Urgent update folks: A super-smart commenter noted that the Colorganics brand I had researched a few years ago and had thought to be lead-free was in fact on the FDA's 2012 expanded survey list of products that did contain some lead. SO! I am after all going to need to do my research again, and go lipstick-free for a time. I will also contact the company about this.
The other brand I mentioned, Zuzu Luxe, states they test their products and are committed to selling lipsticks without lead contamination but I see some of their products on that survey list as well. So STAY TUNED.
Before: Turns out my L'Oreal lipstick was full of lead; After: Colorganics Hemp Organic lipsticks (shown here in Ruby) are made from hemp and beeswax and are allergen-free—but what about lead?
I'm giving my beauty routine a serious green makeover.
I've been going through all the personal care products my family uses one by one — from baby shampoo and eczema lotion to sun block to makeup and nail polish — and replacing them with non-toxic, allergy-free, organic and/or more sustainable alternatives.
These things can be challenging to find, so I'd thought I'd share my research — and some of my new favorite non-toxic beauty products and sources! Today's featured find: safe lipstick.
How this all started: A few years ago when I was pregnant — and extra-worried about what I was putting in or on my body — I watched this eye-opening short animated video, "The Story of Cosmetics: The Ugly Truth of Toxins In, Toxics Out".
So I took a close look at all the products in my medicine cabinet (with some help from the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database)... and immediately tossed most of them out. For a while I didn't have ANY makeup to wear (not good for a vintage-inspired look!), and I was washing my hair with organic baby shampoo.
Why the freak-out? Beauty and personal care products don't HAVE to be poisonous. But many mainstream makeup and bath products are loaded with toxic chemicals, carcinogens and nasty irritants ... and even serious toxins NOT listed on their ingredient labels, like lead.
A warning: Don't trust "natural" labeling. Words like "natural" and "eco" are pretty much meaningless and unregulated, and many brands practice "greenwashing"–marketing their products as safe or sustainable when they are anything but. (And if you are dealing with serious allergens—like we are in my house—many crunchy and natural companies fill their products with nut and sesame oils.)
Luckily there are a growing number of small cosmetics and personal care brands and companies that DO make safety and sustainability a priority. And some of those products are even allergen-free. So without further ado...
Found: Safer, Allergen-Free Lipstick?
The problem: FDA testing has found many lipsticks are packed with deadly contaminants and carcinogens like lead and cadmium. These aren't ingredients listed on the label, but companies are not required to test their products for contamination — and most don't bother to. And take note — one of the top 20 offenders was a lip shimmer sold by "natural" favorite Burt's Bees.
My before lipsticks: I mostly used long-wearing lipsticks from Revlon and L'Oreal. Both brands featured heavily in the top 20 lead-containing lipsticks, so I just went lipstick-free until I found something safer.
The hunt: I prefer to test out lipstick shades in person, so I started with the Whole Foods Whole Body store near my office. But all the natural and organic lipsticks they stocked contained things my daughter was allergic too — like sesame or walnuts — and I wasn't about to stop covering her little cheeks in kisses just to look pretty.
I finally found what I was looking for at the beauty counter at Perelandra, a fantastic natural foods store in Brooklyn.
My after lipstick: Hemp Organics lipstick by Colorganics.
- At $15-$17 a tube, it's a bit pricier than toxic lipsticks, so I own just two shades for now: Coral for everyday wear, and a deep Ruby red for evening and dress-up.
- I've been wearing this stuff for over two years and I love it!
- I call it my hippie lipstick, because it's made from hemp seed, beeswax, sunflower oil, natural pigments and not much else. It's organic, gluten-free, GMO-free and free of tree nut, peanut and sesame oils too.
- Read more about Colorganics and their philosophy on their website.
Here I am in the Ruby:
If you're not avoiding nuts or sesame like I am, your safe lipstick options are much wider. Another good option (for the non-sesame allergic) is Zuzu Luxe lipsticks (sold at Whole Foods Whole Body, Amazon or the company's own website). They even have some gluten-free options. I like this bright red shade, Starlet:
Edited to add: Gabriel Cosmetics (the makers of Zuzu) says they test for lead contamination—yet they appear on that expanded survey list as well. On their website FAQ, they indicate:
Q. Are your products lead free?
A. Yes. We have tight quality control policies and can assure that each product is tested during and after manufacturing for pH values, viscosity, microorganisms or any other contaminants.
I hope this post was helpful, rather than scary—everyone has to decide what level of risk they are comfortable with of course, and there's no way to make your life totally toxin free... but I think personal care products are a great place to start, since we slather so many of them directly on our skin each day, and well... lipstick gets in your mouth, too!
Recommended further reading, viewing, and action-taking
- Watch: The Story of Stuff: The Story of Cosmetics.
- Learn More & Take Action: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. This situation is NOT OK—we shouldn't have to do extensive research in obscure stores to find the few products that won't poison us. We need transparent, clear labeling and we need to regulate toxic ingredients and remove them from personal care products altogether.
- Check Your Products: Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. But note that the database can only tell you about voluntarily LISTED ingredients, not unlisted contaminants like lead. So you might want to err on the side of companies specifically committed to producing safe, non-toxic products.
- Green Beauty Blogs: No More Dirty Looks, Daily Green Natural Beauty Blog.
So, do you have a favorite non-toxic lipstick? Are you as frustrated as I am by how hard these things are to hunt down... and as angry that companies are selling us poisonous beauty products?
And what's with all the new "luxury organic" lipsticks that actually contain awful ingredients when you look into them more closely? BLECH.
Happy safe lipstick hunting! (Next time: safe nail polish.)
**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for polkadotoverload.com (and quite likely spent on yarn or fabric to be blogged here!).