Find Safer, Healthier Lip Balm, Gloss and Lipstick

Aubrey Vaughn
January/February 2008
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Whether fighting chapped lips or just adding a touch of color, thousands of people apply some kind of lip product every day ? often reapplying as the balm, gloss or lipstick wears off hours later. And many people do so without considering what, exactly, is in all that goop, or why it even matters.

While lip product can seem to just disappear as the day goes on, it actually rubs off ? when you eat, speak or wet your lips ? the evidence plainly visible in the constant smudge of Plum Kiss on your morning coffee cup. It even migrates in a simple kiss. And all of these roads lead to one place: your stomach. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the average woman ingests 4 pounds of lip products over her lifetime, leading to concern over the cumulative effects of the ingredients in these products.

A number of lip products are made using ingredients listed among the dirty dozen, including parabens (preservative and antibacterial), petrolatum (softens skin; makes lipstick shine by creating a barrier on skin), propylene glycol (penetration enhancer; keeps products from melting or freezing), diazolidinyl urea (formaldehyde-releasing, anti-microbial preservative) and butylated hydroxytoluene (antioxidant, slows down rate of product ingredients' color change) ? ingredients indicted for a range of health concerns: eye and skin irritation, potentially altering hormone levels, or that they may be contaminated with impurities and linked to cancer. And testing of 33 lipsticks made (and sold) in the United States revealed that 61 percent contained detectable levels of lead, a proven neurotoxin (one that accumulates in the body over time, rather than breaking down). One third of the samples contained levels higher than the U.S. limit for lead in candy, but none of them listed lead as an ingredient.

While all of this sounds pretty scary, there are a number of ways to keep your lips soft, healthy and rosy, without experimenting with products that are potentially hazardous. Many companies offer safe, effective alternatives. Organizations such as The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Grassroots Environmental Education and Teens for Safe Cosmetics Campaign have collected a wealth of knowledge on good and bad products, ingredients and manufacturers. You can also visit the FDA Cosmetics Information Page, or search thousands of product safety ratings in the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database.

Finding a healthier lip balm, gloss or color isn't tricky. On your next trip to the store, simply take along a list of the ingredients to avoid and check the product labels before you make a purchase. It's well worth the effort. Once you've found a safe, clean lip goo ? sip, snack and smooch away ? your lips and your body will thank you.

Share your favorite lip care tips and products in the comments section below.

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