Are you a woman reading this or do you’ve a girlfriend, wife, sister, aunt, mother or know any female that is a heavy user of lipstick over a long period of time? Then this article should interest you. By the way, do you know that it has been estimated that the average woman could swallow between 500g and 1,500g of lipstick in her lifetime if she were a modest but regular user?
Now, not a few women feel complete without a slash of scarlet on their lips, but could your lipstick harbour a dangerous secret that you are unaware of?
Worrying new research reveals your long-lasting bright lippy could contain a host of chemicals that may seriously harm your health. There are valid and growing fears about links to muscle problems, hormone disruption and poisoning by heavy metals, as well as raised risks of allergies and even a form of arthritis.
Among the substances sparking alarm are chemicals such as parabens, methacrylate, lead and cadmium which are mostly present in lipstick. The latest addition to that list is a substance called triclosan, which is used as a preservative in popular lipsticks. Research out last week linked triclosan to muscle and heart problems. The chemical has also sparked fears that it causes bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics and turn into superbugs.
The very confusing and tricky part is that the same triclosan is found in toothpaste, soaps, deodarant- and even chopping boards. Maybe we should just stop using all these products and go back to using natural products but again, how ‘natural’ are natural products?
The UK cosmetics industry has dismissed these concerns out of hand. But one giant skin-product manufacturer has now broken ranks. Johnson & Johnson, the producer of Listerine mouthwash and Neutrogena soap, has pledged to remove triclosan — along with a host of other worrying chemicals — from all of its skincare products.
The latest research on triclosan suggests that it may hinder the process by which muscles — including the heart — receive signals from the brain.
Molecular bioscientist Professor Isaac Pessah found a ‘dramatic’ 25 per cent reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of laboratory mice being exposed to triclosan. He warned that there is ‘strong evidence’ that it could affect human health. His study also found that triclosan can seriously reduce muscle power. In a reaction, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) has dismissed the latest research as irrelevant because it only involved tests on mice rather than humans. The association adds that the amounts of triclosan used in the experiments exceeded the maximum permitted levels in cosmetics.
Previous studies have found that triclosan may have links to thyroid and fertility problems. It may increase women’s levels of male hormones — androgens — causing symptoms such as acne, weight gain, excessive hair growth, menstrual dysfunction, and infertility. The chemical is under investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over fears that it damages people’s health. The European Commission says it is legal for humans, but its use remains ‘under evaluation’.
Perhaps the best-known worry about lipsticks concerns lead poisoning which builds up over time in the body and can cause brain and nerve damage.
Manufacturers don’t actually add lead to lipstick: it’s naturally present in the minerals they use for bright pigments.
so, what should you do if you must continue using lipstick? Here’s what Pat Thomas, a UK expert and author on cosmetic safety has to say: ‘…the proportions vary according to the colour. All of them will have some level of lead. As a rule of thumb, you can almost guarantee that if it’s a really intense colour that lasts for a long time, it will contain the highest levels of lead.’
Thomas acknowledges that the levels of lead in even the brightest hues are comparatively low. But against that, she adds, we have to balance the unknown danger of smearing such substances around our mouths so regularly. ‘If it is a concern for you, then go for glosses and sheer colours,’ says Thomas. Also, women are urged to moderate both their use of lipstick and the brightness of the colours they choose.
The ball is in your court now; to use or not to use lipstick? That is a choice only you can make as mine is to inform you.