According to the FDA report, researchers found lead in concentrations of up to 7.19 parts per million. For comparison, the limit for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion—far less than the amounts found in these lipsticks. Nevertheless, the FDA declared that lead concentration in these lipsticks is safe, and no further actions were needed.
Lead Isn't The Only Issue
In 2013, researchers at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health published a study on the presence of metals in lipsticks. They found detectable levels of lead and other heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, aluminum, and five other metals.
"Just finding these metals isn't the issue; it's the levels that matter," said study principal investigator S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health sciences. "Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term."
As stated by the report, it's not just that these heavy metals were found in the products, but that users are ingesting them in amounts that could cause real harm. The average lipstick user consumes about 24 milligrams of product a day, or 1/16 of a pound per year. Heavy users could ingest up to 87 milligrams per day.
According to the study, this could result in ingesting enough chromium to contribute to stomach cancer and aluminum, cadmium, and manganese, associated with nervous system toxicity.
Lead and Other Heavy Metals Won't Be On The Ingredient List
Heavy metals can be found in lipsticks no matter what brand it is, from cheap lipsticks from the dollar store to luxury lipsticks costing hundreds of dollars.
You won't find lead on the list of ingredients, nor will you find any of the other heavy metals identified in the study from UC Berkeley.
The only way to avoid heavy metal in lipsticks is to purchase from brands offering truly clean lipsticks. Even then, it's not a guarantee that they're free from heavy metals, but it's much more likely that they are.
Ingredients To Avoid
We looked at the ingredients of more than 25 of the most popular conventional lip glosses, and we found that the vast majority of these products contain at least one ingredient we consider harmful to your health.
Here's a partial list:
Artificial Flavors - Some lipsticks use artificial flavors to give them a more pleasant taste. While the inclusion of synthetic flavors isn't necessarily a significant concern, truly clean lipsticks don't contain artificial flavors.
Parabens - A chemical commonly used in cosmetics and personal care items as a preservative. Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen, increasing the risk of breast cancer when it's absorbed through the skin.
Artificial Fragrances (Fragrance, Parfum, Aroma) - The problem with fragrance is that it can contain a long list of synthetic chemicals that have been linked to adverse health impacts. What's worse is that manufacturers are allowed to hide the ingredient makeup of their fragrances thanks to trade secret protection laws. A truly clean lipstick brand will use natural scents and fully disclose the ingredients used.
Artificial Colors - Artificial colors are another common ingredient in most lipsticks. Certain artificial colorings are made from petrochemicals and are linked to organ system toxicity, endocrine disruption, toxicity to our environment, and more. Examples of toxic artificial colorings to avoid are those that begin with FD&C and CI.
In particular, Yellow 6 is featured in several lipsticks we reviewed. This ingredient is banned in Norway and Finland and must come with warning labels if used in the rest of the European Union.
Dimethicone - Artificial silicones added to lipsticks to make them glide on smoothly and feel soft on the lips. It's unclear what effect ingesting silicones might have on the body.
Talc - Talc can sometimes be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen.
Glitter - The glitter used in lipsticks is made from tiny pieces of plastic. These microplastics are so small that they easily get through water filtration systems, making their way into our oceans and waterways and damaging our aquatic life.
More Things to Know About Clean Lipsticks
Even if a lipstick is marketed as "natural," there's no guarantee that it doesn't contain any harmful chemicals. Greenwashing is a common practice in the cosmetics industry, and it means that companies can hide harmful ingredients behind misleading labels like "natural" or "organic."
This is why Better Goods exists - to independently analyze and review the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care items and help you make informed decisions about what you put on your skin.
The Best Clean Lipsticks: Ranked By Ingredients
We researched the internet, online stores, and social media for the most popular clean lipsticks.
Each ingredient in every product was researched and analyzed for safety based on available public research. Where possible, sources for information are included.
Products are ranked from best to worst with an internal score based on the ingredient rankings.
Below is our list of clean lipstick ratings. They're rated on this scale:
– These products are the best of the best. They contain great ingredients, are non-toxic and are often the best choice for our environment.
– These products are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.
– These products are typically okay, but have some issues that make us unable to give them a “Good” rating. Often times they contain ingredients or materials that are questionable.
– These products typically have toxic ingredients or issues that make them dangerous or unsuitable to use. These products should typically be avoided.
Clean Lipsticks Rated: Best
Out of the 20 lipsticks we reviewed, seven of them contained no ingredients at all that gave us concern. These clean lipsticks contain all-natural ingredients and colorings and have no synthetic dyes.
Some brands opt to use carmine (a non-vegan ingredient made from insects) as a red dye alternative, making them non-vegan.
The formulas in MIneral Fusion’s lipsticks are 100% vegan, and use organic ingredients. With great user reviews, a huge variety of 15 shades, and excellent vegan and organic ingredients, these lipsticks easily receive our best rating.
The ingredients reviewed below are for the shade Molten.
Vapour’s lipsticks have a clean list of natural ingredients, and the brand is cruelty-free. Do note that these lipsticks use carmine, which is a non-vegan pigment derived from insects.
