The untold truth of lipstick

Rocking a bold, red lip can take your night from boring to epic. There is something about lipstick that changes us, makes us feel more brave and beautiful. When we put on lipstick, it's for a reason — either we're going out, or we want to achieve a certain look.

There are actually scientific studies proving that lipstick changes us and makes us feel more confident. However, there are also studies that show its potential dangers. Before you reach into your makeup bag, make sure you know the truth about lipstick.

It can dry out your lips

If you suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter, lipstick may not be your friend. The chemicals in many lipsticks can pull moisture from your sensitive lips, leaving them chapped.

"Wearing lipsticks 24/7, particularly low-quality lipsticks, which are laden with chemicals, can zap moisture away from your lips," Certified Skin Therapist and the Founder of Skin Aspirations Simona Mazenyte told me. "If you have chapped lips, you are better off using a tinted lip balm." Talk with your dermatologist or makeup artist friend about the best options for your skin.

It could be bad for you and the environment

It is concerning how many chemicals can be found in a variety of lipsticks. While of course these chemicals aren't great for our bodies, what are they doing to the environment? "Many lipsticks are made from petrochemicals, which are toxic to us and to the environment. High levels of petrochemicals in the body can interfere with your growth, reproduction, development, and intelligence," warned Mazenyte. "Formaldehyde, used as a preservative in lipsticks, is a known carcinogen and can cause coughing, breathlessness, and skin irritation. Chromium, a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors, is also sometimes found in lipsticks."

Always read the ingredients in your lipstick and do your homework. Not only do we ingest lipstick by swallowing it, we also absorb it through our skin. "The term 'kiss of death' comes from the fact that lipstick used to be made with poisonous materials," Director of Beauty and Cosmetics at COLOR Salon Kate Stromberg told me. Make sure yours isn't.

Once you wash off your makeup for the day, it can still do damage. Many cosmetic products, including lipsticks, are made up of tiny plastic particles. When we wash our face at the end of the day, these particles are washed down the drain and eventually make their way to our water sources. According to The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, these plastic pieces take hundreds of years to biodegrade and are polluting our oceans. 

It might contain lead

Speaking of dangerous ingredients in lipstick, you also have to worry about lead. "There's been research done that concludes some lipsticks contain lead. Lead is a neurotoxin that can have a harmful effect on the nervous system," Hillary Kline, freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger, told me. "It's also been researched that reapplying lipstick multiple times a day can mean heavy metal exposure from those lip products." Look for natural lipsticks that minimize extra harmful ingredients.

Mazenyte elaborated on what is meant by heavy metals. "Many lipsticks also contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, manganese, and aluminum," explained Mazenyte. "Some of these heavy metals occur at levels that could pose health problems in the long run."

The first lipsticks were made from crushed gemstones

Lipstick has been around for centuries and actually started with gemstones. Maybe that trend will make its way back around, because I could see some beautiful Instagram selfies of #gemstones. 

"The very first origins of lipstick date back to 5,000 BC to ancient Mesopotamia where women used crushed gemstones to color their lips," Mazenyte told me. "Ancient Egyptians, most famously Cleopatra, were skilled at mixing and creating lipstick colors from crushed insects, seaweed, and fish scales." Okay, so not all of these trends are due for a comeback.

"The first man-made lipsticks appeared around four to five thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia," said Stromberg. "Women there used to grind precious gems and decorate their lips with the dust to create the look of lipstick."

Two-toned lips are the new trend

If gemstones were the past, makeup artists are predicting that two-toned lips are the future. To create it, choose one lipstick and one gloss to layer. Go for different colors to create something all your own.

"Nobody can really truly predict these trends, but I have noticed that dimensional lips will become popular; this includes bold statement lips including ombre or an overlay of glitter," Kline told me. "Two-toned lips are gaining speed. What this means is using two different colors, one on the top and one on the bottom, and then wearing separately or pressing together."

There are certain ones to avoid

While it's scary that lipsticks contain chemicals in the first place, fortunately there are now studies and reports on the lipsticks with the most chemicals and metals found in them so they can be avoided. We need to use this information every time we shop to avoid the risks. 

Scientists have determined that having lead in lipstick is dangerous, because it could be swallowed. If you lick your lips after applying lipstick, you will naturally swallow some. Just think of your 12 year-old self reapplying lip smackers all day long, just because it really did taste like vanilla frosting! It is also possible to absorb the lead through our skin. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report studying the amounts of lead and heavy metals in popular lipstick brands. The brands with the highest lead concentrations were Maybelline, NARS, and L'Oréal. The lipsticks with the lowest lead levels included Wet 'N Wild, Clinique, and M.A.C.

