Don’t Look Now, But There Is Poison In Your Lipstick

In fact, there is poison in a lot of stuff you rub all over yourself every day, from shampoo to deodorant to, yes, lipstick. This infographic lays out some of the dangers lurking in the drugstore.

Modern society has afforded us humans any number of ways to modify our natural selves. We put makeup on to change the way we look, we wear deodorant to change the way we smell. But–it might behoove us to ask–at what cost? More and more evidence is pointing to the fact that the chemicals major companies stuff in their products are really, really bad for us. These chemicals aren’t necessary–you can make lipstick that won’t kill people–but they do cut costs. A new infographic shines a light on just some of the nastiness we’re rubbing on our skin (and then absorbing into our body every day).


Let’s start with deodorant. Most of us put it on every morning. Our coworkers appreciate it. What makes the antiperspirant part of deodorant work is aluminum. You might wrap stuff in your kitchen in aluminum foil, but jamming it into your pores is a little different. When you do that, it can cause Alzheimer’s. And just to make sure you can keep using your deodorant every day, the manufacturers have helpfully included propylene glycol to keep it from drying out. Propylene glycol is anti-freeze. Delicious.

In baby shampoo, there’s a wonderful little chemical called 1,4-Dioxane. It’s been linked to severe immune system dysfunction. Besides the shampoo that you’re putting on your infant’s head, you can also find it in … anti-static spray. Would you put anti-static spray on your infant’s head?

And then there’s a fun ingredient in lipstick: lead. You have probably heard that lead is not so good in paint in your house. It’s worse to rub it on your lips–those are near your mouth–but people do so willingly every morning. In fact, studies found that one in three kinds of red lipstick had more lead than the FDA allows in candy.

And that is the larger problem. The FDA is largely absent from regulating cosmetics–or even making them disclose their ingredients–and making sure they’re not making us sick. And because a lot of the problems caused by the poisons take years to manifest and can’t be simply linked to one product or ingredient, there isn’t a public groundswell for more regulation or the banning of certain ingredients. That’s not a problem other places though. In Europe, they’ve found ways to clean up the cosmetics industry:

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to decide between going lipstickless and eating lead. There are plenty of healthy options (check this blog for bunches of them), but it should serve more as a warning to make sure you’re reading the ingredients. And all of us could stand being more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies. You can see the whole infographic here, or below:

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly