Harmful chemicals & ingredients to avoid when buying lipstick


Makeup is fun, makeup is therapeutic as it can help us feel good on a day we may not necessarily be feeling our best. It can help us highlight our best features while playing down areas we are not so fond of. A dash of lipstick can completely alter our look and make us feel in charge. In our everyday lives, that are usually driven by routine, applying lipstick gives us an easy outlet for change, to have fun with different looks and to feel confident. Lipsticks are a popular beauty product but how many of us actually check the ingredient list before buying a lipstick?

Damages and harmful impact on your health of toxic chemicals in cosmetics

Recently, we have become more aware of what we put on our skin and lips because some of the cosmetics sadly do include toxic chemicals, harsh chemicals, heavy metals and other potentially harmful ingredients. That is why there has been a definite switch to clean beauty with more people turning to vegan and cruelty free or organic lipsticks, for clean and healthy alternatives to those with toxic ingredients. 

Remember, our lips are sensitive and do not have natural defences such as hair or sweat glands. We have to be careful because lips are sensitive and easily absorb products through the thin layer of skin that covers them. Also, we do naturally tend to lick our lips and unknowingly ingest any harmful ingredients resulting in long term health risks. Ingredients such as Phthalates are harmful for the endocrine system while Polyethylene glycols can pose a threat to our nervous systems.

Being aware and mindful of the ingredients used in the lipsticks you purchase is the best way to avoid toxins and nasties from entering your body. Even small doses over a long time will have adverse effects on your health. Pregnant women should be especially mindful, as they would be about the food they consume. By being more informed you will be able to spot if there are any toxic ingredients in the lipstick before deciding to buy it.


Parabens are a type of chemical used as a preservative in lipsticks and other cosmetics and personal care products. They can act like the hormone estrogen and disrupt the normal function of this hormone. This in turn affects the male and female reproductive system function, reproductive development and fertility. Further, even in small amounts parabens can increase the risk of breast cancer. Most common parabens found in lipsticks include methylparaben, ethyl paraben, propylparaben, and butylparaben and usually more than one paraben is used in a single product.

Heavy metals

Some lipsticks are believed to contain heavy metals such as lead, aluminium, nickel, cadmium and arsenic among others with some level of lead contamination occurring, as a by product of some lipstick ingredients, during the manufacturing process. Long term and high levels of exposure can cause numerous health problems such as seizures, infertility, miscarriages and brain damage, while it could also cause cancer. Lead will not appear in lipstick ingredients as it is often a by product. You may think a lipstick will only pass on a small amount that is not enough to be life threatening but remember you wear it for prolonged periods of time and over the lips which are sensitive and thin.


Lip products tend to use petroleum because it helps prevent the loss of moisture and forms a shield while also absorbing UV rays. When refined properly, petroleum has no known health concerns but at times can lead to clogged pores which in turn can lead to an unhealthy build up on the skin.


It is obvious that we need colour for our lipsticks, but the use of synthetic dyes can pose health issues such as increasing the chances of sensitivity and irritations. There is also the possibility of the dyes absorbing into your skin with prolonged use. When these dyes accumulate they distort the skin’s natural oil balance and cause inflammation, blocked pores, acnes issues and increase blemishes. Synthetic dyes are the chemical compounds that are used to increase colour for cosmetics, beauty care and personal care products. Use of synthetic dyes are regulated owing to their potential health concerns.


Fragrance used in lipsticks are not regulated which means they do not need to be disclosed by manufactures. Fragrances are added to lipsticks and lip balms to make them smell more appealing. However certain fragrances can cause problems such as redness, skin rashes, migraines and hormone disruption. Some research studies say chemicals used to make fragrances are classified as allergens, asthma triggers, neurotoxins and carcinogens. Not all fragrances cause irritations to the same degree and will vary according to each individual.


Read up on the ingredients and manufacturing processes of your favourite lipstick brands or make the switch to clean options such as vegan and organic brands. They are transparent regarding their ingredients and production processes, while also sticking to more natural materials, avoiding synthetic options. With the advancements in testing and manufacturing there are healthier alternatives to the above listed harmful ingredients and more and more brands are adopting them.

Do yourself the healthy favour of using toxin free products that will nurture and nourish your lips rather than cause them damage.

Seren Scents

Seren Scents is an ethical, cruelty free and Vegan brand house based in London that specialises in cosmetics, men’s grooming and sun care. Our vision and greatest strengths have always been uncompromising product quality and the strive to make beauty affordable and cruelty free.