These lipsticks come in a total of 11 different shades,
This lipstick is naturally-fragranced and has a clean list of natural ingredients. It comes in a total of six shades, and because of the inclusion of beeswax and lanolin, it’s not a vegan product.
Ingredients listed below are for the shade Peony Dew.
This lipstick is fragranced, but the brand promises that all fragrance ingredients used are natural and approved for use in organic products. The majority of ingredients in this lipstick are organic and safe, so we’re able to give it a good rating. It comes in a total of eight shades.
The ingredients below are for the shade Ingenious.
This lipstick from Indie Lee contains a great list of clean and organic ingredients, no fragrance or flavor, and no synthetic dyes. For these reasons, we can easily give it our top rating. The only downside is that it only comes in three shades.
The below ingredients are for the shade Play.
Rituel de Fille
You’ll find a clean list of ingredients in this lipstick from Rituel de Fille. While not organic, they’re still clean. The Forbididden Lipstick comes in a total of nine shades. This lipstick contains beeswax, making it a non-vegan product.
Organic cocoa butter is the main ingredient in 100% Pure’s lipsticks, with an excellent variety of other natural ingredients rounding out the formulations. The lipsticks are also 100% vegan and cruelty-free, along with being made in the USA. It also comes in a total of 18 shades.
For these reasons, we give these products our top rating.
The ingredients below are for the shade Sahara.
Clean Lipsticks Rated: Good
A total of five lipsticks deserved a rating of good. These lipsticks contain some synthetics but should not be unsafe to use.
With a relatively clean list of ingredients, the only ones that stand out in a negative way are a few synthetic dyes. However, the dyes used are not of particular concern. The lipsticks come in a total of 11 shades.Because these lipsticks use beeswax in the formulations, they’re not vegan.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Rosewater.
The Signature Lip Lightweight Lipsticks from Merit have a clean list of ingredients with some synthetic dyes being the only standout ingredients. This lipstick comes in a total of eight shades, and is a safe purchase for anyone looking for a clean lipstick.
The ingredients below are for the shade Slip.
Ilia is a good clean beauty brand and their color block lipsticks are no exception. Like many lipsticks we reviewed, synthetic dyes are the only standout ingredient, but they shouldn’t be a concern in terms of safety.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Amberlight.
Sephora—which generally is not a clean brand—surprised us with their lipstick. While there’s nothing special about it, it seems to be a clean lipstick with synthetic dyes being the only questionable ingredients. These lipsticks come in a wide range of 12 shades.
The below ingredients are for the shade Dandelion.
These lipsticks form Cheekbone Beauty have a relatively clean list of ingredients and come in a total of six shades.
The ingredients below are for the shade Aki.
Clean Lipsticks Rated: Iffy
A total of five lipsticks deserved a rating of iffy. The main reason for a lipstick getting this rating is for the inclusion of Yellow 6, a synthetic dye with links to health issues.
The Honest Company
It comes in a total of seven shades. While the majority of the ingredients are good, these lipsticks contain synthetic dyes which some people may wish to avoid. For this reason, and because many lipsticks we reviewed don’t have this issue, we have to give those products a better rating.
The ingredients for this review are from the shade Fruit Punch.
BareMinerals lipsticks use a lot of synthetic dyes, including Yellow 6, an ingredient banned in Norway and Finland and requiring warning labels in the rest of the EU.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Grace.
Unfortunately, Milk Makeup’s lipsticks use a large number of synthetic dyes, with the standout one being Yellow 6.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Wifey.
La Bouche Rogue
Because of the inclusion of Yellow 6, we have to put these lipsticks from La Bouche Rouge in our “Iffy” list.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Pop Art Red.
Yellow 6 is the only ingredient of concern in these lipsticks from W3LL PEOPLE. Unfortunately, since other lipsticks we investigated didn’t have this artificial dye, we have to give it an iffy rating.
The ingredients listed below are for the shade Soulmate.
Clean Lipsticks Rated: Bad
These lipsticks contain ingredients we strongly recommend avoiding.
GXVE’s lipsticks are far from a product we would recommend. They contain several ingredients on our list of ingredients to avoid, including BHT and artificial fragrance, along with potentially harmful synthetic coloring agents.
Fragrance and questionable synthetic dyes are used in the formulation of these lipsticks. For this reason, we can’t recommend them.
Fragrance and some artificial colorings on our list of “bad” ingredients make unable to recommend these liquid lipsticks.
Out of the 20 lipsticks we reviewed, 7 of them had excellent ingredients. For quick recommendations, we suggest:
The best budget clean lipstick: Burt's Bees
Burt's Bees lipsticks aren't vegan but are cruelty-free and by far the most affordable of the clean lipsticks, with a rating of best and a price tag of $8.99 each.
The best overall clean lipstick: 100% Pure
While we would typically break down this list into multiple categories, 100% Pure's lipsticks are our #1 recommendation.
They're not only full of clean and natural ingredients, but they're vegan, cruelty-free, come in a wide range of 18 shades, and are made in the USA.