How does lip gloss work?

Alicia asks: I work at an after school program for young women and we are having a makeover day (partly because I want them to try more natural looks than the traditional teenage racoon look they’ve all been sporting). Along with makeup tips, I wanted to teach them what are common ingredients in their makeup. So what is in lip gloss, mascara, and eye shadow?

The Right Brain gets lippy:

Good for you, Alicia. We love to help our community learn about cosmetics. You should find our previous posts on mascara, eye liner, and lip balm ingredients helpful. And here’s a brand new post on lip gloss, just for you!

What is lip gloss

Most lip glosses are in the form of a gel but some companies do make a stick or pomade version. Regardless of the form, these products are all designed to give your lips a little shine and color. (They taste good too!) Typically these formulas are oil based and don’t contain any water so there’s no need for emulsifiers (chemicals that help water and oil mix together.) Let’s take a closer look at the 5 basic ingredients used in lip gloss.

1. Emollients/shine agents

Many, many different ingredients can be used as shine agents. Most of the formulas we surveyed used oils (either mineral or vegetable based), lanolin derivatives, or polybutene (a type of hydrocarbon that mimics silicones. Surprisingly we don’t see many silicones used in lip glosses.)

2. Thickeners

These ingredients keeps the gloss from dribbling down your chin when you apply it. Waxes (like ozokerite) and clays (like kaolin) are commonly used.

3. Colorant/Glitter

While you can make a colorless lip shine, most glosses do contain some kind of colorant. Typically this is either an FD&C dye (did you know that stands for Food Drug & Cosmetic?), or an iron oxide (for earthy colors). Mica (a type of mineral based glitter) can also be used for sparkle.

4. Flavor

What would lip gloss be without all those yummy flavors? The formula may also contain a sweetening agent like sodium saccharin.

5. Control agents

These are the ingredients that formulators add to lip glosses to ensure the product remains stable. Examples include pH adjustors, preservatives, and anti-oxidants.

You should know that some lip glosses include sunscreens.

Source: Here are the lip glosses we examined when compiling this ingredient review.

Archipelago Botanicals White Sugar & Mango Lip Gloss

Arissa Lipgloss

Bonnie Bell Lip Lights

CoverGirl Lipslicks Lip Gloss

e.l.f. Super Glossy Lip Shine

Neutrogena MoistureShine Gloss Flirt

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Vitamin E Lip Gloss

Philosophy Very Emollient Lip Shine Cinnamon

Revlon SuperLustrous Lipgloss Pink Afterglow