Many beauty products on the market today contain ingredients not tested by a federal agency. The cosmetic industry currently operates under a code of conduct that appears to have many loopholes. Many lipsticks contain ingredients that many people, if they knew a little more about them, would choose not to put on their skin.

Basic Ingredients

Although there are major variations between brands, most lipsticks contain the same basic ingredients. They are wax, oil, color, fragrance, preservatives and antioxidants. Toxic and nontoxic alternatives exist for the majority of ingredients.

Propylene/Butylene Glycol (PG)

The Environmental Protection Agency lists PG as an ingredient in fertilizer, and it is also used in automotive coolant or antifreeze. Petroleum-based PG is linked to problems with fertility and issues in development. It can irritate the eyes and skin.


Sometimes found in harmful amounts in red lipsticks, lead is a toxin that can cause serious health problems. Lead is very dangerous to pregnant women and children under the age of six years old. Health problems associated with lead ingestion are brain damage and behavior abnormalities. Many of lead’s side effects are irreversible.

Mineral Oil

A petroleum-based ingredient, mineral oil acts like a second nonporous skin, blocking the real skin’s pores, and can interfere with skin cell development and proper functioning. There is a possibility that mineral-oil-based products may contain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs which are carcinogens. Propylene glycol is made from mineral oil and may be linked to kidney function issues.

Coal Tar

Coal tar is used to treat several skin conditions but is considered a “high hazard” substance by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has presented current research study results on numerous chemicals and cosmetic ingredients. The EWG considers coal tar a carcinogen that is linked to fertility issues as well as to allergies and skin irritations.


With the green revolution, a number of manufactures now offer lipsticks and other cosmetics completely free of synthetic ingredients, lowering the risk of health problems. Products labeled “organic” and “fragrance free” may not contain the ingredients discussed in this article. Whenever you doubt the safety of a particular lipstick, it is best to contact the manufacturer to get more details on the ingredients.