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What are the Different Lipstick Ingredients?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 21, 2024
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Lipstick is commonly made of six basic ingredients. These lipstick ingredients generally include a wide range of pigments or dyes, oil, wax, alcohol, fragrance and antioxidants or preservatives. Some brands have additives such as moisturizers, sunscreen and vitamin E, as well as collagen and amino acids.

The process of making lipstick is fairly simple. The lipstick ingredients are mixed, heated and stirred before being poured into the desired molds. Tubes with ascending mechanisms to adjust the lipstick height are the most popular molds. Some manufacturers pour the concoction into little tubs that require the lipstick to be applied with fingertips or application tools. Regardless of the chosen mold, the mixture is solidified and chilled before being quickly passed through a finishing flame that makes it shiny and removes any surface blemishes.

Lipstick ingredients are typically chosen based on the colors and consistencies desired by the makers of the products. Another common consideration is the sources of the elements. Companies may use only 100% non-toxic ingredients or opt for components that are not totally non-toxic but considered safe by regulatory agencies.

The most common types of lipstick finishes include matte, cremes, stains, sheers and frosts. Additional features often include extra glossiness and long-lasting color. Certain brands have additives that contain different flavors or medicinal properties meant to heal or prevent chapped lips.

Matte lipsticks have few emollients in them and are often laden with wax and pigments. Creme type lipsticks have the deep color of matte types but with added shine provided by oil. Sheers and stains typically contain a minimal amount of color and highlight the lips’ natural color with oil and wax. Frosted lipstick has a lustrous finish created by the addition of a pearlizing bismuth compound. Glossy lipstick finishes are normally oilier than other types, and the long-lasting varieties are generally fortified with silicone oil that acts as a sealant.

The dyes and pigments in lipstick are generally derived from plants or created by mixing chemicals. Oils used in lipstick manufacturing are often common vegetable or mineral oil. Other oils regularly found in lipsticks are castor oil and lanolin.

Wax is used to bind the lipstick ingredients and help the lipstick hold its shape. The majority of lipsticks have a combination of beeswax, carnauba wax and candelilla wax. Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of the wax palm trees of Brazil. Candelilla wax is obtained from the leaves of a diminutive shrub native to parts of Mexico and the United States.

Alcohol is a necessary part of lipstick, as it acts as a solvent on the product’s oils and waxes to make the lipstick creamy. Fragrance is often used to mask the unpleasant smells of other ingredients. Antioxidants or preservatives ensure the lipstick has a long shelf life and will stay fresh for the enjoyment of the consumer.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On May 16, 2014

I remember the heavy frosted lipsticks of the 70s. Gosh, but they were shiny! Looked like the women had glitter on their lips! My mom never wore that look, but my cousin did. She said the frosted lipsticks dried out her lips, though -- probably from the ingredients that gave it a frosted look.

The 80s took the cake for neon colors. Why in the world did we think neon orange was attractive? Made our lips look like traffic cones!

By Grivusangel — On May 15, 2014

My favorite lipstick ingredient is shea butter. It really helps keep my lips soft and applies very evenly and smoothly. Most websites list the ingredients for most of the cosmetics. Shea butter is usually found in the higher end products. The one drawback is that it doesn't wear as well as some lipsticks, but the softness is worth it.

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