2012-02-17

Don't Look Now, But There Is Poison In Your Lipstick

In fact, there is poison in a lot of stuff you rub all over yourself every day, from shampoo to deodorant to, yes, lipstick. This infographic lays out some of the dangers lurking in the drugstore.

Modern society has afforded us humans any number of ways to modify our natural selves. We put makeup on to change the way we look, we wear deodorant to change the way we smell. But--it might behoove us to ask--at what cost? More and more evidence is pointing to the fact that the chemicals major companies stuff in their products are really, really bad for us. These chemicals aren’t necessary--you can make lipstick that won’t kill people--but they do cut costs. A new infographic shines a light on just some of the nastiness we’re rubbing on our skin (and then absorbing into our body every day).

Let’s start with deodorant. Most of us put it on every morning. Our coworkers appreciate it. What makes the antiperspirant part of deodorant work is aluminum. You might wrap stuff in your kitchen in aluminum foil, but jamming it into your pores is a little different. When you do that, it can cause Alzheimer’s. And just to make sure you can keep using your deodorant every day, the manufacturers have helpfully included propylene glycol to keep it from drying out. Propylene glycol is anti-freeze. Delicious.

In baby shampoo, there’s a wonderful little chemical called 1,4-Dioxane. It’s been linked to severe immune system dysfunction. Besides the shampoo that you’re putting on your infant’s head, you can also find it in … anti-static spray. Would you put anti-static spray on your infant’s head?

And then there’s a fun ingredient in lipstick: lead. You have probably heard that lead is not so good in paint in your house. It’s worse to rub it on your lips--those are near your mouth--but people do so willingly every morning. In fact, studies found that one in three kinds of red lipstick had more lead than the FDA allows in candy.

And that is the larger problem. The FDA is largely absent from regulating cosmetics--or even making them disclose their ingredients--and making sure they’re not making us sick. And because a lot of the problems caused by the poisons take years to manifest and can’t be simply linked to one product or ingredient, there isn’t a public groundswell for more regulation or the banning of certain ingredients. That’s not a problem other places though. In Europe, they’ve found ways to clean up the cosmetics industry:

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to decide between going lipstickless and eating lead. There are plenty of healthy options (check this blog for bunches of them), but it should serve more as a warning to make sure you’re reading the ingredients. And all of us could stand being more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies. You can see the whole infographic here, or below:

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12 Comments

  • Raytanz

    Lethal make-up and preserved food that can lead you up the carcinogenic path are a telling commentary on the state of the world.
    Vested interests (read business) gang up with governments (read 'elected' by you and me to provide governance) sell us downstream...into the hands of pharma giants who should be operating cemetery services for corpses.
    Don't you just love your world.
    Incidentally, it's the only one you will ever have.

  • Concerned

    What the heck? Just looking at the first section- "deodorant" is disturbing. This is just a random list of "(not really) facts" linked together to make people think there is some correlation. I'm going to throw my own theories out there and see what sticks, making the assumption I can even use the facts listed here. 

    -Women who shave and use deodorant regularly were diagnosed with cancer 19 years earlier? Did they get cancer earlier? Or do they touch the area around their breasts more? Have better hygiene and more disposable income for razors, deodorant and other hygienic items and healthcare? 

    -Antiperspirant/deodorant sales went up 14,000% from 1945 to 2000. Breast cancer diagnosis rates went up 300%. So, both rates went UP, which I guess is enough to call causation, if you don't want to get too analytical, or worry about actual numbers versus percentages, or be reasonable. 

    -Aluminum IS technically "a known neurotoxin" if your body is somehow incapable of removing excess aluminum from your blood stream. Even as a neurotoxin, it has not been linked to Alzheimer's. I'm not sure if this infographic is trying to tell you that your deodorant is going to give you alzheimer's or cancer, but to be safe, you're probably going to get both! Stay stinky!

    -Lastly... "Propylene Glycol- Why it is bad for you: It is the same thing found in anti-freeze." GOOD REASON!! Oxygen- Found is Ozone (also referred to as smog at ground level.) Oxygen is the same thing found in SMOG, thus... DEADLY. 

    No worries though, I'm sure someone wouldn't make a pretty picture just to lie to you. They're probably just not big on research. And I'm not so big on it that I'm going to fact check this entire idiotic thing. I don't know if there is lead in your lipstick. But I do know you need to think critically and value real factual information. 

  • Writer Dave

    Agreed. The plural of anecdote is not data, many of these 'facts' are little more than weaselly worded references to old health fears that have been previously debunked. Hint - 'linked' is a very tenuous term, and the way these people have abused it destroys what little merit is had.

    Those items that have merit - lead in lipstick being one, the problems caused by lead are well proven - have had their impact lost in the torrent of unfounded hysteria.

    While the wrapper is admittedly pretty, the content also matters.

  • Victoria

    When my sister diagnosed with Lupus some years ago was told not to wear makeup because her immune system could not cope with the influx of chemicals driven into her bloodtream, well that was enough for me to become a researcher and eventually start my own natural cosmetic line all plant based. No one will be getting sick from products we make just beautiful!

  • ChemistKJ

    Ethylene glycol is what's found in common antifreeze and has acute oral toxicity.  Propylene glycol does not have acute oral toxicity and is found in many foods and is easily metabolized by the body. That was just the first point, don't get me started on the rest.  This infographic is long on scare tactics and short on linking direct causation.  Please be more sensitive before you publish erroneous data (even if it's not your own).

  • H Dog

    I thought that there was only anecdotal evidence that aluminium had adverse health effects. That doesn't mean care shouldn't be taken, only that concrete evidence is lacking.

  • Phil

    There is a difference in deodorants and antiperspirants.   Generally, deodorants only do not contain aluminum; antiperspirants usually contain aluminum and therefore the sweat glands are affected.  The poster above is therefore slightly misleading.  It's the antiperspirants to watch out for.

  • Guest

    This post seems to lack credibility, making very broad, generalized scary statements. While some of the information is probably indeed valuable, it's always important to do your own thorough research if you are concerned with some of these claims. 

  • Emily

    I really appreciate this article and info-graphic. I've had to be super cautious with what cosmetics I use because of hyper-sensitive skin (I'm allergic to the main ingredient in sunscreen and can't drink most sodas because of the preservatives). I'm aware of the toxicity in those pretty smelling potions, but so many people aren't. If more people complained, then maybe companies would stop trying to feed us formaldehyde. A pretty good resource that breaks down the ingredients and their level of harm as listed in cosmetics is the cosmetics database. Find out what's in your favorite product: 
    www.ewg.org/skindeep/

  • deniseinark

    The last I heard is that the decisive research declared that the aluminum in both deodorants and aluminum cookware had NO connection to alzheimers.  This is not to say that this or the other ingredients mentioned present no problems, just to point out that accuracy in these types of reports is essential to maintaining credibility all around.