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"I won't kiss you," my husband said recently, as I was putting my makeup on in preparation for a night out. Before I had the chance to get angry, he explained that he had read that red lipstick like the one I just put on has bugs in it.

"Is your job really so boring that you feel compelled to read cr*p on the internet all day?", I wanted to ask more than anything. Or more than anything? Perhaps not. There was this nagging feeling. Could I be wearing crushed bugs on my lips, and perhaps ingesting them too? 

Lipstick: bugs and beyond

Bugs cochineal beetles to be more precise were used in cosmetics in the past, as in centuries ago, along with many other animal ingredients. Surely, we are too civilized for that kind of thing now? Surely, bugs being present in lipstick is nothing more than an urban myth these days? Apparently not, unfortunately. After hearing that dooming comment about bugs in my lipstick I had to conduct some... ahem... highly scientific research of my own.

I started off googling the ingredient list of the lipstick line I usually use, Loreal Color Riche. What's in there? Cochineal was not on the list, but I did find out that the lead content in this particular (very popular) lipstick was very high. Then, there are the carcinogenic preservatives butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). If you are trying to conceive or hoping to ever have kids in the future (as you probably do if you're reading this blog), you'll also want to know about FD&C Blue 1 Aluminum Lake, a dye linked to neurotoxicity and reproductive toxicity. Wow.

I'm not quite ready to throw my lipstick away, but I am not going to be using it any time soon. If you are going to check the ingredients of your lipstick now, do keep in mind that lead will often not actually be listed because there is no obligation to do so in most jurisdictions. Shocking, but true.

Animal products what to look out for in lipsticks

After I found out about the cochineal and carcinogenic or neurotoxic ingredients that can hide out in lipsticks without you ever being aware of it, I really wanted to know more about the other possible animal products "concealed" in the stuff you put on your lips every day. If you're vegetarian, or following Jewish or Islamic dietary laws, you'll want to check this out. (Lipsticks are not required to carry kosher certification because they are not supposed to be a food item, but what you ingest may well exceed mere "traces". You could have a chat about the halacha surrounding lipstick with your rabbi, or you could just switch to a kosher/vegan lipstick!) So, here goes, a list of ingredients you may see on your lipsticks, and what they are based on:

  • Albumen eggwhites.
  • Ambergris animal or plant protein.
  • Collagen could be plant-based or synthetic, but more frequently derived from animals.
  • Elastin a cow protein.
  • Gelatine this product is already familiar to everyone, and usually made from pig bones, skin, tendons or ligaments. If it is made from cows, it usually says so.
  • Lecithin found in most cosmetics and made from a substance found in the nervous tissue of all animals. Nice!
  • Lipids fat, from plants or animals.

What should you do if you prefer not to ingest animal products or lead, or other harmful substances for that matter? Thankfully, natural, vegan cosmetics are becoming more and more common. You are likely to find them at your local chemist, but if not you can always try the internet to find and order lipsticks that do not contain dubious ingredients. Who knew that something as simple as lipstick could be so controversial? I know that all this talk of lead and toxins is enough to make me explore more natural options. What are your opinions? How often do you wear lipstick and how much do you care about the ingredients? 

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