You'll buy more during a recession

During a recession, we all begin to make new choices. Instead of going out to eat, we commit to cooking at home. Perhaps you put a vacation on hold and have a staycation instead.

One area where you may keep spending without even realizing it is on lipstick and other cosmetics. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that we are less likely to spend money on things like electronics and homewares during recessions, however, we are more likely to buy lipstick. The researchers believed this is because during a time of stress, we want to feel more attractive and even attract a new mate. Perhaps feeling beautiful helps you feel safer during a time of such stress and overwhelm.

It doesn't affect your attractiveness

If you've been using lipstick to feel more attractive, you may be wasting your time and money. Turns out lipstick doesn't really affect how others see us, at least in terms of looks.  

A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science examined our perceptions of attractiveness. Study volunteers looked at pictures of the same women with varying amounts of makeup on. Most volunteers judged the women with full makeup as more attractive than those with no makeup and, while the female volunteers seemed most influenced by eye makeup, surprisingly, the amount of lipstick worn did not affect the volunteers' perceptions. So if you're the type of gal who doesn't leave home without it, take a day off and see how you feel.

It could help you get more tips

Okay are you ready for this one? Wearing lipstick, especially red lipstick, can affect how much money you make. Even though lipstick doesn't seem to affect how attractive we are, there is definitely something about the way it influences others' perception of us.

A study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that when waitresses wore lipstick, especially red lipstick, they received higher tips. It should be noted that male customers gave them higher tips, while the tips from the female customers remained the same.

It makes you look more successful

In addition to getting you more tips at the restaurant, wearing lipstick sends a message to others that you are successful. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found we assume a lot about a woman based on her makeup. When study volunteers were shown pictures of the same four women, both with lipstick and makeup and without, they assumed that the women in the makeup pictures were successful, had higher earning potentials, and were healthier.

If you are headed to a conference or event where you want to make a good impression, lipstick is certainly not required, but may make your life a little easier. Everyone will assume that you are already successful, so you can just sit back and enjoy!

Where the names come from

Have you ever wondered who comes up with those crazy names for cosmetics like lipsticks? I personally always read the names of nail polish before choosing one for my pedicure or before buying a new lipstick. The names are fun and whimsical. You can't help but smile. Well, it turns out a lot of thought go into those names.

Lipstick Queen Founder Poppy King told Refinery29 that she is always being inspired for new names. "I love the duality that's so present in being female. For example, Saints and Sinners — which is a core concept of Lipstick Queen — [has] the same shades, but in two different strengths. The Saint version is sheer and airy; Sinner is darker and deeper," she said.

King is always on the lookout and even keeps notes throughout the day. "I have a little notebook filled with names for lipsticks yet to be created. I listen to NPR during the day, and yesterday I heard them talking about 'cold peace' — something to do with the Carter administration way back when. If a concept like that stands out, I quickly write it in my notebook, thinking, Oh, my God, I want a lipstick one day that's about cold peace."

It could help you perform better on exams

Let's be honest. The right lipstick can turn the whole day around. Feeling good about yourself and your appearance affects everything around you.

According to a study in Cogent Psychology, when female college students wore lipstick and other makeup to an exam, they received higher grades than those who did not. High self-esteem is associated with better performance, so it makes sense that if you're feeling great about how you look, you will perform better.

Next time you have a stressful event coming up, such as a presentation at work or licensing exam, pick out your favorite lipstick and glam up. You never know how it might affect you!

What's coming next

When it comes to the risks of lipsticks, they are low, especially with high quality brands. Just make sure you're not putting it on all day long. "Lipsticks contain potentially harmful ingredients, but you are unlikely to be at risk if you use lipsticks occasionally," Mazenyte told me. "However, if you use lipstick daily and reapply many times during the day, you need to be aware of these potential risks."

As people continue to use lipstick, we will continue to see new trends and innovative ideas coming from makeup artists and cosmetic companies. "Today, innovations and improvements in lipstick development have not stopped," shared Stromberg. "New formulations and designs for lipstick are being invented constantly in addition to lipsticks that block the sun's rays, that are also packed with antioxidants. We even have lipsticks that change color when applied on your lips into a custom color created by your own body chemistry."

Even though lipstick has been around for centuries, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.