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What is Natural Lipstick?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 21, 2024
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A natural lipstick is a kind of lip color made from all-natural ingredients. These ingredients are derived from animals, plants, minerals, or algae rather than synthesized from industrial sources. Lipsticks that are not all-natural usually contain synthetic dyes, fragrances, and preservatives, some of which may be carcinogenic. As the average woman consumes between four and nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, some women choose to wear natural lipstick to avoid ingesting potentially harmful substances.

There are varying degrees of natural lipsticks, including natural, organic and vegan. Natural means that all the ingredients in a lip color are derived from natural sources. An organic lip color's ingredients are produced without the aid of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Vegan lipstick is a type of all-natural makeup that contains no animal products.

Historically, all makeup was all-natural, as modern synthetic sources were unavailable. The lip color used by Cleopatra was a natural lipstick made from the crushed shells of beetles for pigment and crushed ants for a base. Later, in Elizabethan England, it was common for ladies to use a naturally derived lip pigment that got its red color from red mercuric sulfide. Prolonged use of this pigment sometimes led to mercury poisoning. Modern lipstick manufacture began in the early 20th century, as the use of makeup grew in popularity due to the influence of Hollywood movies.

In modern times, lipstick is usually made with some type of wax, such as carnauba wax, candelilla wax, or beeswax. The other major ingredient of lipstick is oil; oil and wax make up about 60% of the weight of most tubes of lipstick. A natural lipstick usually contains base oils such as castor oil, shea butter, or olive oil and essential oils like tea tree oil or peppermint oil.

Perhaps the most important ingredient of lipstick is the pigment. In most lipstick, the pigment is a synthetic dye or lake similar to artificial food coloring. Many of these synthetic dyes are derived from substances like coal tar or aluminum and can potentially damage the lips. Natural substitutes for these synthetic pigments are used in natural makeup. Annatto, iron oxide, and cochineal are common examples of non-toxic natural pigments used in cosmetics.

Many types of natural lipstick are fragrance free, but some have fragrances derived from plant oils, such as rose or vanilla. Natural lipstick is generally made the use of parabens and other synthetic preservatives, which means that it may go rancid faster than lipsticks that have artificial ingredients. Antioxidants derived from natural sources are sometimes used in place of synthetic preservatives to lengthen the shelf life of natural makeup.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Apr 28, 2012

@alisha-- There are ways to work around that problem. If you wear a lip primer before applying natural lipstick, or color your lips with a natural lip liner first, the staying power will be greater.

Another tip is to apply two coats of lipstick. Do this by applying the lipstick, then blotting with a tissue paper to remove excess color, and then apply the lipstick again. Finally, apply some translucent powder over it. You will see that it will stay for a long time.

I personally always keep my natural cosmetic products in the fridge. It prevents the natural ingredients from going rancid. You can really extend their life that way.

By discographer — On Apr 28, 2012

@anamur-- I agree and I'm glad you made the switch!

I had no choice but to switch to natural organic lipstick because I'm allergic to perfume. I tried wearing regular lipstick twice and both times my lips swell so much that I ended up in the emergency room. It's practically impossible to find a regular lipstick without perfume in it.

I own about 6 different natural lipsticks and not even one has caused an allergy. They do have scents but the scents are from essential oils so it's fine.

The only downside I see with natural lipstick is that it requires re-application throughout the day. I think the natural oils make the color disappear kind of quickly. I'm fine with the pigments though because I don't like bright colors much anyway.

By serenesurface — On Apr 27, 2012

After learning about the various chemicals used in lipsticks, I have completely switched to natural lipstick. I also use natural bath and hair products and natural make-up was obviously the next step for me.

I like natural lipsticks because it doesn't irritate my lips like many lipsticks do. They also don't dry out lips because they contain natural oils that moisturize the lips.

The only downsides of natural lipsticks is that there aren't as many choices in terms of brands and shades. The pigmentation is usually not as good as regular lipsticks and the price is a bit steeper.

But I think this is a small price to pay in return for a completely natural and safe product. I'd rather pay more for a natural lipstick than slowly poison myself with synthetics and chemicals.

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