The use of the lipstick is not new; in fact it has been in vogue for the last 5000 years. The earliest known users in ancient Mesopotamia, used the powder of semi precious stones to paint their lips. The ancient Indus Valley civilization also records the use of lipsticks. The dye of the ‘Henna’ plant was also used to redden lips in the ancient times. In Egypt, women not only used henna, but also used a reddish purple mercuric plant dye, which they called fucus.
Why should I be aware of this?
But are lipsticks good for us? What happens when we apply and ingest lipstick? Are they tested on animals? If so, then how? Can acceptable lip colour be made at home? These are some of some of the questions we must ask before buying and using this product.
Lipstick manufacturers do little to educate users either -- most lipsticks do not list the product ingredients on the tube. Advertisements only tell the consumer facts that the manufacturer wants potential consumers to know.
How does this affect me?
Experts have found that many famous and expensive lipstic brands contain unacceptably high and dangerous to the health levels of lead. Scientists believe that lead causes numerous health problems, including reproductive dysfunction.
All about Lipstick
Basic ingredients of a lipstick
Lipsticks usually contain three basic ingredients:
Lipsticks are made by blending the three elements, heating and then allowing the liquid to set in tubular moulds. This is then chilled and then put to flame for half a second to give it a glossy, sheer, attractive look.
- Wax -- The main ingredient is bees wax obtained from the wax collected from the bee hives. Alternatively plant wax is also used and is derived from plants like carnauba or candellila. The plant extract is boiled and the wax skimmed off the top. This gives the lipstick the base upon which the natural oils, colour and fragrances are allowed to build up. It helps to hold the lipstick together.
- Oil --Natural oils are included to give the lipstick the important ability to effortlessly glide over the lips. Jojoba oil, sunflower oil, shea butter, chamomile oil are the most common oils that are used.
- Colouring -- The colouring potential comes with the inclusion of a variety of pigments. They can be natural or synthetic. Natural dyes would be those made from natural herbs as turmeric, certain vegetables as beets or carrot, certain insects such as beetles which give the pigment carmine or cochineal. Mineral based pigments would include iron oxide-both natural and synthetic and titanium oxide. Incidentally both forms of the iron oxide are permissible within certain safety levels that have been prescribed by the FDA. This is owing to the fact that iron-oxide usually reacts with lead or mercury or arsenic in their natural surroundings. These are all toxic compounds and it is difficult to sieve out the iron oxide from these amalgamations. Hence natural iron oxide that is used in a lipstick in all probability does include traces of lead or mercury or arsenic. Synthetic iron-oxide does not include any such toxic amalgamations and is quite obviously the much preferred option. However FDA has set out certain levels of usage and companies keen on using natural iron oxide cannot transgress these safety standards.
The range of lipsticks available today is mind boggling, and addresses different consumer needs. For example a woman with a busy schedule and who works outside the home would in all probability prefer a lipstick that has a long lasting formula. For women in the glamour industry, shiny, bee stung lips work best and so they would choose from the range that boosts up lip contours and give a high sheen to the lips. Women who work in the domestic sphere would be more likely to pick up lipsticks which are light on colour and high on moisturizing abilities. Again the weather may also have a say in the choice of lipsticks. Winter demands colour, moisture and gloss in a creamy base while summer is ideal for the muted mattes.
However, each of these qualities requires the addition of more chemicals, not all of which have been ethically tested.
- Frosted lipsticks -- These are mainly made by adding a pearlising agent, often a Bismuth compound such as bismuth oxychloride. In the ancient times derivatives from the fish scales were used to give the pearly effect. Today it is rarely used. Another compound Bismuth Subcarbonate is used to protect the thin covering of the lips. It is not unsafe if ingested, but may cause mild skin irritations or even dermatitis.
- Mattes --Of all lipsticks, mattes have the highest proportion of wax. They have more texture.
- Glosses - Glosses have the least proportion of wax and the highest proportion of oil which imparts the shine properties of the gloss.
- Sheers and stains -- These also have a large proportion of oil.
- Shimmers - These have added mica or silica particles which again may cause skin irritations.
- Crèmes -- These contain a blend of all the emollients and are a balance of texture and shine.
- Long lasting -- The long lasting lipstick formula is made by the addition of silicon oil which makes the colour pigment to stick to the lip surface.
Lipstick and health
In recent times lipsticks have been under the scanners of many health watchers. Lipsticks are often eaten away by the user and hence it is imperative that health regulators have a microscopic look at the ingredients that go in to the lipstick.
- The dyes that contribute to the colour of the lipstick are dangerous to humans on consumption.
- In a mild form, the coal tars that are the basic ingredients from which synthetic dyes are formed can cause allergy, nausea, dermatitis, and drying of the lips.
- In a more severe form they can be carcinogenic and even fatal.
- They are also likely to cause fatigue, mood swings and headaches.
- Coal tar and its derivatives can be absorbed by the body and stored in the fatty tissues.
- Preservatives used in the lipstick also may cause such problems.
- Also lanolin, a derivative from the oil glands of the sheep may cause allergenic reactions to the user.
Recent research indicates that the chemicals in lipsticks actually interfere with the healthy development of breast tissue leading to breast cancer. According to lead researcher Dr Jose Russo of the Fox Chase Cancer Centre in America, neonatal or prepubertal exposure to butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) can induce modifications in the gene expression of the mammary tissue. He says "BBP is in the environment, so a constant exposure via inhalation and digestive tract can reach many different organs including the breast."
However not all the ingredients that go into making the product are toxic. Some of the products that are non-toxic are beeswax, plant extracts and synthetic iron-oxide as also natural ingredients as aloe vera, shea butter, petroleum.
What can I do?
- Lipsticks that profess that they are made of natural ingredients are softer and hence they should be handled delicately. They must also not be exposed to harsh light and heat.
- Most lipsticks tend to last longer if applied with a lip-brush. Care must be taken of this brush so that bacterial growth does not occur which might get transferred both to the lips and to the lipstick.
- From the point of view of health and hygiene lipsticks should ideally not be shared as it may transfer unwanted infections, sometimes even oral herpes or cold sores.
- A lipstick is also ubiquitous in nature. So it can be used as a cream blusher or a cheek stain, as an eye shadow, and if one is creative enough, it can be even used to make a ‘bindi’ or even a tattoo.
- Keeping lipstick in the fridge ensures its longer life. A cold lipstick is also easier to apply.
- To make lipstick last longer after application, apply once and blot lips with a tissue. Reapply a coat, and watch the lipstick last for hours!
- To make your lips appear fuller, use a deep shade of lipcolor at the outside corners of lips. Then apply a lighter lipcolor (in similar shade) to the center of the lips. Remember that light brings forward, dark recedes.
If you must use lipstick, here are some things to make sure of --
- Choose a lipstick with natural beeswax or plant wax instead of synthetic wax.
- As a rule of the thumb, remember that if a tube of lipstick has added perfume and flavour, it means added chemicals.
- Do not use a lipstick meant to last twelve hours, if you will need it only for two.
- Check whether the lipstick has been tested on animals. Animal Testing is often needlessly cruel. Animal rights activists point out that guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits are made to swallow lipstick to see whether it is safe or poisonous. Albino rats and rabbits have lipstick shoved into their eyes to see what it does to them.
- Create your own lip gloss with vaseline or bees wax. Heat a heaping teaspoon of vaseline or bees wax gently till it melts, and add about a 1/2 teaspoon of cream blush (to add color). Or you could add food colour. If you want to have some flavor, just add any natural food essence of your choice.
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