up the bulk of the lipstick.

If you really want to know what’s in your cosmetics, the best place to start is the EWG website.

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