The untold truth of lipstick


Rocking a bold, red lip can
take your night from boring to epic. There is something about lipstick that
changes us, makes us feel more brave and beautiful. When we put on lipstick,
it’s for a reason — either we’re going out, or we want to achieve a certain
There are actually scientific
studies proving that lipstick changes us and makes us feel more confident.
However, there are also studies that show its potential dangers. Before you
reach into your makeup bag, make sure you know the truth about lipstick.
It can dry out your lips

If you suffer from dry skin,
especially in the winter, lipstick may not be your friend. The chemicals in
many lipsticks can pull moisture from your sensitive lips, leaving them
“Wearing lipsticks 24/7,
particularly low-quality lipsticks, which are laden with chemicals, can zap
moisture away from your lips,” Certified Skin Therapist and the Founder of
Skin Aspirations Simona Mazenyte told me. “If you have chapped lips, you
are better off using a tinted lip balm.” Talk with your dermatologist or
makeup artist friend about the best options for your skin.
It could be bad for you and
the environment

It is concerning how many
chemicals can be found in a variety of lipsticks. While of course these
chemicals aren’t great for our bodies, what are they doing to the environment?
“Many lipsticks are made from petrochemicals, which are toxic to us and to
the environment. High levels of petrochemicals in the body can interfere with
your growth, reproduction, development, and intelligence,” warned
Mazenyte. “Formaldehyde, used as a preservative in lipsticks, is a known
carcinogen and can cause coughing, breathlessness, and skin irritation.
Chromium, a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors, is also sometimes found in
Always read the ingredients in
your lipstick and do your homework. Not only do we ingest lipstick by
swallowing it, we also absorb it through our skin. “The term ‘kiss of
death’ comes from the fact that lipstick used to be made with poisonous
materials,” Director of Beauty and Cosmetics at COLOR Salon Kate
Stromberg told me. Make sure yours isn’t.
Once you wash off your makeup
for the day, it can still do damage. Many cosmetic products, including
lipsticks, are made up of tiny plastic particles. When we wash our face at the
end of the day, these particles are washed down the drain and eventually make
their way to our water sources. According to The Global Programme of Action for
the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, these
plastic pieces take hundreds of years to biodegrade and are polluting our
It might contain lead

Speaking of dangerous
ingredients in lipstick, you also have to worry about lead. “There’s been
research done that concludes some lipsticks contain lead. Lead is a neurotoxin
that can have a harmful effect on the nervous system,” Hillary
Kline, freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger, told me. “It’s
also been researched that reapplying lipstick multiple times a day can mean
heavy metal exposure from those lip products.” Look for natural lipsticks
that minimize extra harmful ingredients.
Mazenyte elaborated on what is
meant by heavy metals. “Many lipsticks also contain heavy metals such as
lead, cadmium, manganese, and aluminum,” explained Mazenyte. “Some of
these heavy metals occur at levels that could pose health problems in the long
The first lipsticks were made
from crushed gemstones

Lipstick has been around for
centuries and actually started with gemstones. Maybe that trend will make its
way back around, because I could see some beautiful Instagram selfies of
“The very first origins
of lipstick date back to 5,000 BC to ancient Mesopotamia where women used crushed
gemstones to color their lips,” Mazenyte told me. “Ancient Egyptians,
most famously Cleopatra, were skilled at mixing and creating lipstick colors
from crushed insects, seaweed, and fish scales.” Okay, so not all of these
trends are due for a comeback.
“The first man-made
lipsticks appeared around four to five thousand years ago in ancient
Mesopotamia,” said Stromberg. “Women there used to grind precious
gems and decorate their lips with the dust to create the look of
Two-toned lips are the new

If gemstones were the past,
makeup artists are predicting that two-toned lips are the future. To create it,
choose one lipstick and one gloss to layer. Go for different colors to create
something all your own.
“Nobody can really truly
predict these trends, but I have noticed that dimensional lips will become
popular; this includes bold statement lips including ombre or an overlay of
glitter,” Kline told me. “Two-toned lips are gaining speed. What this
means is using two different colors, one on the top and one on the bottom, and
then wearing separately or pressing together.”
There are certain ones to

While it’s scary that
lipsticks contain chemicals in the first place, fortunately there are now
studies and reports on the lipsticks with the most chemicals and metals found
in them so they can be avoided. We need to use this information every time we
shop to avoid the risks. 
Scientists have determined
that having lead in lipstick is dangerous, because it could be swallowed. If
you lick your lips after applying lipstick, you will naturally swallow some.
Just think of your 12 year-old self reapplying lip smackers all day long, just
because it really did taste like vanilla frosting! It is also possible to
absorb the lead through our skin. 
The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) released a report studying the amounts of lead and heavy
metals in popular lipstick brands. The brands with the highest lead
concentrations were Maybelline, NARS, and L’Oréal. The lipsticks with the
lowest lead levels included Wet ‘N Wild, Clinique, and M.A.C.
You’ll buy more during a

