Bandana asks…Since I’ve been trying to get pregnant over the last year, I’ve become more concerned about toxicity. I probably eat a sizeable amount of lipstick. I am not your usual “organic” type, but I was surprised to see the list of ingredients for my favorite lipstick, Avon’s Beyond Color Plumping Lipstick. Are organic lipsticks worth the hype?? I’ve seen that Bare Minerals has a natural lipstick, but I’m not feeling $25 per tube. I’m more of a drugstore type girl. I’m not loaded with money and don’t want to be more paranoid than I should be.
The Right Brain responds:
“Regular” lipstick like the Avon example you gave costs $8.00 ($3.99 on sale!) where as the Bare Minerals “100% natural” lipstick is $25. It’s really impossible for us to make the value judgment for you, but we can help by telling you if there are any significant technical differences between the two. (One point of clarification: although you asked about Bare Minerals “organic” lipstick, the company does not make the claim the this product is organic. They only state that it is “100% organic.)
It looks like the Bare Minerals formula is quite different from a typical lipstick because a) it only uses iron oxide pigments as colorants and b) it does not contain any of the petroleum-derived emollients typically found in lipsticks. (For the sake of thoroughness, the complete ingredient listing for each product is included below.)
Natural vs synthetic
As you’re probably aware, the debate over the safety of natural versus synthetic ingredients is not as simple as “all natural is good and all synthetic is bad.” For example, synthetic dyes like those used used in the Avon product are accused of containing carcinogens. And natural lavender extract, like the oil used in the Bare Minerals lipstick, is said to cause headaches and irritate skin. Whether or not you believe any of these specific accusations is beside the point but it’s important to recognize that these ingredients are ALL chemicals and depending on the dose, chemicals may have undesirable side effects. So rather than make this a debate about toxicology, we’ll try to answer your question by making a couple of quick assumptions to simply the argument about whether an an ingredient “natural” or not. This is no trivial point since currently there is no standard definition “natural” as it relates to beauty products. But for the sake of this discussion, rate each product on a based on four basic factors as described in the table below:
As is typically the case with natural products, tradeoffs must be made: if you want to avoid “synthetic” chemicals you’ll have to accept a limited number of color choices. (That’s because iron oxides, the mineral pigments used to provide color, are only available in a few reddish-brownish-yellowish shades.) You’ll also have to give up long lasting color because these iron oxides don’t stain the lips like synthetic dyes do. Are these good trade-offs to make? Maybe, but we can’t make that value judgement for you. We can only try to frame the question and provide a few helpful facts.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Unfortunately there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to your question. Whether or not so-called natural lipstick is a good value depends on what’s most important to you. If you want to limit potential intake of “chemicals” (even though the best science available doesn’t indicate that this is a significant risk) AND if you don’t mind a limited number of “earth-tone” colors, then a “100% Natural” product may be a good choice for you. But, you’ll need to spend more for those benefits.
What do YOU think? Are you willing to spend more for products that say they are natural? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.
Image credit: farm1.static.flickr.com
OCTINOXATE, DIISOSTEARYL FUMARATE, SQUALANE, POLYBUTENE, BARIUM SULFATE, OZOKERITE, MICROCRYSTALLINE WAX/CIRE, MICROCRISTALLINE, DI-C12-15 ALKYL FUMARATE, POLYETHYLENE, ZEA MAYS (CORN) STARCH, CETYL ALCOHOL, PETROLATUM, CALCIUM, SODIUM BOROSILICATE, SILICA, ALLANTOIN, BEESWAX/CIRE D’ABEILLE, TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, CHOLESTERYL/BEHENYL/OCTYLDODECYL LAUROYL GLUTAMATE, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, GLYCERIN, HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL, BEHENYL ERUCATE, LAUROYL LYSINE, ALOE BARBADENSIS EXTRACT, ALLYL METHACRYLATES CROSSPOLYMER, LECITHIN, ACRYLATES COPOLYMER, PARFUM/FRAGRANCE, PHENYL TRIMETHICONE, GLYCINE SOJA (SOYBEAN) OIL, HYDROGENATED STARCH HYDROLYSATE, RETINOL, PEG-80 SORBITAN LAURATE, ACRYLATES/CARBAMATE COPOLYMER, SACCHAROMYCES LYSATE EXTRACT. C12-15 ALKYL BENZOATE, COLLAGEN, ETHYLHEXYL PALMITATE, HYALURONIC ACID, TRIBEHENIN, RETINYL PALMITATE, NIACINAMIDE POLYPEPTIDE, PANTOTHENIC ACID POLYPEPTIDE, SORBITAN ISOSTEARATE, RIBOFLAVIN POLYPEPTIDE, BIOTIN POLYPEPTIDE, PYRIDOXINE POLYPEPTIDE, THIAMINE POLYPEPTIDE. ASCORBYL PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID POLYPEPTIDE, CYANOCOBALAMIN POLYPEPTIDE, BETA-CAROTENE. PALMITOYL OLIGOPEPTIDE, MICA, IRON OXIDES, RED 7 LAKE, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, RED 6 LAKE, BISMUTH OXYCHLORIDE, RED 33 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, BLUE 1 LAKE, RED 27 LAKE, CARMINE, YELLOW 10 LAKE, ORANGE 5 LAKE, RED 21 LAKE, RED 40 LAKE, RED 30 LAKE
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Barium Sulfate, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Theobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Gardenia Tahitensis Flower Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Tocopheryl Acetate, Punica Granatum Seed Oil, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Silica, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Hordeum Vulgare Seed Extract, Tocopherol, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Carmine (CI 75470)