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Is Bare Minerals 100% Natural lipstick worth the hype?

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 Beauty Brains 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% natural.”)

Ingredient comparison

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.

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.

Ingredients

Avon

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

Bare Minerals

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)

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • ClPollack January 18, 2015, 4:25 pm

    If you’re only concerned because of pregnancy, you can look up a list of companies whose lipsticks contain teratogens (substances known to cause birth defects) and avoid them. You should be able to find some lipsticks that may not be 100% natural but which don’t contain teratogens. Good article, btw.

  • Ling January 18, 2015, 8:31 pm

    I personally wouldn’t. As you guys have already mentioned, not much lipstick is absorbed into the body from wearing lipstick so I’m not concerned of ‘consuming chemicals’ :p

    • Randy Schueller January 19, 2015, 7:26 am

      Good point Ling. BTW, I love the name of your blog, “the Cosmetic Critic.”

      • Ling January 19, 2015, 8:53 pm

        Haha thanks! Perhaps in the future it will be rebranded as “The Cosmetic Chemist” 😉

  • Christina January 19, 2015, 12:21 pm

    I personally am not conscious of what I absorb or digest in the name of beauty..or possibly anything now that I think of it. I am known by first name at a local donut shop..so..yeah.

    However, giving unbiased direction to women that are more conscious of what they are absorbing and digesting with their cosmetics is still a specialty of mine.

    The average woman digests 21.9 grams of lipstick a year so out of all the products we apply, lipstick is one of the products that we truly do eat and digest.

    If you are concerned, Bare Minerals is a better and cleaner option than a synthetic brand. Another option I recommend is Bite Beauty who actually formulates all their lip products for digestion.

    Bite Beauty VIB Rouge Lipstick:
    $28

    -Trans-Resveratrol (from red wine polyphenol): Loaded with antioxidants to fight free radicals and reduce the appearance of lines.
    -Organic Fruit Butters: Create a creamy texture that conditions and nourishes lips.

    Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Organic Beeswax, Triisostearyl Citrate (Natural Source), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter And Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, And Punica Granatum, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Acacia Decurrens/Jojoba/Sunflower Seed Cera/ Polyglyceryl-3 Esters, Organic Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla Cera) Wax, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Organic Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Silica, Aroma (Natural Flavor), Siraitia Grosvenorii Fruit Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Vine Extract +/- May Contain Mica (Ci 77019), Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492)

    Bottom line is that if you are concerned about what you are digesting, lip stick is one of the few products that you truly do digest more than other cosmetics. Distribution in marketed healthy to digest lipsticks is limited and therefore more expensive at this point in time. It’s a personal decision to spend the money but I say go for it if it’s important to you.

    • Randy Schueller January 19, 2015, 2:08 pm

      Thanks for the highly detailed comments, Christina. Can I ask for a quick fact check? I’m wondering where you got the statistic that “the average woman digests 21.9 grams of lipstick a year.” I thought it was much less than that and if I’m wrong I want to update my calculations. (Snopes has a good post on this: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/lipstick.asp)

      • Christina January 20, 2015, 3:11 pm

        The data was from the European Scientific Commission on Consumer Safety’s numbers for aggregate exposure as a number of lip product milligrams ingested. The European Scientific Commission on Consumer Safety’s numbers for aggregate exposure as a number of milligrams ingested equals 3.7 pounds in a lifetime, which is lower than most estimates I’ve seen as wives tales. If we consider the study that looked at how much lipstick women apply in a day, most women apply far less than the daily aggregate exposure listed in the European Commission study. These calculations also assume that an average woman uses lipstick every single day between 10- and 86-years old.

        Most stories state that women ingest 7 pounds of lipstick in their lifetimes. This study shows 3.7 pounds with the study averaging that women started wearing lipstick at 10 years old and lived to wear it until 86 years old. So I would even cut the results in half for the average woman personally but sticking to the study, those were their results.

  • Patricia February 7, 2015, 8:32 pm

    Great topic, Randy! I wonder what the naturalists would think about iron oxides and carmine (included in both formulations). Yes indeed, they come from nature, but the common name for oxidized iron is rust. Rusted iron. And carmine is derived from cochineal beetles to be exact. Those are bugs. Yummy stuff, yes?

    But since it’s my understanding that there’s the iron oxides that ceramicists use in coloring their pottery, and then there’s the cosmetic grade stuff. So it seems to me that it must under go some kind of filtering in a lab to somehow clean it up a tad or fire it to a different color, thus not “technically” natural. Which sounds like a good thing to me. Am I wrong about any of this, Randy?

    • Randy Schueller February 8, 2015, 8:40 am

      There are several different kinds of iron oxide and they do undergo some degree of chemical processing. It’s probably more accurate to describe them as “naturally derived.”

  • Patricia February 8, 2015, 1:05 am

    Interesting topic! I wonder what the naturalists would think about iron oxides and carmine (included in both formulations). Yes indeed, they come from nature, but the common name for oxidized iron is rust. Rusted iron. And carmine is derived from bugs – cochineal beetles to be exact. Yummy stuff, yes?

    But it’s my understanding that there’s the iron oxides that ceramicists use in coloring their pottery, and then there’s the cosmetic grade stuff. So it seems to me that the latter must under go some kind of filtering in a lab to somehow clean it up a tad or fire it to a different color, thus not “technically” natural. Which sounds like a good thing to me. But it’s still rust. Am I wrong about any of this, Randy?

  • Patricia February 8, 2015, 1:10 am

    Oops…. Not sure how that happened. :) Ignore my first post. The second is worded better.

  • wendy pappas May 4, 2015, 8:12 pm

    I would just mention to be careful to take note these studies are based on what projections like if they applied it everyday from age 10-86 years and if they didn’t have the flu that day and vomit it back up or this and that: Where’s the science? Like we assumed the animals were more toxic than they actually were from the radiation even banning products- come to find out they process toxins more effectively and it wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought. Perspective is everything, thoughts and beliefs create reality. Why not let experience and evidence guide us as we go instead of conjecture- a little common sense can go a long way. BTW I mention this hoping that the obvious is obvious; the skin is the largest organ of the body allowing access from external to internal without the protection of digestion if it goes into your skin it’s not going through your guts digestive process hence it is all the more impactful to your body (organs etc). The bottom line is your body is designed to digest fruit and vegetables in their raw form and nuts/seeds (sprouted when applicable)- that is it. It is a proven fact that anything else will elicit the immune system even a small bite of cooked food. Hence if you want a rejuvenating body eat a rejuvenating diet and only put those things on your skin. If you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t wear it without knowing you are making a trade off for sure!! Be educated!!

    • Randy Schueller May 5, 2015, 7:50 am

      Hi Wendy. Thanks for your comment but the idea of “if you wouldn’t eat it, you should’t wear it…” wouldn’t allow for sunscreens (for example) and could lead to many more people dying of skin cancer. The skin is a good barrier to most chemicals.

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