During a recession, we all
begin to make new choices. Instead of going out to eat, we commit to cooking at
home. Perhaps you put a vacation on hold and have a staycation instead.
One area where you may keep
spending without even realizing it is on lipstick and other cosmetics. A study
in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that we are less
likely to spend money on things like electronics and homewares during
recessions, however, we are more likely to buy lipstick. The researchers
believed this is because during a time of stress, we want to feel more
attractive and even attract a new mate. Perhaps feeling beautiful helps you
feel safer during a time of such stress and overwhelm.
It doesn’t affect your

If you’ve been using lipstick
to feel more attractive, you may be wasting your time and money. Turns out
lipstick doesn’t really affect how others see us, at least in terms of
A study in the International
Journal of Cosmetic Science examined our perceptions of attractiveness. Study
volunteers looked at pictures of the same women with varying amounts of makeup
on. Most volunteers judged the women with full makeup as more attractive than
those with no makeup and, while the female volunteers seemed most influenced by
eye makeup, surprisingly, the amount of lipstick worn did not affect the
volunteers’ perceptions. So if you’re the type of gal who doesn’t leave home
without it, take a day off and see how you feel.
It could help you get more

Okay are you ready for this
one? Wearing lipstick, especially red lipstick, can affect how much money you
make. Even though lipstick doesn’t seem to affect how attractive we are, there
is definitely something about the way it influences others’ perception of us.
A study in the International
Journal of Hospitality Management found that when waitresses wore lipstick, especially
red lipstick, they received higher tips. It should be noted that male customers
gave them higher tips, while the tips from the female customers remained the
It makes you look more

In addition to getting you
more tips at the restaurant, wearing lipstick sends a message to others that
you are successful. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found
we assume a lot about a woman based on her makeup. When study volunteers were
shown pictures of the same four women, both with lipstick and makeup and
without, they assumed that the women in the makeup pictures were successful,
had higher earning potentials, and were healthier.
If you are headed to a
conference or event where you want to make a good impression, lipstick is
certainly not required, but may make your life a little easier. Everyone will
assume that you are already successful, so you can just sit back and enjoy!
Where the names come from

Have you ever wondered who
comes up with those crazy names for cosmetics like lipsticks? I personally
always read the names of nail polish before choosing one for my pedicure or
before buying a new lipstick. The names are fun and whimsical. You can’t help
but smile. Well, it turns out a lot of thought go into those names.
Lipstick Queen Founder Poppy
King told Refinery29 that she is always being inspired for new names. “I
love the duality that’s so present in being female. For example, Saints and
Sinners — which is a core concept of Lipstick Queen — [has] the same shades,
but in two different strengths. The Saint version is sheer and airy; Sinner is
darker and deeper,” she said.
King is always on the lookout
and even keeps notes throughout the day. “I have a little notebook filled
with names for lipsticks yet to be created. I listen to NPR during the day, and
yesterday I heard them talking about ‘cold peace’ — something to do with the
Carter administration way back when. If a concept like that stands out, I
quickly write it in my notebook, thinking, Oh, my God, I want a lipstick one
day that’s about cold peace.”
It could help you perform
better on exams

Let’s be honest. The right
lipstick can turn the whole day around. Feeling good about yourself and your
appearance affects everything around you.
According to a study in Cogent
Psychology, when female college students wore lipstick and other makeup to an
exam, they received higher grades than those who did not. High self-esteem is
associated with better performance, so it makes sense that if you’re feeling
great about how you look, you will perform better.
Next time you have a stressful
event coming up, such as a presentation at work or licensing exam, pick out
your favorite lipstick and glam up. You never know how it might affect you!
What’s coming next

When it comes to the risks of
lipsticks, they are low, especially with high quality brands. Just make sure
you’re not putting it on all day long. “Lipsticks contain potentially
harmful ingredients, but you are unlikely to be at risk if you use lipsticks
occasionally,” Mazenyte told me. “However, if you use lipstick daily
and reapply many times during the day, you need to be aware of these potential
As people continue to use
lipstick, we will continue to see new trends and innovative ideas coming from
makeup artists and cosmetic companies. “Today, innovations and
improvements in lipstick development have not stopped,” shared Stromberg. “New
formulations and designs for lipstick are being invented constantly in addition
to lipsticks that block the sun’s rays, that are also packed with antioxidants.
We even have lipsticks that change color when applied on your lips into a
custom color created by your own body chemistry.”

Even though lipstick has been around for centuries, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.


Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.